Are you concerned you’re not producing enough milk for your baby? Worrying about your milk supply can be hard, stressful and draining, both physically and emotionally.
Low supply is a breastfeeding challenge that mums typically encounter during the first few weeks with their little one. While studies show it affects around 10% to 15% of mothers, many lactation consultants report it's one of the biggest reasons they receive calls for help.
So, let’s go straight to the experts. We had the pleasure of chatting with Courtney Garland, CEO and Founder of Mama Linc (a supportive online platform connecting mamas with accessible expert breastfeeding advice).
With over 10 years’ experience as a Registered Nurse, Lactation Consultant and Sleep Consultant (and a mama herself) Courtney shares her insights about breastfeeding and how mamas can identify and navigate low supply.
What is low supply?
In a nutshell, your milk supply can be considered ‘low’ if there isn’t enough milk produced to meet your baby’s growth needs.
But, Courtney is quick to point out that many new mamas aren’t equipped with the knowledge they need to understand baby behaviour. In many cases, we doubt our own milk supply when what we’re experiencing is totally normal.
Some of these normal behaviours that can get confused with low supply include:
Unsettledness, frequent feeding and a fussy baby: these can be signs of a growth spurt or a time when your baby needs extra calories to support this leap.
Coming on and off the breast and frequent feeding: this can be a sign of overtiredness, so sleep (not milk) is the priority for bub.
- Not getting much volume when pumping and soft breasts: this can mean your supply is evening out (usually around 4 - 6 weeks).
“I feel like society has really let new mums down because we don’t teach breastfeeding prenatally. If we were teaching breastfeeding before birth it would give mums more confidence and comfortability with their breasts from the beginning,” explains Courtney.
What are the signs of low supply?
But, low supply can happen. So, what signs should you be keeping an eye out for?
Baby is lethargic and sleepy and only feeding after long sleeps (4 hours or more)
Feeding is either very long or very short, and the latch is painful
Baby hasn’t regained their birth weight or has lost more than 10%
Minimal wet and soiled nappies
- Baby is not gaining an average of 150g per week
On the flip side, here’s what signs indicate your baby is getting enough milk:
Your baby has five to six wet nappies a day
Your baby is happy and content between feeds
Your baby is gaining at least 150g per week
- Your baby is sleeping well
Five practical strategies to navigate low supply
Even if you are navigating low supply, there are simple steps you can take to address it, including:
Make sure your baby has a good, deep latch: Courtney recommends mamas try the cross cradle position to get your baby at the height of your nipple. Her go-to phrase for getting the latch right is this: bum in, chest to chest, chin to breast, top lip to nip.
Offer your breast as often as your baby asks or cues for it: remember, this could be every 1.5 to 2 hours.
Apply a warm heat pack or heated Lactamo to your breast before feeding or pumping: Courtney recommends mamas do heated breast massage on the upper chest area to help loosen things up and release any constricted vessels for a few minutes before, during and after feeding.
- Try hand expressing or pumping to get the hormones flowing: this process releases the hormones Prolactin and Oxytocin, which squeeze the muscles around the milk sacks to flow through to the milk ducts and also signals the creation of more milk.
- After offering the breast, use a pump for 10 to 15 minutes for extra stimulation.
When to seek further support
If you’re unsure if your baby is getting enough milk or you're concerned about your little one’s growth, Courtney recommends reaching out to your medical provider or a Lactation Consultant. They’ll be able to assess what’s going on and point you in the right direction of what to do next.
Need some extra support along your breastfeeding journey? We’ve got you, mama. Our Lactamo massage ball is here to help with breastfeeding.