One of the most common reasons a mother weans her baby before she might want to is that she is worried that she doesn't have enough milk. Nearly all mothers are capable of producing enough breastmilk for their babies. Just as you have already nurtured your baby in your womb for nine months, so your body is designed to continue providing nourishment once your baby is born. Everything your baby needs to grow strong and healthy is in your milk. It is the normal food for your baby and you and your baby will work together to establish your milk supply and maintain it as your baby grows. Of course, there might be other reasons why baby is fussy or crying and you might want to check with your medical adviser if you have any concerns. The secret to boosting your milk supply is to fit in more feeds than is usual for your baby. More frequent and efficient milk removal by a well attached baby means more milk will be made. More frequent feeding means more milk.
To build your supply, the following suggestions may help:
- Provided that your baby is correctly positioned you will find that the quickest and most successful way to boost your supply is to breastfeed more frequently. You may want to offer a breastfeed every two or three hours during the day, for a few days, or at least increase the number of feeds by offering the breast in between your baby's usual breastfeeds.
- Here is an easy way of doing this. If your baby does not settle after a feed, wait 20 or 30 minutes and then offer another quick little topping up breastfeed. Those few minutes of extra nursing and cuddling may be all that is needed to soothe and satisfy.
- Whenever practicable, let your baby finish the first breast before switching to the second breast. Let your baby decide the length of the breastfeed. Some babies may take up to 20 minutes or longer to drain a breast and obtain all the kilojoule-rich milk.
- Alternatively you may find it helps to change sides several times during a feed whenever your baby's sucking seems to become less vigorous. Some people find that this encourages the baby to suck more strongly and stimulates a good let-down reflex.
- If your baby is awake you can offer little snack feeds without waiting for baby to cry for them.
- You can try offering the breast as a comforter for a few days instead of dummy or thumb.
- You can also try massaging your breast by stroking it towards the nipple on all sides as baby feeds. Take care not to disturb the nipple in your baby's mouth.
- You will find that throughout lactation baby will have days when more breastfeeds are needed. This is Nature's way of producing more milk for your baby's growing needs.
- Most mothers find that they need to feed at least 6 times in 24 hours just to maintain their supply. Many new babies need 8 - 12 or more feeds in 24 hours. However the frequency of feeds generally declines as baby gets older.
- To increase your supply, you will need to fit in more feeds than is usual for YOUR BABY. Feeds do not need to be very long, just more often. Though in each 24 hours some feeds will be only 5 to 10 minutes long, others may be 30 minutes or longer, particularly when baby feeds to sleep slowly and contentedly.
- Help your milk to let-down quickly. Relax and enjoy feed times. Try to remove distractions (take the phone off the hook, put a do not disturb sign on your door), then settle with baby into a comfortable chair and breathe deeply, relaxing each part of your body separately as you may have learned to do at ante-natal classes. Have a drink on hand, a book or a magazine, listen to the radio or watch TV.
- Babies vary greatly in the amount of sucking they seem to need. There is no need to worry if your baby is contented with a fairly short feed. Some babies, however love to continue sucking long after the flow of milk has dwindled to a trickle. This is fine too. Your baby will let you know how long feeds need to be.
- A baby who is well positioned is more able to empty the breast. Hold your baby close to your chest, body facing yours, and lower arm around your waist. (baby's mouth should be directly opposite your nipple.) This makes it easier for your baby to take the breast. When offering the breast, just touch your baby's lips with your nipple and wait for the mouth to open wide. Centre baby's mouth over your nipple, guiding it over the tongue and pull the baby close against you so that a good mouthful of your nipple and areola (the darker area around the nipple) is in your baby's mouth.
Some women find they seem to have too much milk and their babies have trouble coping with it. For most mothers, the swollen overfull breasts of engorgement are only temporary and can be resolved with appropriate help. It can take about six weeks for the breasts to adjust to producing the right amount of milk for this baby at each feed. Occasionally a mother may have continuing problems. There are several different ways you can have too much milk, so it's important to get a clear idea of what's really happening in your case.
In the first week or two, when you are both learning to breastfeed, your breasts may be hard and painful, and you may have a mild fever. This is engorgement, which can be eased by some practical management such as feeding baby more often, making sure you don't miss any feeds, giving night feeds or expressing in the night, cutting out any water, glucose water, or formula feeds, and letting your baby finish the first breast first. This means letting your baby have a good long thorough feed from the first breast before you offer the second one. Your baby should be having 8 - 12 feeds in 24 hours.