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Article: Breastfeeding and Milk Supply: What Every New Mom Should Know

Breastfeeding and Milk Supply: What Every New Mom Should Know -

Breastfeeding and Milk Supply: What Every New Mom Should Know

Having a good milk supply is not just good luck.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to achieve your breastfeeding goals confidently.

Here are 6 research-based tips every new mom should know to establish and maintain a great milk supply.

Should You Always Feed Your Baby On-Demand?

The absolute best thing you can do to promote a great milk supply from the start is to feed your baby frequently and on-demand.

It’s normal for newborn babies to eat 8-12 times in a 24-hour day.

That’s about every 2-3 hours through the day and even at night! Feeding on-demand means watching for your baby's hunger cues rather than scheduling feedings.

Your baby will let you know when she is hungry by rooting, putting her hands or feet in her mouth, sucking on her arms, smacking her lips, looking around for the breast or trying to position herself near the breast.

Tracking your feedings can be a good way to make sure your baby is eating frequently enough, but keep in mind that on-demand feeding sessions will rarely be equally spaced apart, and 2 days will almost never look exactly the same.

Some days your baby may “cluster feed” or eat at very frequent intervals, and this is completely normal and expected infant behavior.

The best time to feed your baby is when (s)he is awake, alert and happy. If your baby is agitated or crying, you may need to calm your baby before feeding.

Skin-to-Skin Benefits 

Skin-to-skin practice is placing your naked baby on your bare chest.

There are many health benefits of skin-to-skin, including promoting better milk flow and improves bond between mother and child.

Most birthing facilities will encourage skin-to-skin for the first 1-2 hours of your baby’s life, also known as the Golden Hour, but it continues to be beneficial even as your baby grows older as well.

If your baby is struggling to latch due to nipple confusion, practicing skin-to-skin promotes bonding and encourages your baby's natural instinct to suckle at the breast.

Snuggle your baby and seek help quickly from an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) so you can get back on track.

Did you know?

Practicing skin-to-skin is also a great way to calm a fussy baby before a feeding!

Check the Latch 

A good latch promotes a good milk supply.

Alternatively, ineffective removal of milk from the breasts due to a poor latch can lead to a decrease in milk supply.

That’s why it is critical to assess your baby’s latch from the beginning to be sure that (s)he is removing an efficient amount of milk and growing as expected.

If you’re experiencing pain while nursing, that is a red flag that something is not quite right.

In many cases, pain is caused by a poor latch and fixing the latch will bring instant relief.

Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk

The best way to ensure your baby is getting enough milk is to see your baby’s pediatrician at the frequent and recommended intervals to assess your baby’s growth and wet and dirty diaper output.

Your baby may lose a little bit of weight at first, but it’s expected that healthy, term babies should be back to birth weight by 2 weeks of age and will gain about 1 ounce per day.

Your baby’s provider can make sure your baby doesn’t lose too much weight in the first days of life and is growing as expected.

A good latch with audible swallows and pauses is another sign your baby is getting enough milk.

You should hear audible swallows after your mature milk comes in around 3-5 days postpartum.

Clear and Soften Breasts & Offer Both Sides

The effective removal of milk from the breasts signals the brain to prompt the release of hormones so more milk can be produced.

Try clearing one breast until soft before switching to the other side.

For the next feeding, start with the side that feels more full in the previous feeding, usually the second side offered.

If you started the last feeding on the left side, for the next feeding, you will start on the right side.

When your baby slows down feeding on one side, you can do gentle breast compressions to help clear that breast.

Always offer both sides for each feeding.

If your baby refuses the second side because she is full, that’s okay.

Offer both sides and let your baby decide when she’s had enough to eat.

If your baby refuses the second side, then start the next feeding on the side that wasn’t cleared in the previous feeding.

One easy way to remember what side you started on for the previous feeding is to keep an elastic hair tie/band on that wrist and switch it throughout the day.

There are also lots of apps or printable feeding logs to help you remember.

Protect Your Milk Supply Through Challenges and Get Help Quickly

You can protect your milk supply by pumping or hand expressing if your baby is not latching well or you’re away from your baby.

If you plan to breastfeed long-term, it’s best to avoid infant formula, when possible.

Offering formula more than necessary could lead to spacing out feedings and a decreased milk supply.

Have an open conversation with your healthcare provider when formula is suggested.

It’s possible that he or she may be okay with you offering expressed breastmilk or donor milk instead.

If formula is medically indicated, then you can offer small, age-appropriate amounts in the first days of life, rather than a full 2-ounce bottle.

Remember that you’ll want to hand express or pump anytime your baby is receiving a feeding away from the breast to protect your milk supply.

Remember that you’ll want to hand express or pump anytime your baby is receiving a feeding away from the breast to protect your milk supply.

What Supplements Should a Breastfeeding Mother Take?

Be wary about any company trying to sell you products or supplements to boost your milk supply.

In most cases, these products will have either no impact or a very minimal effect on milk supply.

It’s best to focus your time and energy on the research-based ways to increase milk supply that do work!

Additionally, always talk to your trusted healthcare provider before taking any herbs or supplements while breastfeeding to be sure they are safe for you and your baby.

Following these 6 research-based tips will help you to establish and maintain a great milk supply so that you can meet your breastfeeding goals with confidence.

You’ve got this, mama!


rebecca ellison profile


Rebecca is the author of this post and is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), certified lactation counselor (CLC), wife and a mama to three littles in Knoxville, Tennessee.

You can visit her website to view her breastfeeding course!

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