9 Things That DON’T MEAN Low Milk Supply
Do I have enough milk? is the question that so many breastfeeding moms ask! And if you think you have a low milk supply, it can be really worrisome.
There are a few things that might make you think you have low milk supply, but are likely something else. Let’s talk about the 9 most common things that (by themselves) do NOT mean you have low milk supply.
Of course, if you think you truly do have a low milk supply, you should visit with your local lactation consultant. Many of these symptoms along with other observations can be evaluated by a trained professional who can help if there truly is a problem. Today, we’re talking about the little things that come up now and then that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an issue but can be a bit worrisome. Don’t forget to look at the bigger picture here 🙂
Baby wants to breastfeed often
I see the logic here, “Maybe I don’t have enough milk because the baby always seems so hungry”.
It depends on where you are in your breastfeeding journey. If you’re near the beginning and still figuring things out, it may be best to visit with a lactation consultant and make sure everything is looking good, the baby is gaining weight, and having enough wet diapers each day.
If baby is doing well, the most common reason for a baby to suddenly increase feeding isn’t because of a lack of supply, but usually a growth spurt. The best thing you can do during times when your little one seems to want more and more, is to continue to feed on demand. They’re naturally telling your body to make more milk! Which it will 🙂
Also, babies eat a lot 🙂 If you have concerns about your baby’s feeding patterns, contact your local lactation consultant.
Soft or floppy breasts
It can be tempting to wait until your breasts feel full before feeding your baby because it’s nice to know there’s much milk in there! But after the first week or two where some engorgement is normal, your breasts may not become firm and “full” like they did in the beginning. This is wonderfully normal! In fact, it’s what we’re hoping for.
Full breasts need to be emptied, and if they’re feeling tight and firm often, that’s telling your body that you don’t need as much milk since it’s not being removed. In a healthy breastfeeding situation, soft breasts are working breasts. “Empty” or soft breasts tell your body to make more milk, which is exactly what you need!
Not leaking milk
Some women leak a lot of milk for months, and others don’t. It’s quite common to leak milk from the side you aren’t nursing on especially in the beginning when there’s a lot of engorgement, but for most women, this stops after a while. Again, completely normal.
Never leaking milk is also NOT a sign of low milk supply. For some women, it just doesn’t happen.
One of my FAVORITE tools to tell new moms about is the Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump. It’s a suction device that you place on the opposite side your feeding on to catch any letdown and pull a bit of extra milk out. It doesn’t empty you like a traditional pump, but many moms use this as their back-up milk and skip electric pumping altogether!
Some moms only get a few drops, and some get several ounces. If you’re on the low side of milk while using your haakaa, this doesn’t mean you have low supply. There are many factors that go into this including how long you’ve been breastfeeding, the frequency of your babies feeds, your milk supply in general, and other things. Don’t stress! It’s not a bad sign 🙂 just continue onward!
Not feeling a let-down
Some women always feel the milk-ejection reflex (“let-down”), and some women never do. Both are normal!
The tricky part comes when you feel a strong let down in the beginning weeks or months, and then over time it becomes less and less. This too, is quite normal but it worries alot of breastfeeding moms who are used to this reassuring feeling meaning the milk is coming.
A lack of feeling “let-down” does NOT mean your milk supply is suffering.
Baby cries a lot
Well, babies do cry, and if you have an especially colicky baby it can be caused by a variety of different things.
While this symptom doesn’t automatically point to low milk supply, it would be helpful to see your lactation consultant or health care provider and get a better picture of what’s going on. Heading straight for the formula when the baby becomes extra fussy may cause more problems than it solves, so get some help to figure out what’s going on.
Only pumping small amounts
If you’re feeding your baby on demand and things are going well, I actually hope you’re only getting small amounts when you turn to the pump! The BEST breast pump is actually your baby and nothing can stimulate hormones and empty the best better than your little one, so don’t be surprised if the electric pump yields small results.
If you’re pumping in place of feedings or returning to work and only getting small amounts, that doesn’t mean you have a low supply either but it does mean you should reach out for some help from your lactation consultant. There’s a bit of a learning curve to pumping and it can take some adjusting to get the right flow. Likely though, your milk supply is just fine.
Baby doesn’t sleep long or wakes up often at night
It’s amazing how good 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep can feel to a parent of a newborn! Something I never thought I’d say because I NEED my 8 hours…
Some formula feeding moms rave about how well their little ones sleep at night, but if you’re breastfeeding and committed to that process, don’t feel like it’s a lack of milk on your end that’s waking your baby up at night.
Breastmilk is digested more easily and faster, so babies naturally wake more to feed at night. This is also nature’s way of continuing to stimulate your breasts to make more milk and balance your hormones. You often actually make MORE milk at night, due to the night-time hormones flooding your body, so this is a great time to feed your baby.
*Top Tip: Try various positions at night so you can rest too! The side-lying position is a favorite by many moms at night, and rooming in with your baby can make for less ups and downs for you as you feed your little one.
Baby gulps down a bottle
***If you’ve been instructed to supplement after feeds by a health care professional, this doesn’t apply to you. Follow your treatment plan for your individual circumstance!***
If you’ve ever given a baby a bottle, you’ll know they can finish it FAST! If you feed your baby a bottle after breastfeeding and they gulp it down, it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough milk.
There are a couple of things that go into play here. First, bottle are easy! The milk constantly flows and if you put it in a babies mouth, they are likely going to suck until it’s gone. Often times, it comes back up though because it was just too much for their little stomach. Have you ever accidentally overeaten just because the food was in front of you? It’s a similar concept here.
Second, babies stomachs are small, but they can be stretched. If you continuously feed “extra” milk to your baby, their stomach will adjust and they’ll continue to want more. Exclusive breastfeeding accounts for baby’s growth and development in a more natural way, so don’t doubt your milk supply if things are going well already!
Third, babies are smarter than we think. The fattiest breastmilk comes from the back of the breast toward the end of the feeding and your baby has to work a bit harder to get it out. With a bottle, it’s so easy and once they’ve learned a bottle is an option, they may be less likely to be patient and empty the valuable hindmilk from your breast. Be careful of this slippery slope! It’s probably not low milk supply, it’s probably a smart baby who wants the easier option 🙂
Baby sucks on their hands a lot
Baby’s do this! And sucking is a natural reflex for them. Feed them on demand, even if it feels like you’re feeding them all the time (which you probably are!).
A pacifier is an option, and if you’re curious about the current research on pacifier use in breastfed babies, here’s a video I put together which may be helpful.
If you can relate to any symptoms above, it doesn’t mean you have low milk supply! If you’re worried your baby seems more hungry than normal or there are other signs worrying you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your lactation consultant. Sometimes, if you have multiple signs along with other things like poor weight gain or infrequent wet diapers, it can actually be a problem.
Keep on feeding! And rest assured, that more often than not, mother nature and biology have got this process figured out. You can do this! Happy Breastfeeding 🙂
~ All things for you and your new little life ~