Low Breast Milk Supply

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Motherhood is one of the most beautiful stages in every woman’s life. Giving birth to a child after going through so much pain always feels special. Due to the same reason, there are lots of fears attached as well to pregnancy and childbirth. The fear of not being able to properly breastfeed the child is one of them. The fragile nature of a baby and the responsibility of the mother to feed her baby makes the issue of low breast milk supply a delicate issue. Here we discuss some of the issues that lactating mothers face along with the solutions.

What is Low Milk Supply?

During the beginning of motherhood, a mother may suffer from breastfeeding problems due to low milk supply. A mother is said to have low milk supply when she is not able to produce enough milk to meet the needs of her newborn baby. Most women decide that they have low milk supply in the following situations:

  • No leakage of milk from the nipples.
  • The breasts feel less full than before.
  • The baby needs more milk.
  • The regular feeds of the baby are getting shorter.

All these facts must be ruled out straight away as these are not at all related to the low supply of milk in any way.

Signs of Low Milk Supply

There are symptoms of low milk supply that are exhibited by a baby when they have not had enough milk. Unfortunately, many parents often confuse them as a part of the growing process. Some of these changes include:

  • The baby is not pooping regularly which is approximately 5-6 times a day. Small and liquid poops are the signs that show the baby is not getting enough milk.
  • The baby is not peeing at regular intervals. A newborn baby wets his/her diapers 8-10 times a day. If the number is lower than that, the baby is not getting enough milk.
  • The colour of the baby’s urine is dark yellowish. Yellowish urine shows that the child is not hydrated sufficiently and requires more water which can be only supplied through the mother’s milk at least for 6 months from birth.
  • The baby is not gaining weight and is getting weaker. A baby getting sufficient milk supply will gain weight regularly at a rate of 4-6 pounds a week on an average.

What Are the Causes of Low Milk Supply?

There are a lot of factors that can influence the supply of milk. They can be related to the baby’s health, the mother’s health or a common issue. These factors or issues need to be addressed seriously so that the child doesn’t develop any problems in the future.

Causes of Low Milk Supply Associated with the Mother’s Health

  • The mother has undergone breast surgery
  • Anaemia
  • An imbalance in the thyroid levels
  • Suffering from diabetes that is insulin dependent
  • Hypopituitarism
  • The pituitary doesn’t produce enough lactation hormones because of the lack of blood supply caused due to haemorrhaging during the birth

These issues can be treated with patience and proper guidance from a certified doctor. A change in the lifestyle and diet can also influence the production of milk. Regular pumping sessions should be practiced in between nursing sessions so that the body gets used to increased demand for the milk.

Causes of Low Milk Supply Associate with the Baby’s Health

  • Food sensitivity or allergy
  • The baby may have slow breathing reflexes or some problems in swallowing/sucking due to some neurological conditions
  • The baby is suffering from Down’s syndrome
  • The babies born prematurely may haven’t yet developed the reflexes for sucking, swallowing and breathing and requires guidance
  • The medical conditions in the mouth may cause difficulties during the nursing.

Since the baby is newly born and isn’t getting proper milk supply, they may require some special attention from a certified doctor or consultant.

Other causes

  • Obesity can slow down the milk production process in the body.
  • Smoking can cause difficulty in building a regular supply of milk.
  • Stress during the birth of the baby.
  • The blood contains iron in it and the loss of blood results in the loss of iron from the body. The iron levels are known to be directly related to the milk production rate.
  • The hormonal medication used for birth control can cause a reduction in the supply.
  • Usage of certain medicines.

Should You Need to Worry if You Can’t Produce Enough Breast Milk

No. Sometimes a food item may cause hindrance to the milk making process. Another reason is that there could be hormonal imbalances in the body. Most of the causes can be treated in consultation with a certified doctor and some medicines. The baby, in the meantime, can be fed with the help of the supplements. This will fulfil the nutritional requirements of the baby.

