Becoming a mother is such a huge transition that no one can ever really prepare you for, no matter how many children you have! As a first-time mum, you are solely focused on this new little creation you have made, as you adjust to having no responsibility, to having someone fully rely on you to stay alive!
And for mums with other children, adding another little bundle to your growing family adds different types of challenges, as you learn to juggle many different tasks whilst having another little mouth to feed and recover from birth. Initially, though, the last thing on a new mum’s mind is breast milk supply, after all, it just happens naturally…doesn’t it?
After the birth of a baby, the focus shifts from ‘How am I going to get through the birth’ to ‘How am I going to feed this little person’?! This can be challenging and overwhelming yet joyful and amazing all at the same time. If you were lucky enough to have educated yourself before birth about breastfeeding then you’ll have a great head start and if everything goes smoothly on the day of birth, you and your baby will most likely establish a wonderful breastfeeding relationship.
Sometimes though breastfeeding isn’t as easy as we wish it could be, and things happen during birth or in the days following that are out of your control. In most cases, this doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a plentiful breast milk supply that can nourish your baby for as long as you decide.
There are times when a mother feels like her breast milk supply is low, but it may not be. Check out my blog about perceived low supply and actual low supply here. If you’ve found that you have low supply due to your baby having low output or weight gain and you’ve been advised that your supply is low then there are ways you may be able to boost your breast milk supply before turning to the bottle.
It’s really important to get some help to determine the cause as there are several things that could be impacting breast milk supply, such as
- Ineffective attachment and positioning of the baby to the breast
- Ineffective sucking by the baby
- Hormonal concerns
- Infrequent or scheduled feeding
- Complimentary feeding or use of a dummy
- Maternal stress
- Skipping feeds during the day or night
- Ineffective pumping
10 steps to help establish a great breast milk supply
- Skin to skin!!! Having your baby on your chest immediately from birth or as soon as possible kicks in natural instincts for both mum and baby. It regulates the baby’s breathing, temperature, and heart rate and allows them to learn to find the breast when they’re ready. The amniotic fluid even helps them find the breast next time with its scent! It can be done anytime you like and the more the better! If you and your baby are separated, ask the health professionals looking after your baby to do kangaroo care as soon as possible and they’ll facilitate this for you. It’s also fantastic for dads to have skin-to-skin with their newborn baby as it allows them to instantly bond, and the sooner the better!
- From the very beginning get good support to ensure you are correctly positioning and attaching your baby to the breast. This is one of the biggest factors that impact on supply. If a baby isn’t draining the breast well the breast doesn’t know how much milk to continue to make. If you’re unable to latch your baby at all due to your nipple shape, ask for help to ensure you’re still able to effectively stimulate your nipples and remove colostrum. Early expression is vital if your baby is unable to latch or you’ve been separated from them for any reason. This should be done at least 8 times in 24 hours to simulate a normal breastfeeding baby’s pattern.
- Sometimes when feeds are scheduled and timed this can impact supply too so please ensure you are working with an LC or other breastfeeding-friendly expert to work out a plan that doesn’t compromise your breast milk supply if for any reason you’re asked to feed to a schedule. Night feeds are extremely important in the early weeks also to help your body establish the maximum breast milk supply possible and shouldn’t be missed.
- If you’re separated from your baby and need to pump, ensure the pump you use is the right one for you. There are many pumps on the market that can work effectively for you however there are also some that may not. Hospital-grade pumps are often more effective at removing milk, and these can be hired from some hospitals, chemists, or your local Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). Get some help to ensure the flange you’re using is the correct fit for you as this can impact pumping sessions, and make sure you are pumping enough times each day to maximise your breast milk supply. Medela has a great website with excellent information about expressing your breast milk here.
- If you’re in pain recovering from birth ensure you are able to find relief. For some mums, it may just be a heat pack on your tummy needed or some safe analgesia taken as recommended to help you relax into the feed and encourage the milk to flow, as pain creates tension and stress, which a new mum shouldn’t have to experience.
- The first week or so of adjusting to having a new baby can be extremely tiring and sometimes stressful. Try and rest during the day AND night, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Instead of always fighting for more sleep, try and change your mindset and learn to adjust to less sleep. Becoming a new parent brings with it sleepless nights, and that’s okay and completely normal! Ask for help from your partner or family, and take the time to get to know your baby. Limit visitors to ensure you don’t feel pressure to entertain or clean perfectly and try not to expect too much of yourself. This parenthood thing is a huge adjustment but totally worth it!
- Consider the baby and how they are coping with the adjustment to the outside world also. They could be born a little early and need to build strength to suck better or may have jaundice which can make them sleepy and not feed effectively. They may also have restrictions that prevent them from attaching well to be able to draw the milk out. A health professional such as an IBCLC can guide you on how best to manage a baby issue when that’s what is affecting your breast milk supply.
- Sometimes you may be experiencing hormonal issues that can affect your milk production. If your placenta or membranes weren’t complete there’s a possibility this could delay your milk from ‘coming in’ as the shift in hormones will be interrupted. Sometimes other factors such as thyroid issues, gestational diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or prolactin deficiency can interrupt the normal function of milk production and it’s even more important to work with your Lactation Consultant together with your doctor as they can help to overcome these challenges.
- Make sure you are looking after yourself too! There hasn’t just been the birth of a new baby, but also the birth of a new mother. You’re extremely important and need nurturing just as much as your baby does. Ask the family to help with nutritious meals for the first couple of weeks. Get yourself some lovely, healthy snacks such as lactation cereal or cookies to have between meals as you’ll need extra calories to feed both of you. Pinky’s Boobie Foods are always a favourite and you can find them here.
- Stay hydrated! Drink to thirst (you don’t need 3-4 liters a day!). Keeping your fluids up can be hard, especially when it’s cold. Have a water bottle handy wherever you go as you’re going to be thirsty. And if you find drinking water hard, try some yummy, warm, and healthy breastfeeding tea. Get yourself a nice thermos that you can easily refill with warm tea that many mums say helps increase breast milk supply and settle their baby’s tummies. The Breastfeeding Tea Co. has a great range and you can find them here.
There’s no other mummy better for your baby other than you! So keep up the great work and give yourself a pat on the back! You got this!
Reach out to me for support and education here to give yourself the best start!