New mothers often worry about whether they are producing enough breast milk or not. There is no way to measure this, so it can be difficult to know if your milk supply is low. If your baby is healthy and growing well, you are usually fine. But if not, you should be concerned. Sometimes, insufficient breast stimulation or hormonal imbalances can lead to a low breast milk supply. Don’t worry, because there are ways to increase the amount of breast milk.
The production of breast milk or breastfeeding is a biological process that begins during pregnancy, with the development of mammary glands and ducts, explains Dr Varija Pai, Consultant Lactation Specialist, Maternity Hospitals, Banshankari, Bengaluru. After childbirth, hormonal changes, mainly caused by prolactin and oxytocin, trigger the start of milk production.
Ways to increase breast milk
There are effective ways to stimulate breast milk production naturally.
1. Frequent and effective breastfeeding
The most effective way to increase milk production is to breastfeed your baby regularly and effectively, says Dr. Pai. Breastfeeding stimulates milk production, so try to feed your baby on demand. This is usually every 2 to 3 hours or more often if your baby shows hunger signals.
2. Correct locking and placement
Make sure your baby is latched and positioned properly while breastfeeding. Deep latching allows your baby to remove milk efficiently, which in turn signals your body to produce more milk. Click here to know the signs of a good latch.
3. Chest compression
Gently compress your breast to stimulate milk flow during feeding. This can help your baby get more milk during a feeding and stimulate your breasts to produce more milk.
In addition to breastfeeding, you can use a breast pump to express milk after or between feedings. Pumping can help get more milk from your breasts and increase milk production. Double electric pumps are often the most efficient for this, says the expert.
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5. Stay hydrated and eat well
Good hydration and nutrition are essential for breast milk production. Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet of protein-rich foods, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Some foods, such as oats and fenugreek, can support breastfeeding and can be included in your diet.
6. Relaxation and stress management
Stress can negatively affect milk production, so use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and gentle exercises to reduce stress levels. Sufficient rest and sleep are also important for milk production.
But remember that increasing milk supply is gradual and results may vary from person to person. All you need is to be patient with yourself and your body.
How much breast milk does a woman produce?
There is no set “normal” amount of breast milk that every mother should produce. In fact, breast milk production can vary based on genetics, baby age and dietary patterns, the expert tells Health Shots. However, there are some signs and guidelines that can help you assess your milk production:
1. The growth of the baby
Milk production is likely adequate if your baby is steadily gaining weight, produces enough wet diapers (at least 6 to 8 per day), and seems satisfied after feedings.
2. Satiety after feedings
If your baby seems content and satisfied after breastfeeding and appears to be getting enough milk, this is a positive sign. The little one should have a relaxed position and willingly let go of the breast.
3. Frequency of feedings
In the first weeks, babies feed regularly, often 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Frequent feedings help stimulate milk production and meet the baby’s growth needs.
4. Breastfeeding comfort
Although breastfeeding may be uncomfortable initially, persistent pain or discomfort may indicate latch or positioning problems that could affect milk transfer.
5. Lack of weight gain or loss
If your baby is not gaining weight properly or is showing signs of weight loss, you should seek advice from a doctor. Such conditions may indicate concerns about milk supply or other breastfeeding factors.
What are the causes of a low breast milk supply?
Most women can produce enough breast milk, but some may experience problems. Here are common causes of problems producing breast milk:
1. Hormonal imbalances
Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism) or insufficient release of the hormone prolactin can disrupt the hormonal balance necessary for milk production.
2. Insufficient breast stimulation
Adequate breast stimulation is essential for milk production. If a baby has trouble latching properly while breastfeeding or if a mother does not pump or breastfeed often enough, this can reduce milk production.
3. Stress and anxiety
High levels of stress, anxiety or emotional factors can disrupt breastfeeding, expert says. Stress hormones such as cortisol can inhibit the release of oxytocin, a hormone necessary for milk production.
4. Medical conditions
Medical conditions or medications can also affect the amount of milk you can produce. For example, some medications, such as decongestants or hormonal contraceptives, can decrease milk production. Medical conditions such as diabetes or previous breast injuries can also affect breastfeeding.
5. Breast anatomy
Variations in breast anatomy can contribute to problems with milk production. Conditions such as insufficient glandular tissue (hypoplasia) or breast surgery to remove milk ducts and glands can limit the ability to produce milk.