Breast milk supply: too little or too much milk
Having too much or too little breast milk is a frequent concern for new mums. In the first few weeks, it is common for mums to produce more milk than their baby needs. On the other hand, if your breasts do not feel ‘full’, this is not usually a sign of low breast milk supply.
Is my baby getting enough milk?
Breastfeeding experts compiled the following list of signs that your baby is getting enough milk:
- Your baby has one or two wet nappies during the first few days, while receiving colostrum.
- Your baby has six to eight wet cloth nappies (five to six wet disposable nappies) per day (24 hours) after the third or fourth day when the milk ‘comes in’.
- Your baby has at least two to five bowel movements every 24 hours for the first few months, although some babies will switch to less frequent but larger bowel movements at about six weeks.
- Your baby nurses frequently, averaging at least 6 to 10 feeds per 24-hour period.
- Your baby's swallowing sounds are audible while breastfeeding.
- Your baby gains at least 120 to 210 grams in weight per week after the fourth day of life.
- Your baby is alert and active, appears healthy, has good colour and firm skin and is growing in length and head circumference.
Do I have too little breast milk?
If you really feel that you are producing too little milk, ask your lactation consultant or healthcare professional for help.
The following tips may help you to increase your milk production:
- Milk production follows the system of supply and demand: the more milk that is drained from the breast, the more milk – up to the mother’s individual maximum capacity – will be produced.
- You should increase the frequency of feeds. Try to breastfeed every two hours during the day and every three hours during the night.
- Only a well-positioned and correctly latched-on baby can stimulate and drain the breast adequately. So check your baby’s position and latch-on or have your lactation consultant check it for you.
- Breastfeed at least 15 minutes per breast and offer both breasts at each feed. As soon as you realise that your baby’s sucking and swallowing is slowing down, remove the baby carefully from the breast and switch to the other side.
- Get enough rest. A few days of rest with the baby where you have nothing to do but relax and breastfeed can be very useful.
- Avoid all kinds of artificial teats. Your baby should only suck at the breast.
- If you need to supplement, use Calma. Do not use a standard teat, because it will require the baby to learn a new feeding behaviour.
- Additional pumping might be required. Ask your lactation consultant about pumping or hand expressing.
What about too much breast milk?
Mums who produce too much milk may suffer from full and engorged breasts and plugged ducts.
The following tips may help you to reduce your milk production:
- Offer only one breast at each feed. Allow your baby to breastfeed on this one side for as long as they want. To avoid engorgement in the other breast, express just enough breast milk to stay comfortable. But express only if it is necessary and only express the amount you need to feel relieved. Do not empty the breast completely.
- Apply cold compresses to the breast after feeding your baby.
- Drink sage tea. Sage contains a natural form of oestrogens that can decrease your milk supply. Start with half a cup to learn how your body reacts.
- Peppermint tea has a similar effect but does not act as strongly as sage tea.
It can take about 9 to 12 weeks for your breasts to adjust to making the right amount of milk. Your lactation consultant or healthcare professional will always be there to answer your questions on milk supply.