Not enough breast milk? How can I increase my milk production?
The mammary glands are capable of producing a lot of milk in order to nourish one, two or even three children. Glands of internal secretion that produce hormones are preparing for this process even during pregnancy. Breast shape and size do not affect milk production.
Before you take any action, make sure that there is a shortage of breast milk. In the first days the mother appears colostrum, there is never a lot of it and this is the norm!
Misconceptions about lack of milk.
Newborns ask to be put to their mother’s breast very often, at about two-hour intervals. This does not mean that there is not enough milk. Breastfeeding is also a great pleasure for the baby, and it can be hard to tell how much milk the baby gets during the day.
How to know if your baby is not getting enough milk:
- He urinates 10-12 times during the day, and the urine remains light and without a pungent odor;
- The baby is gaining weight well: more than 150 grams per week, more than 600 grams in the first month;
- The baby has stools after every feeding in the first few months;
- More often than 2 hours later, the baby does not ask for 2 breasts.
So, there is not enough milk in the breast, what to do? And what to do if the baby is not full on breastfeeding, or there is not enough milk in one breast?
There is enough milk, even if:
- Your baby often «calls» to you at night, yet resents being weaned from the breast when putting you to bed;
- You think there is very little milk in one breast because the baby is actively suckling;
- Feeding lasts a long time, the milk is like water. In fact, the duration of feeding can be 10-40 minutes, and in the first 3-4 minutes up to 50% of milk is sucked, in the next 5 minutes about 30% more, and the remaining time rather prolongs the pleasure of the process of feeding;
- Your breasts are softer than in the first weeks after birth and don’t fill up as much as before;
- believe that you have little breast milk because there is little milk when you squeeze and the milk does not leak between feedings;
- not enough milk is being pumped after each feeding;
- small breasts and therefore little milk.
The above is subjective. Feeling that there is not enough milk in the breast does not mean there is an actual shortage.
How do I know if my baby doesn’t have enough milk to feed?
There are only two signs of a lack of breast milk:
- Poor weight gain.
- Few wet diapers.
Why a lack of breast milk happens.
There are a number of reasons why a breastfeeding mother has little milk. The main ones are a decrease in the synthesis of hormones that ensure the production and release of milk — the hormones prolactin and oxytocin.
- The baby does not grasp deeply enough and does not stimulate the areola, but only the nipple where there is no milk. As a result the baby is suckling little breast milk, and the maternal brain is not ordered to produce the hormone prolactin, and accordingly there is no increase in lactation.
- Any stress leads to the active production of adrenaline, which suppresses the production of oxytocin. Milk is produced in the alveoli, but there is no hormone that turns on the muscle cells that can push milk out of the lobules — as a result, the breast is large, but there is little milk, because the baby can not get it, no matter how hard he tries. The baby becomes nervous because he is not getting enough breast milk.
- also oxytocin production decreases due to overwork, lack of rest, lack of sleep, anxiety, desire and inability to have time for everything. The result: there is not enough milk, and the mother thinks: what to do?
- Deficiency of fluid intake and insufficient nutrition of the mother.
How to increase the amount of breast milk
The production of the hormone oxytocin is important to increase milk in a nursing mother. This hormone stimulates lactation by making it easy for milk to move through the milk ducts, releasing the lobules and alveoli so that milk pours into the baby’s mouth. The hormone oxytocin is produced by skin-to-skin contact (breastfeeding position #1).
How to increase prolactin production Proper breast grip stimulates milk production better than all other options. With a correct breast grip the baby actively releases the breast to the last drop, stimulating the production of the hormone prolactin in the pituitary gland.
- Accordingly, more and more milk will come — exactly as much as the baby is sucking. Breast and baby adapt perfectly to each other.
The increase in the amount of breast milk occurs: when the mother is comfortable, she is calm, relaxed, without tension, excitement and worries. Therefore, to increase milk in a nursing mother, it is very important that she takes every opportunity to rest:
- Sleeping during the day with the baby;
- Feeding lying down or half-lying resting for 20-30 minutes 7-10 times a day;
- Involve relatives, friends, acquaintances, as well as a nanny or housekeeper in taking care of the baby and housework;
- Use slings, ergo rucksacks that release the mother’s hands, the child feels the mother and the mother is calm, that the child is in contact with her. This promotes the production of oxytocin;
- You can apply decanting to increase lactation with breast massage in order to get more milk for the next feeding. Even if there is little milk, this will be an additional stimulus for prolactin production. For the same purpose, you can give two breasts for each feeding or the second breast — squeeze.
At night it also makes sense to breastfeed or decant.
The psychological factor is very important: the belief, confidence of the mother that she will definitely be able to breastfeed her baby, no matter what others tell her. Understanding how the process of breast milk production, which provides an increase in lactation, increases the confidence of women that everything will work out.
Warm procedures that increase blood circulation are excellent: a warm shower or a warm diaper on the mammary gland, warm drink, warm tea. Warmth improves blood circulation and helps to relieve tension and relax a woman, which also promotes the synthesis of oxytocin.
To increase milk production it is necessary to ensure adequate water and drinking regimen, drink whenever you feel like it, avoiding dry mouth. Drink pleasant warm drinks immediately for half an hour before feeding.
Herbs and natural substances that stimulate the lactation process. The effect of various plants has been noted by folk wisdom since ancient times. There are diaphoretic plants, diuretic plants and of course lactation. Teas and decoctions of these herbs really contribute to the production of milk and are recommended to enhance lactation. The use of apilac, (based on royal jelly of bees) has proven itself well.
