Breastfeeding Q&A: Breast Milk Production

This month, one expectant mum enquires about the most common issue mothers seek help with when breastfeeding. Lactation Consultant, Sioned, discusses the perception of low breast milk production and just how vast the range of ‘normal’ is when it comes to breastfeeding. 

Mother and Baby Bond

Question:What is the most common issue that mothers seek help with when it comes to breastfeeding?

Answer: Perception of a low supply. Many breastfeeding mums are unsure about what to expect and tend to compare themselves to peers and the online web of mum forums.

At times when baby has lost more than 10% of birthweight within the first 2 weeks, the health professionals rightly intervene to ensure that feeding is going well, baby is latching on, feeding with active bursts of sucking and swallowing breast milk, not jaundiced, nappies are wet and soiled with mustard coloured stools. As well as asking about frequency and duration of feeds.

However, this early intervention can set the scene for a mum who will then always be apprehensive about her supply, does she have enough, her baby was big at birth, why is her baby feeding every 2 hours and her friend every 3-4 hours, and her baby only feeds for 10 minutes, takes only one breast and her friend feeds for 30 minutes or more. 

What we know is that the early few weeks are key to building a good supply – sometimes when labour is challenged mums are given additional IV fluids during delivery and this is passed over to baby in-utero. If baby is weighed soon after delivery and hasn’t ‘peed’ it can give a false birth weight. Hence the potential for that % to deviate. 

What is important is for mum and midwife to chat about feeding, are there any difficulties such as sore and cracked nipples? Mastitis? Sleepy baby? Is baby latching on and feeding? How frequent are feeds etc. This way the midwife and health visitor can make a feeding plan to support mum to breastfeed and also give her the confidence to help her build supply if there are difficulties, and help with latching. 

By reassuring mum that every baby is different, and giving realistic expectations to what is expected as the ‘norm’ in these early weeks, it may help mums to feel confident that they are capable of building and sustaining a supply for their breastfeeding journey. For example, a word of guidance around the 3 week / 3 month growth spurt expectations where babies tend to cluster feed and softer breasts around 6 weeks as a sign that you are now in tune with your baby’s needs.

The range of normal is huge and every baby and sibling is different: different feeding, sleep patterns, temperament and mum’s own confidence. For more information on ‘What is Normal’– Jaqueline Kent has published a great study to inform and reassure mums just how varied each breastfeeding journey can be.

Do you have a breastfeeding question? Comment below or pop over to the Medela UK Facebook Page to get your question answered!