Every nursing mother wonders from time to time if she is producing enough milk. Hey, we’re moms, worrying and wondering is what we do. If you’re pumping, there is an added step to the dance of supply and demand. How do you know if you need to increase your supply? Should you pump more?
Some nursing mothers struggle with too much of a good thing. Their breasts are so full between feedings, they swell to freakish proportions and leak on everything. When these moms settle down to nurse, their babies sputter and gasp, trying to gulp down all the milk that pours out. While this can be messy, embarrassing, even painful, it is also blissfully reassuring. Too much milk means they don’t have to worry about a starving baby. But what if you are producing a more manageable amount, does that mean your supply is inadequate? Not necessarily.
It could mean that your baby and your breasts are just really grooving well together. Your body might be matching what your baby needs perfectly. But, your mother-in-law keeps asking if you are sure the baby is getting enough to eat. You notice that your baby isn’t as pleasingly plump as the formula fed babies. You have just started to pump and not much comes out. You’re worried.
Is my baby getting enough milk?
There are a few ways to tell if your little one is well fed.
If your baby is gaining weight as expected, you probably don’t need to worry. But be aware that exclusively breastfed babies grow at a different rate than babies who are given formula or who are started on solids earlier than 6 months. Make sure your doctor is aware of healthy growth patterns for babies fed with breastmilk, and only breastmilk.
Average weight gain for the breastfed baby within the first month of life is approximately 1oz per day (or, 5-7oz a week). At four months of age, baby should be gaining about 0.6oz a day (or, 3-5oz a week).
An alert, happy, and active baby
A baby that isn’t getting enough to eat is either lethargic or will be miserably hungry, crying a lot and unable to sleep. All babies have a colicky time during the day; but, a baby who isn’t getting enough milk will be visibly upset for the vast portion of the day. If your baby seems content after eating, sleeps well, and is alert and energetic when awake, then he or she is almost certainly not hungry.
Noisy and messy feedings
Babies generally make swallowing noises and have drips of milk in the corners of their mouths when they are nursing. This is definitely a good sign. But some babies are more polite, so if all else is normal, don’t worry.
Peeing and pooping
At first, you should see several stools a day, and then later at least once a day. Even if stools are a little less frequent, they should be regular, soft, and easy to pass. Liquidy stools are common and normal for the breastfed baby. Formed stools aren’t present until solids are introduced. Breastfed babies also wet around seven or eight diapers a day. What goes in baby, must come out!
Am I pumping enough?
If your baby shows the above signs of being healthy and well nourished, then your milk supply is stable and adequate, and by definition, you are pumping enough. But there may be times when you want to add extra pumping sessions to your day. 2oz combined breasts is the average pumping yield, anything over this amount is icing on the cake!
If you need to supplement
If for whatever reason your doctor recommends that you need to supplement, you can increase your supply. There are few medical indications for supplementing and you can do so with expressed breastmilk, donor breast milk or artificial baby milk. It is also possible to return to exclusive breastfeeding, with increased pumping and gentle, frequent exposure to breast. Pump every time your baby takes a bottle of breastmilk or artificial baby milk If you can, add in an extra pumping session about an hour after you last pumped or nursed your baby.
You are new to pumping or transitioning back to work
Your body might need to get used to pumping. For some women, it works like a charm the first time, but others need to train their breasts and brains and hormones to let down in response to the pump, even with a pump that closely resembles the natural process.
But what if you don’t need to supplement yet, but worry that your milk supply isn’t quite keeping up? Or maybe you need to increase your supply so you can build up a stockpile of stored milk. There are ways to produce more milk naturally, with a combination of pumping and nursing techniques. Consult our Spectra Certified IBCLCs for targeted breastfeeding and pumping assistance.
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