Insufficient Funds: Solutions for insufficient breast milk supply

By Colleen McTiernan and Lizzie Vasquez

Breast-feeding is an important element of healthy development in newborns. Not only is it a great connection for mothers to make with their babies, but breast-feeding also provides newborns with essential nutrients that promote healthy growth.

It is no secret that breast-feeding can be difficult. If you find yourself questioning if your little one is gaining enough weight, you may have insufficient milk supply.

Signs of low milk supply

According to Teresa Glaser, a local international board certified lactation consultant, most mothers come to her with insufficient milk supply concerns between seven days to 12 weeks after birth. She said that if your notice any of the following signs during this period, then your baby may not be getting enough milk.

  1. Baby is not back to birth weight at 14 to 16 days old.
  2. Baby is fussy between feedings
  3. Baby is not gaining between ½ to 1 ounce per day after day 5.
  4. Baby wets fewer than five diapers and does not stool at least once a day.
  5. Baby feeds for only 5 minutes or less before pulling away and not latching back on.
  6. Baby’s feedings are less than two hours apart (you may see this behavior at 8 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months of age due to growth spurts).

Of course, the most important sign is your gut instinct. “Even if it’s your first baby, mothers have a very intrinsic ability to pick up signs or a feeling that things aren’t right, something has changed in the picture,” said Glaser.

If these signs apply to you, then consider the following test. Three hours after feeding your baby, Glaser recommended pumping both breasts for about 20 minutes and measuring the resulting milk. You should have approximately 3 to 4 ounces at two weeks, 4 to 6 ounces at four weeks and 6 to 8 ounces at six to eight weeks. If you are under the minimum amount, you should speak to your pediatrician or lactation consultant about supplementing your infant with formula to ensure that your little one is receiving enough nutrients to continue growing as he or she should.

Increasing supply

If you suspect you have insufficient milk for your baby’s needs, your first step should be reaching out for professional help. However, there are some steps you can take at home to work on increasing your supply.

Once you have determined that your supply is low, Glaser recommended making it a habit to pump both breasts for 15 minutes after each daytime feeding. This will help to increase your level of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates breast milk production. “The more your breast is emptied … hopefully the more prolactin flow you’ll get,” she said. You can also supplement this routine with an additional round of power pumping after your last feeding before bed. This technique involves pumping both breasts for 10 minutes, then relaxing for 10 minutes. Then you pump for another 10 minutes and rest for another round before pumping for a final 10 minutes. This 50-minute routine will help to hyper-stimulate your breasts. You should notice increased milk supply within the week.

If you do not notice a difference in your milk supply, then Glaser advised renting a hospital-grade breast pump along with a medical grade infant scale to help track your baby’s weight gain.

Foods to help get your milk flowing

If you are looking for another way to give your milk supply a boost, drink 6 to 8 ounces of water at each feeding to stay hydrated. You may also try incorporating a lactation tea into your daily hydration routine. Oats are another great way to increase your supply. Glaser recommended consuming your oats as a porridge or drinking oat milk instead of eating sugar-loaded oat cookies.

Giggle tip: Snuggle up! Glaser said that skin-to-skin contact helps to increase your breast milk supply.

*Always reach out to your health care provider to answer any questions you may have regarding your baby’s feedings, weight and breast milk supply