One of the most stressful problems you can have as a mother of an infant is low breast milk supply. The problem only gets worse as you worry about it, too, because stress decreases your production. Mothers of older babies may stress even more because the fear of losing supply often correlates with the body regulating itself to baby’s needs.
If you are worried about your supply dropping — especially if you are a working mother getting less and less every time you pump — you’ll want to take heed of the following 4 things:
1. Just because your breasts are softer doesn’t mean you aren’t producing enough for your baby. Supply does, in fact, adjust to your baby’s needs, so you won’t end up engorged the way you did when your baby was a newborn. Additionally, your baby needs more milk and is much more efficient when nursing, so you won’t have time to accumulate milk in your breasts the way you did previously.
2. Just because you aren’t getting a lot of milk when you pump doesn’t mean you aren’t producing enough for your baby. This is one of the most discouraging experiences of working mothers: all of the sudden, you are barely able to get any milk pumping when you used to have plenty. If you had no problem pumping above and beyond your exclusive breastfeeding sessions for the first six months or more, you more than likely had oversupply that is now regulating itself. Once your supply does even out, if you are struggling to meet daily demand for your baby when you are at work, you can try different supply boosting methods.
3. Just because your baby is willing to take milk after you nurse doesn’t mean you aren’t producing enough for your baby. If your baby is 3–4 months, fussiness during the evening and at night is normal and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your milk supply. If your baby is older, it may be fussiness or hunger, but the bottom line is that supplementing will decrease your milk supply because nursing is a supply and demand process.
4. Just because your baby seems to be nursing all the time doesn’t mean you aren’t producing enough for your baby. Breastfed babies will nurse more frequently because breastmilk is digested faster than formula. It also isn’t uncommon for breastfed babies to maintain smaller, more frequent feedings as they get older while their formula-feeding counterparts are being fed bigger and bigger bottles. In fact, it is recommended that mothers of breastfed babies use a slow-flow nipple for as long as they can to mimic breast flow.
If you are a mother of an older baby and believe you have low milk supply, you could be mistaken. You could also be right on the money if you are experiencing any of these known “supply busters:”
- Birth control pills: The hormones of birth control pills can affect supply. If you are experiencing a drop in supply after starting a low-dose birth control pill, you should ask your doctor for a prescription change to see if it helps.
- Decongestants: These medications are meant to dry you up when you have a cold and will do the same for your breastmilk if you aren’t careful.
- Return of your period: The same reason your supply drops with birth control pills is the same reason it drops with the return of your period – those pesky hormones.
- Stress: Stress will make producing breastmilk increasingly difficult.
- Sickness: Getting sick will more than likely affect your milk supply, so make sure you drink plenty of water and get enough rest.
Breastfeeding mothers often feel an attachment to nursing that they aren’t ready to let go of when their supply supposedly dips. If you suspect this is the case, do a self evaluation and try some of the boosting techniques. You may be much better shape than you thought!
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