As a new mother, if you’ve decided to rely on breastfeeding your baby, at some point you might start worrying about whether or not you’re producing enough milk. After all, it’s hard to measure breast milk as accurately as formula. Even if your baby seems to be getting enough to eat, you still might be interested in increasing your milk supply. You can check out the basics of breastfeeding from an online course for more information. In the meantime, here are some more tips to help make sure you’re doing the right thing for your baby.
There are a few things that might cause your milk production to be genuinely low. Heavier supplementing with formula or other fluids can lower milk production, which becomes tied to supply as your body adjusts to the amount of milk your baby is taking in. Scheduling or cutting short feedings, rather than simply feeding your baby as he or she gets hungry, can also affect the production cycle.
Setting a Feeding Pattern
Early on, right after you’ve given birth, milk production isn’t yet based on demand, because demand hasn’t been established yet. It’s important to establish good habits now so that your body continues to produce a good amount of milk. For one thing, you’ll want to be careful about using too much formula early on. You’ll also want to start by making sure to feed your baby whenever necessary, and by making sure your breasts are emptied when you feed.
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby will help stimulate your lactation reflexes, and also help encourage your baby to feed more. An online course like this one on child development will help you learn what your baby needs in terms of information processing and connection to you.
As mentioned above, efficient use of milk supply is important to keeping up production. What this means is that you should nurse until your breasts are empty as often as possible. If you’re pumping, you might want to pump out whatever the baby doesn’t finish after he or she is done eating. As long as you’re not too sore, set the pump on maximum, and go for five or ten minutes. You’ll also want to make sure the baby regularly feeds from both breasts, in order to keep production up in both. Sometimes, you might want to take a break, walk around for a few minutes and burp the baby to make more room before feeding some more. This is another way to help your baby take in more milk each time.
You’ll also need to make sure that your baby is feeding well and being efficient at removing milk. Sometimes tired babies don’t latch on as well, meaning they don’t transfer milk well, so it’s important to time your feeding appropriately. Babies can have trouble latching for a number of reasons, and it can be a sign of medical problems. If there is a feeding problem that needs to be addressed, make sure that you’re pumping and expressing milk in the meantime in order to keep up your supply. This is also important if there’s a reason you need to be separated from your baby while you’re still nursing.
You’ll also want to feed pretty often, every couple of hours during the day, especially early on, when your baby is smaller, or if he or she is having trouble with weight gain. Again, this will help to promote regular supply. Relax as much as you can, and don’t rush your baby. If your baby doesn’t seem to demand to feed very often, it’s okay to prod him or her more, to make sure that the baby is getting enough food.
Particularly in the evening, babies sometimes to “cluster feed”—that is, feed a few times close together. It’s okay to let your baby do this; it will help empty out your breasts. Taking the baby to bed, for a nap or even overnight, can help him or her feed longer and more often. A parenting course like this one will tell you more about brain development and bonding with your child.
Avoiding “Nipple Confusion”
Newer babies in particular can sometimes have trouble with latching and sucking if you’re also using bottles or pacifiers. If you do find yourself supplementing with formula, it’s often better to use other methods, like a spoon or eyedropper. This is something a trusted doctor might be able to give you advice on. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to do whatever seems to work best for your baby. Even if latching problems from nipple confusion do come up, you can get some help to manage them and get your baby back on track.
Taking care of yourself
This is one of the most important ways you can help take care of your baby. Get rest when you can, and make sure you’re eating well, with plenty of protein. Also make sure to drink plenty of water, although there’s no need to force yourself to drink much more than you really want. You’ll probably want to avoid too much caffeine, which can affect your body’s fuel supply.
Some herbal supplements have traditionally been used to promote breast milk production, like fenugreek and blessed thistle. Although not everyone gets the results they might be looking for from these, they’re generally safe in moderate doses and may be worth trying.
Of course, one of the important things is to simply make sure your baby really is healthy. As long as he or she is gaining weight steadily, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about. Keep in mind that if your baby has been having trouble feeding, it may take some time to build weight back up gradually, so focus more on the pattern than on immediate results. As long as your baby is getting some breast milk, he or she will still be getting nutritional benefits, and you’ll still be bonding. Of course, as your child gets older, you’ll be looking for the kind of food advice that’s in this online course. You can also get started reading some basic parenting advice here.