New mothers often wonder whether or not they are producing enough breast milk. There is no way to measure, so it can be difficult to know if your milk supply is low. If your baby is healthy and growing well, you usually do just fine. But if it doesn’t, you should be worried. Sometimes insufficient breast stimulation or hormonal imbalances can lead to low breast milk production. Don’t worry, because there are ways to increase breast milk.
Breast milk production or lactation is a biological process that begins during pregnancy, with the development of mammary glands and ducts, says Dr Varija Pai, Consultant Lactation Specialist, Maternity Hospitals, Banshankari, Bengaluru. After childbirth, hormonal changes, mainly mediated by prolactin and oxytocin, trigger the onset of milk production.
Ways to increase breast milk
There are effective ways to naturally increase breast milk production.
1. Frequent and effective breastfeeding
The most effective way to increase milk supply is to breastfeed your baby frequently and effectively, suggests Dr. Pai. Breastfeeding stimulates milk production, so try to breastfeed your baby on demand. This is usually every 2 to 3 hours or more often if your baby is showing hunger signals.
2. Proper locking and positioning
Make sure your baby latches on well and is positioned correctly while breastfeeding. A deep latch allows your baby to eliminate milk efficiently, which, in turn, signals your body to produce more milk. Click here to learn the signs of a good latch.
3. Breast compression
Gently compress your breast to encourage milk flow during breastfeeding. This can help your baby get more milk during feeding and stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
Besides breastfeeding, you can use a breast pump to express milk after or between feedings. Pumping can help get more milk out of your breasts and increase milk production. Double electric pumps are often the most effective for this purpose, explains the expert.
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5. Stay hydrated and eat well
Proper hydration and nutrition are essential for breast milk production. Drink plenty of water and maintain a balanced diet including protein-rich foods, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Certain foods like oats and fenugreek can promote lactation and can be included in your diet.
6. Relaxation and stress management
Stress can negatively affect milk production, so adopt relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and gentle exercises to reduce stress levels. Adequate rest and sleep are also important for milk production.
But remember that increasing milk production is gradual and results may vary from person to person. All you need is to be patient with yourself and your body.
How much breast milk does a woman produce?
There is no set “normal” amount of breast milk that every mother should produce. In fact, breast milk production can vary depending on genetics, baby’s age and feeding habits, the expert tells Health Shots. However, there are some signs and guidelines that can help you assess your milk supply:
1. Baby’s growth
Milk supply is probably sufficient if your baby is gaining weight regularly, producing enough wet diapers (at least 6 to 8 per day), and seems satisfied after feedings.
2. Satiety after feedings
If your baby seems satisfied after breastfeeding and seems to be getting enough milk, that’s a positive sign. The little one should have a relaxed posture and release the breast voluntarily.
3. Frequency of feedings
During the first few weeks, babies feed frequently, often 8 to 12 times per 24 hours. Frequent feedings help stimulate milk production and meet baby’s growing needs.
4. Comfort of breastfeeding
Although breastfeeding may be uncomfortable at first, persistent pain or discomfort may indicate latch or positioning issues that may affect milk transfer.
5. Lack of weight gain or loss
If your baby is not gaining weight properly or shows signs of losing weight, you should seek advice from a doctor. Such circumstances may suggest concern about milk production or other factors related to breastfeeding.
What causes low breast milk production?
Most women can produce a sufficient amount of breast milk, but some may have difficulty. Here are common causes of difficulty producing breast milk:
1. Hormonal imbalances
Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism), or insufficient release of the hormone prolactin can disrupt the hormonal balance needed for milk production.
2. Insufficient breast stimulation
Adequate breast stimulation is essential for milk production. If a baby has difficulty latching properly while breastfeeding or if the mother does not pump or breastfeed often enough, it can reduce milk production.
3. Stress and anxiety
High levels of stress, anxiety or emotional factors can interfere with lactation, explains the expert. Stress hormones such as cortisol can inhibit the release of oxytocin, a hormone necessary for milk letdown.
4. Medical Conditions
Health conditions or medications can also affect the amount of milk you can produce. For example, certain medications like decongestants or hormonal contraceptives can reduce milk production. Additionally, medical conditions such as diabetes or previous breast injuries can impact lactation.
5. Breast anatomy
Variations in breast anatomy can contribute to difficulties with milk production. Conditions such as insufficient glandular tissue (hypoplasia) or breast surgery that removes milk ducts and glands may limit the ability to produce milk.