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Maintaining or increasing your milk supply
How to tell you have enough milk
How to maintain your milk supply
How to increase your milk supply
How to tell you have enough milk:
(back to the top)
- You have enough milk if your baby is getting enough! Here is
how to tell if a baby is getting enough milk.
WARNING! These tests work only if your baby is exclusively
breastfed. If you give your baby supplements,including water, some of these tests won't tell you whether
your baby is getting enough food. As supplements cause your milk
supply to decrease, it's best to avoid them. As a bonus, you'll be
able to use the tests described here to make sure your baby is
- An exclusively breastfed baby is getting enough milk if:
- She or he has at least six very wet diapers a day. You
should use cloth diapers when you conduct this test, as it's
often hard to tell whether a disposable diaper with
super-absorbent filling is wet or not. If you insist on using a
disposable, put a piece of tissue inside it, and check if the
tissue is wet.
- A diaper with a yellowish wet spot the size of a quarter
does not count as a wet one.
- A wet diaper is one that's thoroughly wet. It should be
heavy. When you touch it, it should feel wet.
- Your baby's urine should be colorless or very pale
yellow. Bright yellow indicates concentrated urine, which
occurs if the baby is not getting enough to drink.
- She or he is energetic. If your baby is lethargic or too
tired to cry or feed properly, call your doctorimmediately.
- She or he is properly hydrated and plump.
- The front fontanel (soft spot) should be convex (curving
out) when your baby is crying, and only slightly concave
(curving in) at other times. If it dips seriously, your baby
might be dehydrated. Call your doctor.
- Your baby should have dimples at her or his knuckles and
elbows. This is enough to qualify your baby as officially
plump. You can forget about the baby weight charts and those
roly-poly fat babies you see in pictures.
- Your baby's skin should be nice and tight. When you grab
the skin on her or his tummy, you should get a nice thick
fold, which indicates that your baby has enough puppy fat.
If the skin is loose and looks dry, your baby is probably
undernourished. See your doctor.
- Your baby is gaining weight at a satisfactory rate. You can
go to the hospital between doctor's appointments and have the
nurses weigh your baby for you. Don't worry about the
percentile position of your baby on the weight chart. However,
if your baby's percentile weight drops drastically from one
weighing to the next, you might want to call your doctor just
to make sure.
- Your baby shows signs of eating well at the breast.
- She or he latches on
- You can hear her or him swallow. Even better, you can
look for a suck-pause-suck pattern. The pause
indicates that your baby's mouth is filled with milk and she
or he is swallowing the milk before resuming sucking.
- Your breasts feel full before feeding and soft after
- You feed your baby on demand,
and no less than eight times a day.
- Your baby doesn't go longer than four hours between
feeds. If your baby is gaining weight rapidly and you are
sure your milk supply is well established, you can let your
baby sleep longer at night. Until then, however, your baby
should nurse several times during the
night. The easiest way to assure this is to sleep
with your baby. If she or he does not wake up
spontaneously, you should wake her or him up once or twice
in the night, and more often during the day.
- Your baby nurses happily most of the time. It's expected
that a baby will have fussy periods at certain times of the day
(usually in the evening). But if your baby always fusses
at the breast and nursing never satisfies her or him, there
may be a problem. The problem may be that your baby isn't
getting enough milk. However, it might also be that you havetoo much milk and a hyperactive letdown reflex. Or your
baby may be reacting to something in the milk. If your baby
regularly fusses at the breast, call a lactation
consultant to assess the situation. She or he will tell you
to call your doctor if necessary.
How to maintain your milk supply.
If your baby is doing well on your milk, you'll be happy. However,
you'll need to make sure you maintain your good milk supply. Here is
how: (back to the top)
- Perform natural breastfeeding:
- Feed on demand: nurse your baby
every time she or he wants to, for as long as she or he wants
to. Hide away all the clocks if necessary. Banish the phrase
"she (or he) can't possibly be hungry." So what if you nursed
your baby five minutes ago? If she or he wants to, nurse her or
him ago. And don't worry. Nursing often and long will not cause
sore nipples. Those are caused by improper latch-on.
- In addition to feeding your baby whenever she or he wants
it, feed her or him whenever you want or need to.
- When your breasts begin to feel engorged.
- When your milk starts leaking.
- When you just feel like cuddling and nursing.
- Make sure your baby is nursing at least eight times a day. If
necessary, wake her or him up to nurse. If your baby is too sleepy
or tired to nurse, see the page on nursing
a sleepy baby.
- If necessary, pump to provide extra milk and stimulate your
breasts to produce more. This may be necessary if your baby is
sick and can't nurse well for a while, or if you have to be away
from your baby for a few hours.
- Make sure you are eating and drinking
enough. Let hunger and thirst be your guide. You don't need
anything beyond a regular well-balanced diet that includes a
variety of good food. You don't have to drink any specific amount
of fluids, though you will need to drink more than usual. Most
women drink about eight glasses of fluids a day, but if you make
sure you drink every time you feel thirsty, you don't need to
- Try to get as much rest as you possibly can. Forget about
cleaning the refrigerator, cooking a gourmet dinner, and so on. If
anyone offers help, jump on it. Forget about politeness and
deference. You need all the help you can get.
- Don't take birth-control pills. Although most women produce
enough milk on the mini-pill, it's possible that some experience
decreased milk production. Try other methods of birth
- Don't smoke. Smoking not only reduces your milk supply, but
also increasing the risk of SIDS, asthma, cancer, and other
diseases for your child.
- Don't drink more than one alcoholic drink a day. Alcohol not
only passes to your milk and can harm your baby, it is also
dehydrating and can adversely affect your milk supply. If you know someone who is drinking heavily during their pregnancy, consider conducting an alcohol intervention as soon as possible.
- For the same reason, it's best not to have more than two or
three cups of coffee a day (or equivalent amounts of tea,
How to increase your milk supply.
If you don't seem to have enough milk, don't give up breastfeeding.
You can increase your milk supply. Here is how: (back
to the top)
- First, see your doctor. If your doctor recommends supplementation
(with formula), call a lactation
consultant. Chances are you can increase your milk supply fast
enough that you don't need to use any formula. You can trust a
certified lactation consultant's judgment better than a
pediatrician's; medical professional do not receive much of a
training in lactation.
- If you have to supplement for a while, always breastfeed
first. Pump some milk after each breastfeed. Use this pumped milk
for supplementation. If you still need more, you can use formula.
Use just as much as your baby wants. Don't force her or him to
have any more. You'll only be delaying the next feeding and
slowing down the increase in your milk supply.
- Try to pump a few extra times too, just to stimulate your
breasts to make more milk.
- If you possibly can, take a couple of days off, and just
lounge around with your baby, nursing as much as you can.
- Try to follow the recommendations for maintaining
your milk supply.
- Depending on how low your milk supply was to begin with, how
long this situation has been going on, how well your baby is
doing, how often you are managing to nurse and pump, you will
usually establish a great milk supply in two to ten days.
- Continue to follow the recommendations for maintaining
your milk supply. Enjoy your nursing relationship and be proud
of the hard work you have put in. It's definitely worth it. Your
reward is a healthier and happier baby.
- If you give up and switch to bottle-feeding, don't feel bad.
Whatever breastmilk you have been able to give your baby has beenbeneficial. Bottle-feeding does not
preclude good parenting. The fact that you have tried to increase
your milk supply shows that you are a committed parent. See the
page on making the best of
The breastfeeding page.
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