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Not enough breastmilk: getting help
If you'd like some help with breastfeeding, support services are available. Your midwife, child and family health nurse or GP or the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) can support you with breastfeeding your baby. They can also help you find a lactation consultant if you need one.
An ABA counsellor can also help - phone the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.This article covers how to increase milk supply. If you're having other issues with breastfeeding, you could check out our articles on how to manage oversupply and engorgement, breastfeeding attachment techniques, sore nipples and nipple infections and mastitis and blocked ducts.
Not enough milk supply
Many mums worry they aren't making enough milk for their babies. You might feel especially anxious in the early days if your baby cries after feeds.
But newborns cry for all sorts of reasons. When your baby cries, she could be saying, 'I'm still hungry'. But she could just as easily be saying 'I'm tired' or 'I'm not hungry now, but I've got a tummy ache'.
The best way to know whether your baby is getting enough milk is to look at his nappies and body language after feeds. Your baby is getting enough milk if he:
- has at least 6-8 wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposables in 24 hours
- poos every day if he's younger than 6-8 weeks old (an older baby is likely to do fewer poos)
- has soft poos if he's older
- is alert and mostly happy after and between feeds.
If your baby is losing weight, you might be advised to give extra milk (except in the first week of life, where it's normal for babies to lose a little bit of weight). You can do this by giving extra breastfeeds or by giving your baby expressed breastmilk.
How to increase milk supply
Breastfeeding is the best way to make sure you have enough milk, so you could try fitting in a few extra breastfeeds each day. Each time your baby takes some milk from your breasts, your breasts are getting the message to make more milk.
For example, if you're breastfeeding every 3-4 hours (from the start of one feed to the start of the next), you could try offering baby a few extra snack breastfeeds in between. So you would breastfeed eight times in 24 hours.
If your baby doesn't settle after a feed, take a break and give a 'top-up' breastfeed again in about 20-30 minutes. There will be more milk there, and feeding again will help increase milk supply. You can repeat these 'top-ups' several times.
You could also offer an extra night-time feed, or you could feed more often during the evening. Your prolactin levels are higher at night, which makes your milk supply naturally higher.
If your baby is asleep for a long time or is generally very sleepy and won't take frequent feeds, you can try waking her to feed. A baby in the lighter phase of sleep might feed in her sleep, so you can also try a feed when you see her dreaming. If she's dreaming, she might be moving around or her eyelids might flicker.
Another option is to express after each breastfeed or while your baby is sleeping. This makes sure your breasts are well drained and helps to increase your milk supply. You can store it in the freezer for using later on.Massaging or applying pressure to your breasts while breastfeeding or expressing helps with milk flow and drainage.
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can help to increase your milk supply because it stimulates prolactin and oxytocin, both of which help your body to make and release breastmilk.
You can have skin-to-skin contact while breastfeeding by taking your top and bra off and just having your baby in a nappy on your chest. If it's cold, wrap a blanket around you both to keep warm.
Relaxed and comfortable environment
The more relaxed you are while breastfeeding, the better your milk will flow. Make sure your chair or bed is comfortable and try to remove any distractions. For example, turn off your phone or put a 'do not disturb' sign on your door. Have a glass of water on hand for yourself too.
It's important to make sure you look after yourself and get enough rest. Go to bed and try to get someone to look after you and your baby.
Sometimes GPs might prescribe medicines to increase prolactin levels and help with increasing milk supply. Speak to your GP for advice.