Dealing with a low milk supply with our first child was an emotional rollercoaster that dominated the first two and a half months of his life. After multiple lactation consultations; meeting with my doula, midwife and doctor; taking supplements; buying a pump; renting a hospital grade pump; having several “baby moons”; and reading all I could get my hands on—a substantial milk supply never arrived.
What else could make a new mother feel more inadequate as not being able to feed her newborn? With 4 weeks left in this pregnancy, I am devouring materials to help my milk supply get a head start. As I am doing research on breastfeeding, I can recall several key mistakes that I made in the first few days and I am determined not to make them again.
My manual for this endeavor is a book recommended by the La Leche League International, “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk” by Diana West, IBCLC, and Lisa Marasco, M.A., IBCLC. If you have experienced low milk supply issues or would like tips for breastfeeding your first baby, here are some strategies that will help.
Five techniques to optimize milk production:
1. Nurse in the first hour: The first hour after birth is known as the “golden hour” for nursing because babies are usually able to get more colostrum at this time. Be sure to maintain as much skin-to-skin contact during too.
2. Delay bathing. Babies may be more likely to want to latch if they are placed with the mother before given a bath.
3. Proximity and frequency. Your hospital has probably phased out the central nursery, but if not, opt to remain physically close to your baby. This activates his hunger and allows you to respond more quickly to his cues. It is advised that you nurse often, at least eight times in a 24 hour period, and for as long as the baby would like.
4. Express milk after breastfeeding. Expressing milk after a feeding during the first three weeks is a terrific chance to maximize your milk supply. West and Marasco recommend using a hospital-grade pump during the first month because the store-bought breast pump is ideal for mothers who have an established milk supply. They suggest pumping after each feeding to drain out each breast and create a higher demand for milk.
5. Don’t skip nighttime feedings. Of course you are totally exhausted, but allowing someone else to feed your baby at night diminishes your milk supply. As you probably know, your milk levels are is all about supply and demand—the more than is demanded, the more that will be supplied.
There are so many useful techniques to help mothers who want to breastfeed, but have trouble producing the desired amount. My final suggestion would be to do as much research as possible and talk to your doctor or midwife before your due date. Being prepared for any outcome will relieve some of the stress that you are under during the hormone-filled, precious days with your newborn.