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How to increase your milk supply
Following the arrival of your baby, your lactation relationship begins. The delivery of the placenta drops your body’s progesterone level, and over the next several days, the hormones of pregnancy decrease enough to allow the lactation hormones to take over. For most moms, these first few weeks are the most critical in establishing a healthy milk supply throughout your entire nursing relationship.
The transition from colostrum to milk production tends to be gradual and can be stimulated by pumping or nursing within the first hour of delivery, and can take around three to five days to complete. During those first few days, new moms produce many ounces of milk. The great news is that your newborn’s tiny tummy can only hold about as much as you are producing.
It may seem your baby sleeps for half a day or so and shows no active interest in feeding. Or, it may seem that your newborn wants to nurse nonstop. All of this is normal. Keep your baby close to you, skin to skin, on your chest. Watch for the early hunger cues indicating he is ready to nurse. Mouth movements, rooting reflex, going from sleepy to slightly alert – these are all signals to nurse your newborn. Don’t wait for your newborn to cry to indicate hunger. Crying is a very late hunger cue and it is exceedingly difficult to obtain a successful latch and breastfeeding session with a newborn who is crying.
You and your baby have been a unit for 40 weeks, so remaining a unit now will maximize your lactation success. Rest and recover with your newborn. Frequency of nursing (or pumping if you cannot or choose not to nurse) matters a lot in the first few weeks. High frequency of the baby at the breast allows access to the colostrum and allows your breasts to set up milk making properties to carry you long term.
Once your breasts are producing larger amounts of milk, after the colostrum phase, the “supply and demand” idea is important. We know that the lactating breast is never totally empty, however, the milk production is highest after a baby has just nursed or a mother just pumped. So, if you empty or nearly empty the breast – signals are sent to refill. If milk is left in the breast, your body sends protective signals to slow production.
The first two weeks of your baby’s life are the most critical time for setting the tone for your whole lactation. Often when a mother does not develop a full milk supply, the culprit can be traced back to an event during the first two weeks of the infant’s life, such as separation of mother and infant or a half a day of no nursing or pumping. Aim for frequency, comfort and effective milk removal in the critical first two weeks postpartum.
A low milk supply can be caused by many reasons, most of which are possible to overcome. Separation from your nursing baby, suddenly the baby is sleeping longer, medications, the baby was given a bottle and is not coming to the breast as often, ineffective or infrequent pumping are a few causes. Remembering the principles that set your milk making into motion can help. Increasing the frequency or efficacy of nursing and/or pumping is important. The mothers at Ashland Women’s Health can help you choose a more powerful breast pump that can help boost supply. And if your goal is to improve your breastfeeding sessions, have an individualized assessment with an IBCLC.
The most important thing to know is that it’s not all or nothing. Even babies who receive some of their mother’s own milk have health outcomes superior to babies who receive none of their mother’s milk. When you need a supplement, use your own milk first, whenever available, because it will make it easier for him to digest. If you are not making enough to meet 100% of your newborn’s nutritional needs, know that the amount you are giving your baby is making positive differences to last a lifetime.