Breastfeeding After Birth – Am I Producing Enough Milk?
During the breastfeeding stage of motherhood, many concerns mothers have can be due to common misconceptions. Many mothers worry they aren’t producing enough milk or they possibly have “low milk supply”. This can be a discouraging process for mothers who feel like they are not feeding their baby enough or are having several issues when trying to breastfeed, such as: pain, issues with latching, finding time to pump, etc. Utica Park Clinic OB/GYN Dr. Amanda Miles addresses these issues and how she works through them with her patients. Above all, it is always important to remember, every pregnancy is different, so view each as a new experience without breastfeeding expectations.
When mothers worry they are not producing enough milk when they begin breastfeeding, most of the time, there is no need for concern. A baby’s stomach is about the size of a marble when they are born, so even a few drops of colostrum goes a long way. “Colostrum is the thick, golden-colored milk that your body makes towards the end of pregnancy and prior to milk production,” explains Dr. Amanda Miles. “It is full of nutrients and protective antibodies for your baby. This ‘liquid gold’ is filling and enough to feed the baby in the first few days. You should nurse your baby 8-12 times (and more is better!) every 24 hours. After 3-4 days your body will begin making ‘mature milk’, which mothers refer to as their ‘milk coming in’.” This means that their milk becomes white and increases in amount. To help increase the amount of mature milk, she advises patients to, “Empty the breast frequently! When the breast is empty, this signals the brain that more milk needs to be made. When the breast doesn’t empty milk often, it signals the body to slow down production.”
The number one cause for “low milk supply” Dr. Miles encounters in patients usually has to do with misperception. “New moms worry that they aren’t making enough milk because they can’t measure how much milk their baby is getting. However, as long as the baby is making enough wet/dirty diapers and is gaining weight normally, breastfeeding is working!” she exclaims. “As a new Mom, you are exhausted and worried about caring for this precious new life, so often there is a lack of confidence in your body. After new moms realize their baby is gaining weight and getting plenty of milk, I see a surge in their breastfeeding confidence.” If mothers are concerned about the amount of weight their baby is gaining, they can evaluate proper latching techniques and discuss supply at their baby’s first doctor’s visit. “Together, we can identify ways to improve a baby’s latch, measure milk transfer by weighing the baby before and after a nursing session, and discuss ways to optimize milk supply.”
Nursing can also be uncomfortable for mothers at first. Soothing gel pads and nipple cream help soothe the uncomfortable symptoms, which usually will go away after a few days. Some new moms will experience engorgement in the first few weeks of nursing, which can be painful and aching. “This pain usually is improved with Tylenol or ibuprofen and emptying the breast,” advises Dr. Miles. “If the breast becomes red and you develop a fever of 100.4, you should make an appointment to be evaluated for mastitis, which would require a short course of antibiotics.” Mothers should be cautious of certain medications that can lower their supply of milk. The most common medications that can affect your milk supply include allergy medications (Benadryl, pseudoephedrine, etc.) and estrogen-containing contraceptives (birth control pills). If mothers have questions about a medication’s effect on their breast milk, they should call their healthcare provider for further information.
Along with following the appropriate guidelines to successful breastfeeding, Dr. Miles also encourages family members to get involved with the process. “New dads and family members often want to help, but are unsure how to help a nursing mom,” she says. “Active ways for other family members to be involved include: changing a baby’s diaper when he/she wakes, helping Mom be more comfortable when nursing such as: bringing extra pillows, refilling her water bottle and helping her store pumped milk. Breastfeeding may be centered on Mom and Baby, but it requires a village!” Breastfeeding also doesn’t have to end when mothers return to work. There are laws that require most employers allow mothers time to pump milk while they are way from their baby. “Together, we can identify potential barriers and reach your breastfeeding goals, whether it is two months, two years or beyond.”
Utica Park Clinic OB/GYN Dr. Amanda Miles will begin practicing at the Utica Park Clinic on the Hillcrest Cushing campus located at 1030 E. Cherry Street starting on August 10th. Appointment scheduling is currently available; to schedule or for questions please call 918-225-3006.