Mothers often worry about not having enough breastmilk for their baby. You can be confident that your infant (after he is at least three to four days old) is getting enough when breastfeeding if he is having 5-6 soaking wet disposable diapers (7-8 cloth diapers), at least 2, preferably 5, yellow, runny poops each day (at least until he is a month old) and he has regular weight gain of about 1/2 ounce a day. Offering a few ounces of formula to see if your baby is 'still hungry' is usually not a good indicator of whether or not he is getting enough breastmilk, as most babies will take an ounce or two if offered, even if they aren't really hungry.
If your infant is not having regular wet diapers and bowel movements each day, or if he is not gaining weight well, then you may indeed have a low milk supply and be underfeeding your baby. Some tips to help you increase your milk supply include:
- Apply a warm compress to your breasts before feedings. This can improve the let down reflex.
- Feed your baby frequently, at least every 1 1/2 - 3 hours. It is more important that you breastfeed often, rather than having long feedings. The more your baby breastfeeds, the more breastmilk your body will be stimulated to produce.
- Don't go more than 4-5 hours between feedings. This includes night feedings. You can usually safely stop waking your infant for feedings once he is gaining weight well. Keep in mind that since your newborn is supposed to be nursing about 8-12 times a day, even 4-5 hours is a little long and may only happen once a day.
- Consider pumping your breasts for five to ten minutes after each feeding. This can stimulate more milk production.
- Make sure that your baby is latching-on and sucking well. If he isn't latching-on and emptying your breast during a feeding, then this can lead to a low milk supply.
- Talk to your doctor about taking herbal supplements that might increase your breastmilk supply, like fenugreek (2-4 capsules 3 times a day) or blessed thistle.
- Massage your breasts during feedings.
- Review any medications your are taking with your physician to see if they could be intefering with your milk supply. Birth control pills are especially notorious for lowering the milk supply for some breastfeeding mothers.
- Take time to rest and relax throughout the day and night. Try and get extra help from family members or friends if you need it.
- Don't smoke. Nicotine enters breastmilk and can also decrease your milk supply. Although if you do smoke it is still okay to breastfeed.
- You can sometimes estimate how much milk you are producing by pumping your breasts, although you probably shouldn't do this. If you can easily pump 2-3 ounces, then you may be reassured that you are producing enough for the average newborn. By two months of age, you should be producing about 5 ounces for each feeding. But keep in mind that just because you are pumping enough, that doesn't mean that your baby is getting it. A poor latch or improper sucking can decrease how much your baby is getting, even if you are producing enough. Also, just because you are not able to pump much doesn't mean that you are not producing enough. It may be that you are just not pumping correctly.
- If it becomes necessary to supplement with formula, you can consider using a lactation aid or finger feeding instead of a bottle if it really bothers you to give your baby formula in a bottle.
If you still feel that you aren't producing enough breastmilk for your baby, then talk with your Pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant to get more help.
If you do begin supplementing with formula, remember that you should also be doing something to increase your milk supply, like pumping or improving your baby's latch, if you eventually want to get your baby off the supplements and have her only breastfeeding again.