Do I have enough breastmilk?

enough breastmilkOne of the biggest myths most first-time mothers believe about breastfeeding is that they can’t make enough breastmilk. Many a woman has been encouraged to give up breastfeeding because her milk supply was ‘too low’. However, there are ways you can tell if your baby’s getting enough milk even though you can’t tell how much is going in.

Almost all mothers at one time or another will question whether they are producing enough milk, especially at the start of breastfeeding. But according to leading experts, true milk shortages are in fact quite rare. Nearly all mothers are capable of producing enough breastmilk for their babies.

In any society a mum’s confidence in her ability to meet her babies’ needs by herself is easily undermined. Most of us need active support if we are to breastfeed successfully. Usually where a mother feels she does not have enough milk, her baby may in fact be getting all the milk that he needs.

Enough Breastmilk?

You’re not alone in thinking your milk supply is low when it might not be. In the first weeks of breastfeeding, mothers aren’t producing what they’d consider ‘real’ breastmilk at all, but colostrum. Colostrum is a thick, yellowish liquid which is ‘supercharged’ with extra vitamins, proteins and immune-building antibodies that a new baby needs. The amount of colostrum you are producing is ‘just right.’ It is perfect for your baby’s tiny stomach and his needs in the first few days after birth. The reason why some mums think they are not producing enough breastmilk at the start could be that mature breastmilk (which is thin and bluish-white in appearance), only gradually replaces colostrum over about ten days –  but sometimes this changeover can take several weeks.

You may also think your supply is low if you lose the feeling of fullness in your breasts, or if milk stops leaking from your nipples – but these are actually natural, common signs that your body has adjusted to your baby’s needs.

You may also think your supply is low if you lose the feeling of fullness in your breasts, or if milk stops leaking from your nipples – but these are actually natural, common signs that your body has adjusted to your baby’s needs. And thank goodness your breasts won’t always feel like rockmelons, though you can still breastfeed sufficiently. A baby going through a growth spurt may also want more milk than usual, and his more frequent feedings may leave your breasts less full than usual.

Everything your baby needs to grow strong and healthy is in your milk. It is the normal food for your baby and the both of you will work together to establish your milk supply and maintain it as your baby grows. However, if your baby is fussy or crying, there may be another reason unrelated to supply so you might want to check with your medical advisor if you have any concerns. Below are some ideas to help you work out if your supply really is low.

Signs of enough milk
If your fully-breastfed baby (i.e. you are only giving your baby breastmilk) shows two or more of the signs below then you most likely have enough milk:
  • At least five heavily-wet disposable nappies (or six to eight very wet cloth nappies) in 24 hours, provided no other fluids or solids are being given. A very young baby will usually have two or more soft bowel movements a day for several weeks. An older baby may have fewer than this. Small quantities of strong, dark urine or formed bowel motions indicate that the baby is in need of more breastmilk.
  • Good skin colour and muscle tone.
  • Your baby is alert and reasonably contented and does not constantly want to feed. Your baby will probably wake for night feeds. A few babies sleep through the night at an early age, while most will wake one or more times during the night for quite some time.
  • Some weight gain and growth in length and head circumference.

For more information on assessing your breastmilk supply, visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s “Not Enough Milk” page where you will find information on other possible causes of low supply including positioning, stress, introduction of other foods, hormonal changes, genetic patterns, colic and feeding, as well as practical tips on increasing your supply.

Further Information:

  • Helpful link to an article from the ABA about Low Supply

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Facts in this article sourced from the Australian Breastfeeding Association

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