Breastmilk is unarguably your baby’s most important food for the first six months of their life. It contains a valuable mix of nutrients and antibodies that no artificial food can match or mimic. The act of breastfeeding is an important part of bonding between you and your baby, from the moment of birth and beyond.
For some mums, breastfeeding comes easy. But others may encounter certain challenges, including concerns around if they are producing enough breast milk. In this article, we’re going to give you information on the following matters related to breastfeeding:
- What is a healthy breastmilk supply?
- Signs that your baby is getting enough breastmilk
- Signs that your baby might not be getting enough breastmilk
- Ways of ensuring a healthy breastmilk supply
What is a Healthy Breastmilk Supply?
The first breast milk you make is called colostrum.1 Colostrum is sticky and thick and can be clear, white, yellow or brown in color. It is produced in very small quantities but packs a powerful punch2 in micronutrients your newborn needs, and antibodies that will help boost their immunity.
Your baby usually takes in only about half to one teaspoon3 of colostrum at each feeding during the first several days of life. The colostrum changes to a more liquid substance within a few days after delivery. This first breastmilk will still contain some of the yellow colostrum for the first two weeks, but after that your breastmilk will look whiter in color.
How much milk should you produce?
First, keep in mind that the amount of milk you might express is not a good indication of how much breastmilk you actually produce. In fact, it’s difficult to calculate the exact amount of breastmilk a nursing mum produces, simply because of how milk is made. Human milk is produced on a “supply and demand” model: the more your baby is at your breast, nursing, the more milk you will produce. So, different babies will take in different amounts of milk.
However, according to research,4 an exclusively breastfed baby will drink an average of 750ml (25oz) each day, between the ages of one to six months. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kelly Bonyata5 says that a typical range of breastmilk intake is between 570-900ml (19-30oz) per day.
She also provides a formula that may give you an indication of how much milk your baby might drink in one feeding:
- Estimate the number of times that baby nurses per day (24 hours).
- Then divide 25 oz by the number of nursings.
- This gives you a “ballpark” figure for the amount of expressed milk your exclusively breastfed baby will need at one feeding
Even though it’s difficult to know exactly how much milk you produce, there are some signs that indicate that your exclusively breast-fed baby is getting enough milk, according to La Leche League International.6
- Frequent nursing by your baby, around eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period.
- Your baby seems happy and content after a feed, and latches off your breast on their own.
- Weight gain as expected, which is around, “155-240 grams or 5.5-8.5 ounces per week until four months of age.”
- You can see your baby swallowing your milk as they nurse, with your little one gulping down milk during “letdown” at the beginning of a nursing session. The let-down reflex7 is responsible for that tingling sensation in your breast that occurs just before a rush of milk is released.
- Baby’s stools look seedy, and are mustard-yellow in colour by around day five.
- Your little one has the right number of wet and dirty diapers per day.
- Your baby is active and alert, and is meeting their developmental milestones.
You could also refer to this guide on approximately how many wet and dirty diapers your baby should be producing:
- Day 1 = one wet and one black meconium stool. (more is fine).
- Day 2 = two wets and one or more black stools.
- Day 3 = three wets and one or more black or green stools.
- Day 4 = four wets (no longer dark) and one or more green stools.
- Day 5 = five wets and one or more green to yellow stools.
- Day 6 on = six to eight wets a day and one or more yellow stools a day.
Now that you know approximately how much breastmilk is produced on average, how do you know if your baby is not getting enough?
Signs your baby may not be getting enough breastmilk
If you notice the following signs, it could indicate that your little one might not be getting enough of your breastmilk. You should seek the opinion of a paediatrician or lactation consultant, if so.
- Your baby is at your breast for very long, or very little time. According to La Leche League International,8 a baby who isn’t feeding well may fall asleep shortly after latching on, or might suckle for over 40 minutes.
- You experience pain when your baby latches on. A poor latch could mean your little one isn’t getting milk efficiently. A lactation consultant can help you fix your baby’s latch, if so.
- Brick-dust colored urine (uric acid crystals9), no urine for six hours, or dark colored urine after day three of life.
- Fewer than four urinations a day after day five of life.
- Still passing black meconium stool after day five of life.
- Noticeably sunken fontanelles10 (soft spot on the top of the head) when your baby is held upright. This could indicate dehydration.
- Baby is still below their birth weight by two weeks of age.
Best Strategies for a Healthy Breastmilk Supply
Frequent breast stimulation
Both breasts should be "stimulated" at least eight to 12 times a day (in the beginning and when you are trying to increase your breastmilk supply). Whether from the baby sucking or from a pump or both, your breasts MUST have that frequent removal of milk to make more milk (remember – supply and demand). And the best “milk remover” in the world is your baby.
Enough rest, fluids, and a balanced diet
Stay well-hydrated through the day with at least eight glasses of water. Try to get adequate rest, too. Eat three balanced meals and two to three snacks of fruit and/or protein, every day.
Avoid artificial nipples
All sucking should be at the breast in the beginning, as this will help bring your breastmilk in quicker and prevent any nipple confusion.11 If your baby requires supplementation while you work on increasing your breastmilk supply, you have several options available for you. You might want to look into a supplemental nursing system12 that allows you to feed the baby at the breast while giving formula through a tube taped to your breast. If you would prefer to use a bottle, look up "paced bottle feeding."13 If you are first feeding the baby at the breast and then "topping off with a little formula", be sure to pump after each bottle given so that your body understands that it needs to make more breastmilk. Before you give your baby formula, please check with a paediatrician.
Avoid the following
Seek help from a lactation consultant:
There are multiple reasons for supply issues and a visit to a lactation consultant could help you find and correct any underlying causes. Some common issues18 are poor latch, tongue tie in your baby, PCOS, retained placenta, thyroid disorders, and insufficient glandular tissue in your breasts.
Try a breastmilk booster, or galactagogue
A galactagogue19 is a food or herb considered to improve breast milk production. Some popular breastmilk boosters are durian, oatmeal, fatty fish (like salmon), coconut milk, red date tea, and fenugreek.
Fenugreek, in fact, has been used for centuries as a galactagogue20 and is very popular among Singaporean mummies, too. However, in its raw form, it can be bitter and hard to ingest. This is why UpSpring brings you the benefits of fenugreek, along with a blend of blessed thistle and anise (also galactagogues), in their Milkflow capsules.
Milkflow Fenugreek + Blessed Thistle Capsules
The capsules contain a proprietary blend of three herbs known to help with milk supply: fenugreek, blessed thistle, and anise. Fenugreek, blessed thistle, and anise are all known galactagogues. The herbs are naturally sourced, are non-GMO and the capsules contain no added fillers.
Each capsule has 1,800 mg of concentrated fenugreek seed extract, that could help improve your milk production*. Because of this high concentration, you only need to take one to three Milkflow capsules a day, unlike some other brands where you may need to take up to six (or more) capsules daily.
To find out more about these Milkflow capsules and purchase them, click here.
Milkflow Blessed Thistle Capsules
Each serving contains 1,000mg of concentrated Blessed Thistle extract, and could help promote a healthy breast milk supply. lt also contains a proprietary botanical blend to help digestive health for both mum and baby.
Both the Milkflow (Fenugreek) and Blessed Thistle supplements could be taken whenever you want to boost your milk supply, whether this is to cope with the demands of your baby’s growth spurt/s, or in preparation for heading back to work.
For more information on both products, click here.
*Before you try a galactagogue, it’s important to speak to a lactation consultant who could give you some tips on how to improve production.
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