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.
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.
If you are combination feeding, you can increase the amount of milk you produce by giving your baby less formula. This will increase the demand for your breast milk.
If your baby uses a pacifier (soother), this can reduce the amount of milk your body produces.
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 very hungry not long after being fed. This is due to the breast milk being very digestible so they feed more often.
Your baby suddenly increases length of feeds
Babies who are very sleepy 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, often at the same time each day. Fussiness can be caused by things other than hunger.
You may have leaking breasts if you are producing too much breast milk.
Your breasts feel softer
This happens as your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs. The initial breast fullness gets better 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.
You don’t 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 the slow deep sucks with more frequent swallowing.
You can't express much milk
The amount of expressed milk doesn’t reflect your true milk supply. When well attached and positioned, your baby may empty your breast better than a 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 doesn’t mean they did not get enough from the breast.
Cracked or sore nipples
If you have cracked or sore nipples, your baby’s positioning and attachment to the breast may need to be changed.
Talk to your public health nurse or a lactation consultant if you are concerned about your milk supply.
Getting out 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.