As mums, we have a lot of questions about our precious little ones. But, we can’t always have an expert on hand, 24-7 to answer our questions. So, we recently reached out to Medela’s International board Lactation Consultant to ask her what new mums ask her the most. And, do you know what she said? Here is the number 1 question she gets asked…
How do I know if my baby is getting enough breast milk?
Here’s what she told us…
Did you know that, in Australia, 40% of mothers stop breastfeeding because they think that they have a poor milk supply? I understand these mother’s concerns, but, I think that there are a few vital pieces of information that need to be understood about how the body makes milk to help understand if this is really what is happening.
How Does Breast Milk Production Really Work?
Shortly after you have birthed your baby and placenta, the milk-making hormone Prolactin, and Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for the milk ejection or let down both surge. The surging of prolactin helps to switch on and start your supply and the baby sucking at your breast causes your body to squeeze the milk out of your breast tissue to your baby.
For the first few days, your baby will be receiving colostrum, which is jam-packed full of antibodies and helps to boost your babies immune system. Colostrum is small in volume, but, what it lacks in volume it makes up for in punch! It is all your baby needs until your milk supply comes in.
Because colostrum is small in volume, your baby will need to feed very frequently. In fact, babies need to feed a minimum of 8 times (but maybe more!) in a 24-hour period to adequately bring your milk in.
It can be at this early stage that a mother first thinks that her baby is not getting enough milk or that she is not producing enough to satisfy her baby. But, frequent, feeding is absolutely normal and is a very clever way to ensure that your milk supply is switched on and increases in volume until you achieve a full supply.
Every time your baby sucks at your breast, it causes prolactin and oxytocin to flow, which in turn helps to boost and increase in your supply. Giving a supplement (unless medically indicated) at this stage can begin the down-regulation of milk production.
In these early stages, your milk production is controlled by the breastfeeding hormones. Frequent feeding and the switching on of your supply by the hormones should cause your milk to “come in” on around day 3 and your breasts may suddenly feel very full and may leak.
This stage in lactation is called secretory activation and is controlled by hormones or the “endocrine system.” At around the 6-12 week mark (everyone is slightly different) the hormones start to back off, and your body starts to produce milk based on how much milk your baby removes from the breast. This is known as the “autocrine system.” It’s a simple feedback system – the more milk that is removed, the more milk is made.
Has My Breast Milk Supply Started to Decrease?
At this point, because you are now producing exactly the right of milk that your baby needs, your breasts may no longer feel full and may stop leaking.
Many women think that their supply has dropped off because their breasts feel soft or different to how they did, but, try not to worry because your body is now perfectly in tune with your baby and is making the perfect amount.
Is My Baby Feeding Too Much / Too Little?
Another reason that many mums may be concerned that their baby isn’t getting enough milk is the number of times that their baby wants to feed compared to another baby. It’s hard not to compare your baby with another baby, but, there is a very real reason why babies all feed so differently.
Over the first month, your supply is building until you reach full volume and once you are there your body continues to produce the same amount of milk in 24 hour period for the next 6-months.
The average baby drinks about 800ml per day from one to six months in age. Some babies will drink all this over 4-6 feeds per day, whilst other babies need 9-12 feeds per day to drink the same amount.
Our breasts hold different amounts of milk. This is called storage capacity and you can’t tell what your storage capacity is by how small or large your breasts are!
One baby may receive 90ml per breastfeed whilst another may receive 60ml. We are all different. There is nothing wrong with your breasts or your milk supply – you just have a smaller storage capacity and, therefore, your baby needs to feed more frequently to get their full volume.
Feed your baby on cue when they show early feeding signals. Feeding your baby before they reach the late signs of hunger, crying will help to make it easier to latch your baby and for your baby to feed effectively. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else as we are all individuals in everything we do and your baby is unique.
So How Do You Tell if Your Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk?
The answer may surprise you! It isn’t by looking at your breasts at all; it’s by looking at your baby.
Your baby should be having 5+ heavy wet nappies per 24 hours (from day 5) and 2+ yellow, watery poo’s per 24 hrs for the first 1-2 months.
Your baby will initially lose weight after birth but should have regained their birth weight by week two or at the latest week three and should start to gain around 150g+ each week. Your baby should regularly be waking for feeds, should be alert and active when awake and be growing in length and head circumference.
If your baby is doing all this no matter what your breasts are doing your baby is definitely getting the perfect amount of milk.
Have you ever worried that your baby was not getting enough breast milk? How much of the information in this article did you know before? Let’s have a chat and support each other, here or on the Medela Australia Facebook page.