If your baby is losing weight or isn’t gaining enough weight, you may have a low milk supply. If baby is nursing on each breast until it is soft eight to 12 times a day and still isn’t gaining enough weight, the milk supply may not be adequate. Another red flag is if baby isn’t producing as many wet or dirty diapers as expected.
A small amount of weight loss is normal during the first few days after baby is born and before your milk production starts. To help you assess your baby’s milk supply, see "How To Tell if Baby Is Getting Enough Milk."
Often, correcting the baby’s latch is all that is needed to improve milk production. For more information on latching baby deeply and correctly, see "Sore Nipples."
If baby is not latching well and regularly within three days after delivery, you should pump your breasts. In addition, your goal is at least eight feedings, 10 to 15 minutes each, both breasts in 24 hours. Use the breastpump after your breastfeeds to insure this. Continue to breastfeed at least every two to three hours during the day, and at least every three to four hours at night. If baby does not latch or breastfeed well for at least 10-15 minutes, then both breasts should be pumped another 10 to 15 minutes.
Baby is the best pump when all is going well. The next most efficient pump is an electric hospital-grade pump. For more information, see "Pumping."
If your milk is not in by the fourth day and baby continues to have meconium stools, then you need additional assistance. You may need to start supplementing with formula, and pumping your breasts. If a supplement is needed, your pediatrician can advise which formula to use.
Other factors that may contribute to low milk supply include:
- Limiting baby in going to the breast, instead of allowing access on demand;
- Baby using pacifier or sucking on fingers or thumb;
- Baby cuts nursing short because he or she is easily distracted;
- Baby is sick and has little or no appetite;
- Milk feedings are supplemented with formula, water or juice;
- You eat a strictly vegan diet;
- You are stressed or fatigued;
- You have a hormonal imbalance;
- You are taking certain medications.
Remember, your goal is to stimulate your breasts by breastfeeding and/or pumping at least eight times in 24 hours. If you are doing this and your milk supply continues to seem low, you may want to contact a lactation consultant or, talk with your Obstetrician about herbs, or medications to increase your supply. Also see our information on "Herbs."
If you want more help than your pediatrician can provide and a paid consultation is not an option, you may also contact the Nursing Mothers Council or La Leche League. Moms who receive federal assistance may also qualify for breastfeeding help from Women, Infants and Children.