Having a newborn baby and deciding that you want to breastfeed is an incredible choice to make. The benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child are amazing.
But what happens when you discover your body starting to show signs your milk supply is decreasing?
It can be extremely disheartening.
There are actually many reasons why you might be experiencing signs your milk supply is decreasing and we will take a look at some of these further down.
When you first give birth you can expect your baby to receive colostrum milk in the first few days. During this time your breasts will feel pretty normal.
In the days following this, you will begin to feel your milk supply coming in.
You can expect to feel the let-down reflex and your breasts will become extremely full.
Breastmilk production is very much supply and demand.
This means that your body should be able to produce the amount of milk that your baby needs.
As long as your baby continues to suck at the breast or if you are pumping your milk, you should be able to get enough milk to feed your baby.
What low milk supply is not
Some women can easily get confused by what low milk supply actually is.
As I have said already when your milk begins to “let-down” you can feel it at almost every feed, to begin with.
However as your body begins to adjust more, you will lose that let-down feeling.
If you previously had leaking nipples, that may also stop.
Another thing you may notice is that your breasts will not feel as full as they once did.
This is all completely normal and is not an indication of having low milk supply.
As your body adjusts to the demands of your baby’s feeding schedule, your body will stop overproducing milk and you will have just enough milk to supply to feed your baby with.
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Signs your milk supply is decreasing
1. Your baby will be losing weight
It is perfectly normal for a newborn to lose a small amount of weight in the first few days of life. They should gain this weight again shortly afterward.
However, if you feel that your baby has lost a concerning amount of weight then you will need to seek the attention of a professional as soon as possible.
Your baby should be gaining roughly one ounce per day for the first 3 months. (source)
2. Insufficient wet diapers
If your baby is showing signs of having much less wet diapers than previously then you need to check out the reasons why.
Just note that it is quite normal for a newborn baby to have less wet diapers in the first few days of life whilst they are only getting colostrum milk.
However, after the first week, your baby should be averaging 5-6 wet diapers a day.
3. Your baby is not pooping enough
Your baby’s poop should be soft but not too runny if they are breastfeeding.
You may notice that their poop will be yellowish and seedy. This is normal for breastfed babies.
In the first week or so your baby will have a higher amount of dirty diapers (perhaps around 8 per day) but as the first few weeks pass by this will become more settled.
You should notice that your baby will poop along the lines of 1-2 times a day after the first few weeks.
What are some of the reasons for low milk supply?
There are a number of things that can cause low milk supply, some of which I will list here:
1. If you wait too long to start breastfeeding
Your body is very clever and there are certain signs that you need to give it in order for your milk production to be at maximum efficiency and to remain consistent.
2. You don’t breastfeed often enough
In the early days, it’s best to breastfeed as much as your baby wants milk. Doing this will help to train your body to produce enough milk for your baby.
It’s really important to try to keep this up for as long as possible to ensure your level of milk production stays high enough.
3. Supplementing breastmilk
There is nothing wrong with supplementing breastmilk if that works for you but you must realize that this can cause your supply to be a little bit less than you would perhaps like it to be.
It is advisable for at least the first few weeks to make sure you breastfeed as much as possible until your body gets used to the demands of your baby.
Some medications can interfere with your milk production.
Before you decide to take any medication, make sure that it will not have an effect on your breastmilk.
5. Premature birth
If your baby was born prematurely it could be that your body was not quite ready yet to begin its milk production.
If this is the case then it would be a really good idea to have as much skin to skin contact with your baby as possible as this can help to stimulate your breasts into producing milk.
Another thing you can do to help avoid the signs your milk supply is decreasing is to allow your baby to latch onto your breast whenever you get the opportunity. You don’t only have to do this when they are hungry.
This will stimulate your breasts much quicker and give you great results for future breastfeeding.
6. Using a pacifier
There are two main reasons a pacifier should not be used too early on after you have delivered your baby:
1. It can confuse your baby as to the right way to suckle the breast.
2. The pacifier can take away potential time where your baby should be feeding. This, in turn, can cause you to have a lower milk supply as you are not giving your body the demand for milk.
If you want to give your baby a pacifier, it is advisable to do so around 3-4 weeks and not before.
What can you do to increase your milk supply?
1. As soon as your baby is born put them on the breast
This will stimulate your nipples and encourage the let-down effect.
It will also give yourself and your baby a chance to practice getting a good latch.
2. Skin to skin contact
Skin to skin contact can also help with milk production.
Skin to skin contact will help your body to naturally produce oxytocin which aids with milk production.
3. Make sure your baby has a good latch
Teaching your baby to get a good latch is very important.
Having a good latch will mean your baby will be able to feed better and you will also feel a lot less pain when you initially start breastfeeding.
When I first started with breastfeeding I no idea about latching, so true to form I was not doing it correctly.
My baby did not receive any milk for at least the first 24 hours and all I got was a whole lot of pain from trying to do it the wrong way. (I felt terrible after I found out).
Don’t let this happen to you too!
4. Try not to supplement breastmilk
The problem with supplementing breast milk too early on is that you have not given your body a chance to get familiar with how much – or if in fact, you will be breastfeeding your baby.
The first few days are crucial for teaching your body to feed your child.
This is why if you decide to supplement breastmilk you will find that your milk supply will be lower.
If however, you decide to do this, later on, it will not be so much of a problem because your body has learned for the most part what it needs to do.
An alternative to this could be that you decide to pump to keep up your milk supply going.
What to do if you are experiencing painful breastfeeding
If you are struggling with painful breasts whilst breastfeeding there are a few things that you can do for relief:
- Invest in some nipple cream and apply this to your breasts after breastfeeding. This nipple cream will help to keep your breasts moist and protects them from getting sore.
- If you are experiencing pain on your nipples after feeding then you can try a cold compress like this one which will keep your breasts from feeling sore and swollen. These work well inside your bra and are discreet.
- You can also try allowing some breastmilk to air dry on your breasts. Your breastmilk contains natural antibodies and skin softners which will help keep your breasts happy.
Final thoughts on signs your milk supply is decreasing
As you can see there are little things that you can do to avoid any signs that your milk supply is decreasing.
The one major thing that you need to focus on when you decide to breastfeed is latching.
Without a good latch, it will be almost impossible to feed your baby by breast.
This is the very reason that a lot of women give up on breastfeeding so early on in their journey.
If you do want to learn and understand more about breastfeeding, I can’t recommend this class from Milkology enough.
I have taken it myself and there is a wealth of information in there that will teach you everything that you need to know about breastfeeding.
The class will teach you everything from getting a good latch to the benefits of breastfeeding and knowing what to expect from your babies diaper and knowing how to store breast milk.
It really is worth the investment if you want to have a good shot at successfully breastfeeding your baby.
Choosing to breastfeed is never going to be the easiest option but it is so worth it if you get the opportunity to do so.
More related posts on breastfeeding:
- The causes of mastitis and how to treat it effectively
- 10 Simple breastfeeding tips for newborns (to help mom)