Did you know there are things you can do in the first minutes and days with your newborn that can increase milk supply?
(*Note: Video transcript and references are below.)
If you haven’t already wondered if you will have enough milk, you are almost certain to question it at some point in your breastfeeding journey. In fact, it’s the #1 reason that women stop breastfeeding or begin to supplement with formula.
We’ve seen this over and over in our practice. When we visit women in their homes, with one and two day old babies, the most common question is whether their baby is getting enough milk. Years ago, we used to go to a shopping mall with our scale to weigh babies and answer questions. There we would see women with beautiful content babies, rolls down their legs, gaining well on their mother’s milk. But the women would still question if they had enough breast milk.
The truth is that less than 5% of women don’t have enough breast tissue to make a full supply of milk. Most milk supply problems result from not understanding the following five points.
1. Skin to skin
You may have already heard about the benefits of skin to skin immediately after birth. If you haven’t, it is simply having your naked baby against your bare chest right after delivery and cuddling your baby, uninterrupted, for at least an hour.
Research shows that when babies are held close against their mother’s chest, they learn to breastfeed sooner. Skin to skin also keeps baby’s temperature and blood glucose level stable, preventing mom and baby from having to be separated.
2. Feed in the first hour after birth
Babies who are snuggled skin to skin with their mothers immediately after birth are much more likely to accomplish this second way to increase milk supply; feeding in the first hour after birth.
The first hour after birth is often referred to as the golden hour. Babies are typically awake and alert and show interest in feeding. When your baby was in the womb, he was fed continuously through the placenta. At birth, the constant food supply is suddenly cut off. Feeding in the first hour after birth will help to keep your baby’s blood sugar levels stable.
Some experts are now suggesting that if your baby doesn’t latch in the first hour, you should begin hand expression. This will signal your body that your baby has survived birth and will be needing milk.
If you’re in the last weeks of your pregnancy, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about hand expressing some of your colostrum. (Please note: This is not something we would recommend unless you have spoken to your health care provider about your particular situation.) There is some evidence that this can boost your milk supply in both the short and long term.
3. Deep latch
The third way to boost your milk supply is to latch your baby deeply onto the breast. Your baby should not latch only onto the nipple but should have lots of breast tissue in her mouth as well.
When your baby is latched deeply your breast will get the message to make more milk. Your baby will also get more milk with each suck.
4. Feed responsively
The most important way you can boost your milk supply is to feed “responsively”. This simply means responding to your baby’s cues and feeding whenever your baby shows interest. Frequently removing milk from the breast signals your body to make more milk.
A study done back in 1998 showed that women who fed 13 – 16 times when their baby was only two days old had more milk than women who fed 10 – 12 times and even more milk than people who fed 8 – 10 times.
A woman who took our prenatal breastfeeding class told us about her first day home from the hospital with her two day old baby. Her newborn fed and fed and fed, all night long. She swore she breastfed every hour! The next day she was exhausted but remembered what we had told her about increasing milk supply. She felt confident her baby was getting enough milk as her baby was having more than the minimum number of pees and poops. Two days later she had so much milk she felt could have fed more than one baby.
Feeding on a schedule is not best for your baby or your milk supply. Frequent breastfeeding increases your milk supply.
5. Keep your baby close
At the beginning of our careers, our local hospital had a nursery. Babies were expected to stay there between feeds. When they cried, they were taken to their mother.
Thankfully, moms and babies are no longer separated. They stay in the same room (‘rooming in’). This allows the mother to notice her baby’s first hunger signals and begin feeding long before her baby begins to cry. Babies are fed more often when they stay with their mothers. As we said in our last point, frequent breastfeeding helps to increase milk supply.
As much as possible, stay close to your baby. This will help you to increase your milk supply.
If you’d like to dive deeper into this topic, you are welcome to join online prenatal breastfeeding class, Simply Breastfeeding from Day One.
Best wishes on your breastfeeding journey.