A common early breastfeeding question is, My Milk Isn’t In…What Do I Do? Below Jessica Haupt, RN, IBCLC provides answers to nursing with low production, or what seems like low-production but is actually quite normal! Tips on increasing your milk production and a successful breastfeeding relationship are below.
One of the challenges brand new mothers and partners may encounter just home from the hospital is a lack of milk production. While this can be normal, it can also lead to a baby in need of food, and a baby with no nourishment is not okay.
My Milk Isn’t In…What Do I Do?
- Remember that days 3-5 are the hardest. I get the most calls during these days. Babies get hungrier and milk can often be delayed until day 5. There are many reasons for delayed milk, but the most common seem to be c-section, complicated delivery or obesity.
- Have someone take care of YOU, so YOU can take care of feeding the baby. Stress, hunger and sleep deprivation delay lactation even more. Friends and family can be overwhelming, but it’s important to have someone whose job is to look after you. They need to be sure you’re eating, drinking and resting. (Not adding more work!)
- No time at the breast is wasted time. By the same token, no drop of colostrum or milk is wasted. The benefits of breast milk can be transferred to baby drop by drop, even if the baby is primarily getting nutrition from formula. Every bit of milk you can give your child, even if it seems like a small amount, is a benefit to the baby’s health. And remember, baby’s belly is only the size of a walnut to an apricot on days 3-7.
- Don’t wait until baby is screaming angry to put the baby to the breast. Learn the early signs of hunger and put the baby skin to skin with mom before latching. Non-feeding caregivers should also learn the signs of hunger. That fresh set of eyes if you’re too tired can make a huge difference.
- Skin to skin works! Family members can help with this too.
- Check your latch! If your nipples are sore, reach out to lactation consultants, La Leche, or your birthing center or hospital for resources and to get a latch check.
- Utilize the benefits of hand expression! In the early days, you may find hand expression more productive than pumping. Good hand expression can be used during nursing as well and can help stimulate let down. Stanford has a great video on this.
What if I do All That and Breastfeeding is Still Not Working?
If all else fails and you’re just not producing, consider alternative methods of supplementation other than a bottle while waiting out until days 5-7, when lactation usually onsets. Spoon or cup feeding formula can be used. A needle-less syringe can be used for finger feeding. Supplemental systems like those by Medela with a nipple shield can keep the baby nursing while also promoting breastfeeding.
And finally – I end with a quote from a wonderful midwife that I know: “Formula is not the devil’s spit”. While breast is best, a baby who is screaming from hunger is a baby that needs to be fed. Listen to your pediatrician – if the baby is not making enough wet diapers, losing or not gaining weight, supplementation is necessary and does not mean that breastfeeding is over forever.
My Milk Isn’t In…What Do I Do? – How Can I Get More Breastfeeding Help?
Jessica Haupt is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and works at a family practice in Burke, Virginia. We also love La Leche League for support and evidence-based information and to answer the question, My Milk Isn’t In…What Do I Do?
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