In order to produce enough milk, a mother needs to:
- Teach your baby how to hold the breast properly;
- Give breastfeeding more often, without skipping nighttime feedings;
- If the baby sleeps through a feeding time, you can express the milk by hand or with a breast pump;
- Give both breasts for each feeding, ending with the breast from which the previous feeding began;
- Cuddle the baby more often and for longer periods, ideally touching «skin to skin»;
- Minimization of stressful situations, peace and understanding in the family, understanding and support of loved ones;
- A balanced diet that takes into account the needs of a nursing mother to increase the caloric intake of food by 700-1000 kcal, intake of all essential vitamins and minerals, as well as an adequate amount of fluid;
- Drink decoctions and infusions of plants that enhance the production of milk, namely fenugreek, thyme, oregano, nettle, cumin, anise, fennel, etc;
- Under the appointment of a doctor to take physical procedures (ultrasound of the mammary glands, acupuncture, acupuncture massage sessions).
Too much milk? How to decrease milk production?
How to reduce milk production
What can really help with the problem of milk if there is too much milk:
- Take a relaxed position while feeding that is comfortable for both you and your baby. We recommend lying down or half lying down so that the baby can rest comfortably and produce enough oxytocin to make it easier for the milk to flow out through the ducts. You should put a towel or a container for milk under the other breast, this will reduce the tension of both breasts.
- Before feeding, squeeze some milk with your hands or a breast pump, but do not overdo it: emptying the breast is a signal for milk production. For your own relief, and to make it easier for the baby to develop an overfilled breast, directly
- If the baby chokes on milk, swallows a lot of air and then regurgitates, try to feed him in an upright or semi-vertical position, periodically helping to relieve the stomach of air, in an upright position to do this is easier
- avoid hot drinks that stimulate milk rushes and milk teas.
Symptoms, excess milk in moms.
An overabundance of breast milk causes uncomfortable feelings of swelling and tension in the breasts. It is difficult for a baby to empty a breast that is full of milk. This can lead to blocked milk ducts, lactostasis, and even mastitis.
Overfilled breasts can cause a lot of trouble not only for the baby, but also for the nursing mother. Leaking breast milk in the first weeks after birth does not yet indicate overmilk, but if it continues and after each feeding, it really indicates excessive milk production.
Do I really have too much milk? Is overproduction a problem for me or my baby?
If overmilk is not a problem for you or your baby, you should not take steps to reduce your breast milk production, because this will actually result in not enough milk. This is especially true in the first month of life, when there is a formation of breastfeeding and every day the child will need more milk.
Leaking breast milk in the first weeks after birth does not mean there is too much milk. Rather, it indicates sufficient production of the hormone oxytocin to allow easy progression through the milk ducts. Therefore, leaking milk from one breast while feeding the baby with the other breast is an understandable and natural process, especially in the first weeks of becoming breastfeeding. But if it continues and after each feeding, it really indicates an excessive production of milk. Applying sterile pads helps reduce discomfort and prevents your bra and clothes from getting wet.
Baby behavior that may indicate excess milk production. When there is excessive lactation, when there is really too much milk in the breast, the baby may choke during feedings.
Along with the milk, the baby may swallow air — if it does not grip the breast tightly, or periodically withdraws from the breast. Air getting into the stomach, the air causes a feeling of overfilling and discomfort in the stomach. As a result, the baby stops feeding without being satiated, and if it is immediately put into the crib, regurgitates air together with milk, and soon begins to feel hungry again and ask for the breast.
The second problem with over-milk is that due to the rapid rush and active suckling, the baby gets full sooner than the breast is emptied completely. Since the composition of «front» and «back» milk is different, there can be problems with satiety and gastrointestinal function.
Front milk is more fluid and sweet; it contains more water, lactose (milk sugar), and protein. Unfortunately, the «back» milk, which is rich in fat, is not available to the baby in this case.
Rear milk, which is rich in fat, gives a feeling of fullness. There is a paradox: There is a lot of milk in the breast, but it is not possible to empty it completely, and the baby gets nervous, cries and asks the breast, because it remains underfed.
You can determine exactly what is going on and resolve seeming or true breastfeeding problems with either a supervising physician or a lactation consultant.
Misguided and ineffective actions to reduce lactation:
- Short-term drastic restriction of drinking is unlikely to reduce lactation immediately, but it can lead to dehydration. If you limit fluid intake for a few days, lactation can really seriously reduce, then you will have to take measures to increase it.
- Lactation should be reduced with hormones only after consulting your doctor, otherwise you could do harm.
- Trying to overstretch your breasts can lead not to limiting milk production, but to lactostasis and mastitis.
- Trying to squeeze every drop of milk will only lead to more milk the next time you breastfeed.
There is an effective method to reduce the production of milk, it is called «breast duty». We know that there is an inverse relationship between breast emptying and breast milk production. The essence of the method is to feed your baby during the day on demand with one breast, changing breasts every 4 hours. As a result, the second breast will fill more, but the production of milk in it will slow down. It is advisable to use the method in consultation with a breastfeeding specialist or your doctor. For excessive milk production, the method of full emptying and «breast duty» is also used. In this case, in the morning you should unclench both breasts as much as possible with a breast pump. And only then start feeding the baby. Further, the baby will be easier to get a portion of back, rich in fat milk, and well satiated in the morning. During the day, it is recommended to continue feeding according to the same system — one breast for four hours.
Elena Demchenko graduated from Donetsk Medical Institute named after M. Gorky with a degree in pediatrics.
Work experience in medicine: district pediatrician, neonatologist of the department of nursing extremely premature babies, joint stay of mother and child, resuscitation and intensive care of newborns.