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Increasing Early Production of Breastmilk

Increasing Early Production of Breastmilk

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.  So what’s a mother to do when she’s dedicated to a long, exclusive breastfeeding relationship but the twins or single baby are hungry and in distress right now?  Jessica Haupt, RN, IBCLC and Let Mommy Sleep educator gives tips and answers, in Increasing Early Production of Breastmilk.

Increasing Early Production of Breastmilk

  • Remember that days 3-5 are the hardest. I get the most calls during these days as 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.
  • Take care of mom, so mom can take care of feeding the baby. A stressed, hungry and tired mom can delay lactation even more. Friends and family can be overwhelming, its important to have someone there to look after mom, not give mom more work. Also be sure mom is eating and drinking! 
  • 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 ion 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. Mom’s partner and other caregivers should also learn the signs of hunger to bring baby to mom when mom is too tired to notice the early cues. That fresh set of eyes can make a huge difference.
  • Skin to skin works! When mom is tired, family members can help with this too. 
  • Check your latch! If your nipples are sore, reach out to lactation consultants, La Leche, or Inova Women’s hospital for resources and to get a latch check.
  • Utilize the benefits of hand expression! In the early days, many moms 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. It’s an oldie but a goodie. 

What if it’s just not working?

If all else fails and a mom is 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.

Any other advice?

Another way to increase production is to throw away the clock! The NoClock Breastfeeding Log for the early days home with your newborn is below. Just place a checkmark when baby is at the breast to ensure baby is getting enough instead of letting the clock tell you when to feed. More about NoClock feeding here.

Jessica Haupt is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from George Mason University. She is an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and works at a family practice in Burke, Virginia.