Reduced milk supply is a common worry for breastfeeding mothers.
The amount of milk you make depends on how often and how well your baby feeds at the breast.
You'll know your baby is getting enough milk if they:
- are gaining weight
- are settled between feeds
- have regular dirty nappies
How to increase milk supply
If your baby needs more milk than you are producing, you may need to breastfeed or express more often. This will increase your supply.
You can also improve supply by:
- massaging your breasts before a feed
- compressing your breast during a feed
- expressing additional milk after a feed
If you are combination feeding, you can aim to increase the amount of milk you produce by gradually offering your baby less formula. This can increase the demand for your breast milk.
If your baby uses a soother, this can reduce your milk supply. Soothers reduce feeding time at the breast, causing your body to produce less milk in response.
Common concerns about breast milk supply
Your baby is feeding very often
Many babies have a strong desire to be in close contact with their mother. You'll generally start to produce the right amount of milk if your baby is well positioned and actively drinking milk from your breast.
Your baby seems very hungry
Often, your baby will seem hungry again not long after being fed. This is due to the breast milk being very digestible so they feed more often. It may also be because your baby only fed for a shorter period of time or you did not offer both breasts at the feed.
When your baby wakes for a feed, latch them immediately and change their nappy when they are sleepy halfway through the feed. This will wake them up and perhaps result in a longer feed with more of a settled period after.
Your baby suddenly increases length of feeds
Your baby's feeding routine may change considerably during the first few weeks. Babies who are very sleepy in the first days often increase their appetite at about 3 to 4 weeks.
Babies can go through growth spurts at different times. They need to feed often to increase the supply for their new energy needs.
Your baby reduces breastfeeding times
This may mean your baby has gotten better at draining the breast as they are now more experienced at breastfeeding.
Your baby is fussy
It's normal newborn behaviour to have fussy periods each day. These are often at the same time of day.
Fussiness can be caused by things other than hunger.
- trapped wind
- not sleeping well between feeds
It is normal to have leaking breasts, especially in the early days of breastfeeding. Ongoing leaking breasts can be an indication you are producing too much breast milk. This will usually settle down when you are not doing additional breast stimulation or milk removal.
Your breasts feel softer
This happens as your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs. The initial breast fullness reduces in the first few weeks. At around 6 weeks, breast fullness is completely gone and your breasts may feel soft. This is completely normal and has no effect on your milk supply.
Breast fullness may return for a short while if:
- your baby's feeding routine changes
- you or your baby becomes unwell
- you're not removing enough milk
You do not feel the let-down reflex
Some mothers may not feel or be aware of the let-down reflex so it’s nothing to worry about.
The let-down reflex is when your baby’s sucking goes from the initial fast sucks at the start of a breastfeed to slow deep sucks with more frequent swallowing.
You cannot express much milk
The amount of milk you express does not reflect your true milk supply. When your baby is well attached and positioned, they can empty your breast better than a breast pump.
Your baby takes a bottle after a breastfeed
It's normal to think your baby hasn't gotten enough milk if they drink a bottle after a breastfeed.
Babies will often suck on a bottle because they like to suck. This does not mean they did not get enough from the breast.
Cracked or sore nipples
If you have cracked or sore nipples, you may need to change your baby’s positioning and attachment to the breast. Ask for advice from your midwife, public health nurse (PHN) or infant feeding specialist.
Talk to your midwife, PHN or infant feeding specialist if you are concerned about your milk supply.
Going to a breastfeeding support group is a great way to meet other mothers. They will be happy to share their experiences about increasing their milk supply.