How to Diagnose Chronic Low Milk Supply

If the milk supply rate doesn’t improve on its own, one should go to a doctor or a consultant. They usually ask for a blood test so that they can consider it to determine the blood count and check if the person is suffering from anaemia. The body heals on its own and most of these issues get resolved without any medical intervention. However, some of them may require some treatment.

How Can Low Milk Supply Affect Your Baby?

Since everyone knows that the very first diet of the child is mother’s milk, the lack of it can cause growth problems. It has been generally observed that the lack of milk in the early stage can cause disruption in mental development and restrict the physical growth of the body, causing abnormalities.

Signs Your Baby is Having Enough Milk

The following traits in a baby indicate that she is getting enough milk.

  • The child is pooping 4-5 times a day and the poop is large and mustard coloured.
  • The baby is peeing at least 8-10 times a day
  • The baby looks content after the feeding and usually after a feed, though this differs from one child to other.
  • The breasts feel softer and less full after feeding.

How to Increase Milk Supply for Breastfeeding

There are various ways to increase the milk supply so that the baby gets enough milk to have the nutrition for proper growth. Some of them are:

  • A proper position of feeding should be identified so that the most suitable latching is possible.
  • One should compress their breasts when they feel there is a decrease in the sucking and swallowing of the milk by the baby. This will completely drain the breasts of the milk. One can then switch the baby to the other breast and repeat the process.
  • One should have pumping sessions in between nursing so that the body can stimulate itself to the increasing demand. The pumped milk can be stored in a clean vessel so that it can be fed to the baby in case he/she needs supplements.
  • Eat the food items that increase milk production in the body, like papaya, fenugreek, oats.
  • A sleeping baby may need to be made more active so that they can feed on the milk more vigorously, thus increasing the demand which will result in a better stimulation.

What Are the Best Breast Milk Increasing Foods

  • Fenugreek: A very common herb, it is used in breastfeeding supplements as well. These are known to stimulate the production of sweat in a body. Since the breasts are modified form of sweat gland, they also help in increasing the milk production. Those who have consumed fenugreek have reported an increase in the production of milk within 1-2 days.

  • Oats: There are some cookies available in the market called lactation cookies. These cookies generally contain oats which have long been believed to help in milk production.

  • Fennel: This is a galactagogue and that’s why it can be found in various teas and supplements that are used for increasing the milk production.

  • Brewer’s yeast: There is no scientific proof about why this helps in milk production but consuming it is believed to help the lactation.

  • Spinach: They are iron rich and can help in increasing the iron level in the body which may have decreased due to the loss of blood during the birth of the child. Low iron levels have generally been linked with a low milk production rate.

As you have noticed, some of these food items have no scientific evidence which states that they can help in boosting the production of milk in a mother. However, many people claim that these foods work and one can perhaps go along with this by saying none of them can be disproved in any way.

When Supplements Are Needed

A new mother should start taking supplements from the day the baby is born so that she can ready her body for lactation as soon as possible. This can help the mother in producing a sizable amount of milk for her baby. Medical experts say that one should establish a good milk supply within the first six weeks so that the baby doesn’t develop any problems in the future.

Is It Ok to Breastfeed Even if Having a Low Breast Milk

It is completely fine to breastfeed even if there is low breast milk in a mother. This will stimulate the breasts to produce more milk to match up to the demand. While the breasts adjust, the baby’s diet may be supplemented by formula milk so that there is no reduction in the supply of nutrition to the baby and he/she can grow properly and become healthy and strong.

Conclusion

After going through various reports and surveys, one may easily be lead to believe that most of the cases of low milk supply in new mothers are more a psychological problem than a real one. The problem of low milk supply may pose health problems for the baby in terms of poor growth. However, this isn’t a long-term problem as the problem can be rectified through numerous remedies. Even in the worst-case scenario, there is always the option of getting a wet nurse who can temporarily help feed the baby.

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