Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?
In those heady days after giving birth, you may wonder whether you’re producing enough breast milk and if your baby is gaining enough weight. The body is miraculous when it comes to knowing what to do, though. You just have to learn how to listen and trust.
Starting Off Strong
Ideally, you will start learning about breastfeeding before the baby is born. Talking to your midwife or healthcare provider and having a prenatal lactation consultation can get you off to a great start. Some tips you might get to help in those first days and weeks:
Keep the baby with you in the hospital room.
Try skin-to-skin contact to promote breast milk development and flow.
Use proper technique for hand massage to loosen the colostrum from glands and milk ducts.
Express breast milk with your hands.
How Much Is Enough
Colostrum — the nutrient-rich fluid produced just after giving birth — is the perfect amount of milk for your baby on the first day. As they start to nurse, your body will increase production from 5 to 10 milliliters per feed to several ounces per feed over the weeks to come.
During scheduled appointments, your pediatrician will check your baby’s weight and monitor their growth. If your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, consider how many times a day you’re feeding. Babies should eat eight or more times a day the first months of life for proper weight gain and growth.
If you’re not feeding enough times during the day, your milk supply may diminish as your hormones “learn” your schedule and production needs. When breasts are engorged, an enzyme in breast milk sends a message to the pituitary gland — called a feedback inhibitor — telling it stop milk production. By feeding your baby on demand and at their cue, you are telling your body to make more milk. This lays the foundation for more milk production over the months you plan to breastfeed.
Pump Up the Volume
Not all breast pumps are created equal. It’s easy to pick one that’s expensive or has a lot of fancy features, but it’s more important to get educated about the pump. That includes having the proper flange size for your nipple and knowing how to use the vacuum and correct cycle setting.
If you delivered early and your breast milk hasn’t started increasing, your healthcare team might suggest that you start pumping early to increase milk production for your baby’s needs. If you’re having issues with latch, milk supply or need reassurance, it’s best to get help sooner rather than later. Make an appointment with an international board-certified lactation consultant and continue pumping to stimulate and increase milk production.
When Should I Supplement?
Going straight to formula might not give your body the chance to do what your body is designed to do: make breast milk. However, if your baby simply needs more calories, and you can’t hand express or pump your own milk, formula supplementation is certainly an option.
Feeding Your Body for Breast milk
Hydration and fiber are important to produce breast milk. Our body uses our fluids in blood plasma to make breastmilk, so staying hydrated is key to make the milk your baby needs. Water, coconut water and even fruits like watermelon that have a high water content help us stay well-hydrated and assist our bodies in making milk.
A high-fiber diet is especially helpful for those early days after the birth when the intestinal tract may be finding its new normal. High-fiber vegetables and grains with soluble fiber, like oats, are reliable sources of the kind of dietary fiber that promotes breast milk production.
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