A common concern people have about breastfeeding is that they won’t produce enough milk to satisfy their baby.
Breastfeeding is a new skill which both you and your baby need to learn and it can be challenging, particularly at the start. It is normal for your newborn to lose some weight in the first few days and it can take around two weeks for them to regain their birth weight. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t producing enough milk. However, if your baby has lost a large amount of weight or takes longer than two weeks to get back up to their birth weight, seek advice from your midwife, health visitor, breastfeeding support worker or lactation consultant.
With the right advice and support, most women are able to produce enough breastmilk for their little one to thrive, but there are things you can do to help build up your milk supply.
Feed on demand
Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, so the more your baby feeds, the more milk your body will produce. It’s therefore really important to feed on demand – even if, in the early days, ‘on demand’ can feel like ‘all the time’.
Feeding on demand is much more successful for building up milk supply than feeding at timed intervals. If you try to get your baby into a strict routine in the first few days or weeks, there is a danger that your newborn won’t get all the milk they need and your supply could drop, as your body will assume you don’t need to produce as much milk. Plus, you’ll have a grumpy, hungry baby on your hands.
As a general rule, it is normal for your newborn to feed between eight and 12 times a day. In the first few days after birth, it may even be necessary to wake your baby and actively encourage them to feed in order to ensure they are getting enough, as they can be particularly sleepy to begin with.
When baby nurses, let them feed until they pull off the breast themselves or fall asleep. Don’t time feeds or remove your baby before they have finished nursing; this could prevent them from getting all the milk they need.
Topping up your baby’s feeds with formula can also impact your milk supply, as your body will think it doesn’t need to produce as much to satisfy your baby’s appetite.
If you are not able to breastfeed for a period of time, it is a good idea to express your milk at the times your baby would usually feed to help safeguard your supply.
Avoid using a dummy
For the first few weeks, your breastfeeding routine and milk supply is still getting established, so it’s a good idea to avoid anything that might interfere with that. Using a dummy (or pacifier) can reduce how often your baby wants to feed and even cause issues with the way they latch on.
If you do want to use a dummy to calm your baby, wait until you are confident that they are breastfeeding well and your milk supply is steady. This can take around six weeks.
Skin to skin contact
Having lots of skin to skin contact with your baby will help build your milk supply. This is because close contact stimulates the release of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which play an important role in milk production.
Enjoy giving your little one lots of cuddles and keep them close. When you can, spend some time with your top off and lay your baby on your chest in just their nappy.
One of the best ways to boost your milk supply is to seek support from a breastfeeding expert. They can answer any questions you have, check your feeding technique and offer helpful suggestions. Your midwife or health visitor is a good first port of call but you may want to go along to a breastfeeding support group in your area or see a lactation consultant. As well as offering practical advice, they will be able to explore whether you are producing enough milk or whether there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Look after yourself
Make sure you are eating well and staying hydrated. It takes a lot of calories to produce breastmilk so if you are skipping meals or barely drinking, this could interfere with your milk supply.
You don’t need to eat anything special when you’re breastfeeding, but it is a good idea to make sure you’re eating a range of healthy foods and getting all the nutrients you need to keep your energy up (See HiPP’s ‘what should I eat when breastfeeding’ guide). Tread carefully when it comes to foods or recipes that claim to increase your milk supply. These claims are largely unproven.