Not sure if you’re producing enough breastmilk for your baby? Breastfeeding expert Sioned Hilton reveals how you can tell and how often you should feed…
Many mothers worry about whether they’re producing enough breastmilk, especially when comparing themselves to others, but it’s important to remember that there is no normal when it comes to breastfeeding. Every mother and baby is different.
What’s ‘normal’ breastfeeding?
A study conducted by Dr Jaqueline Kent, a lactation expert at the University of Western Australia, demonstrated how broad the range is for what constitutes “normal” breastfeeding.
Some babies featured in her research drank just 54ml in a feed – a measly amount compared to the 234ml drunk by others – while sessions amounted to anything from four to 13 times daily, day or night.
There really is no “norm” and if baby is happy, healthy and putting on weight then you know you’re producing enough milk.
If mum does feel concerned about supply however, she can look out for several signs. For instance, is baby alert, gaining weight, growing out of clothes and producing wet and dirty nappies? Does baby have good skin tone? If all of the answers are yes, it’s likely there’s nothing to worry about, but if not, it may be advisable to ask a GP or midwife to check things out.
Breastfeeding in the first few weeks
Remember that your early feeding habits will influence feeding performance in the long term. The first few weeks are key to priming your milk cells and building a good supply. Mums should see their midwives or health professionals to check latch and seek advice, if necessary, about painful nipples or mastitis (inflammation).
It’s also important be informed about upcoming growth spurts so that cluster feeding doesn’t come as a shock. During spurts (typically around three weeks and three months), babies tend to feed more frequently, not because they are hungry or unsatisfied but because they crave comfort and closeness.
It’s also a good reminder that softer breasts (around six weeks) are nothing to worry about – in fact they signify a healthy feed balance and harmony between baby and mum.
Lastly, be realistic. The first few days and weeks will be tough, tiring and hard work, but with the right advice you can establish and stabilise your feeding routine. Have confidence in the human body’s natural ability to provide for your little one and you’ll both reap the rewards in no time.
Things to remember when you start breastfeeding…
- Start as you mean to go on
- Feed in the first hour after birth if possible, allowing skin-to-skin contact
- A comfortable latch and lots of dirty nappies show that baby is getting enough
- If latching is proving difficult, try other positions
- If baby isn’t feeding well, seek GP advice
- Empty the first breast before offering the other
- Track the frequency of your feeds on paper or using an app like MyMedela
- Feeding frequently will boost milk supply
- Consider trying lactation biscuits and smoothies
- If you are both struggling, express breastmilk to initiate your supply and then build
- Use a hospital grade breast-pump to express from birth
- If you are mixed feeding on the advice of a health professional, have a feeding plan and avoid topping up after each feed
- More support can be found on the 24/7 National Breastfeeding Helpline on tel: 0300 100 0212.
Sioned Hilton is Medela’s in-house lactation consultant.