Generally, the more your baby feeds, the more breast milk you'll produce. However, if you're worried that your baby is not getting enough milk, talk to your midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding specialist as soon as possible. With their help and advice, you'll be able to identify any issues and work out the best way to resolve it.
Things that can affect your breast milk supply
Feeding by the clock
Let your baby guide you as to how often to feed, especially in the early days, rather than sticking to set times.
This is known as "feeding on demand" and will ensure you maintain a good milk supply.
Topping up with first infant formula
Your baby will want to feed less if you are topping up with first infant formula milk (as their tummy is fuller for longer). The less often you feed, the less breast milk you produce.
If you are planning on topping up with formula, it's best to wait until breastfeeding is well established.
If possible, avoid using a dummy until you and your baby are happy with breastfeeding (usually after your baby is at least 1 month old).
If your baby gets used to having a dummy before breastfeeding is well established, it may interfere with learning how to properly latch on. This is because babies suck dummies in a different way to how they breastfeed.
Also, if your baby has a dummy in between feeds, this may reduce how frequently your baby wants to feed – if your baby is feeding less often, you'll produce less milk.
Being apart from your baby
If you have to spend time apart from your baby and you're unable to breastfeed, this will impact the amount of breast milk you produce.
Regularly expressing your breast milk will help maintain your milk supply.
Did you know?
Breast milk is produced on a supply and demand system, so if you're feeding hours apart, you may start producing less milk.
Is my baby getting enough milk?
This is a very common question, especially when you first start breastfeeding.
Feeds should begin with a few rapid sucks followed by long, rhythmic sucks and swallows with occasional pauses. Your baby's cheeks should stay rounded, not hollow, during sucking and you should be able to hear and see them swallowing.
Other signs your baby is feeding well:
- your baby should seem calm and relaxed during feeds
- when they've had enough, they will come off the breast by themselves
- they appear content and satisfied after most feeds
- after feeds, your breasts feel softer and your nipples should look the same (not flattened, pinched or white)
In the first 48 hours, your baby is likely to have only 2 or 3 wet nappies. Wet nappies should then become more frequent, with at least 6 every 24 hours from the fifth day onwards.
If your baby is feeding well, they should start gaining weight steadily after the first 2 weeks (it's normal for babies to lose some of their birth weight in the first 2 weeks).
In the beginning, your baby will produce a black tar-like poo called meconium. After about 5 or 6 days, they should pass at least 2 soft yellow poos.
Breastfed babies' poo is runny and does not smell.
Have a look at the NHS website for more information on signs your baby is feeding well.
How to tell if nappies are wet
It can be hard to tell if disposable nappies are wet.
To get an idea, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water to a nappy – this'll give you a better idea of what to look and feel for.
Increasing your breast milk
Here are a few things you can try to increase your breast milk supply:
- try not to give your baby anything other than breast milk – the more you breastfeed your baby, the more you'll produce
- if you want to give your baby a dummy, try to wait a few weeks or until you're both comfortable and confident with breastfeeding
- let your baby feed when they want to, for as long as they need to
- when you're feeding, offer both breasts – remember to switch breasts each feed
- holding your baby close, especially skin to skin, will help increase your milk supply
- avoid weaning (introducing solid food) until your baby is ready – this is usually around 6 months
If you're doing all these things already but still concerned you have low milk supply, ask your midwife to refer you to a breastfeeding specialist.
Feeding specialists are very understanding and can have a look at how your baby's feeding, and offer practical advice, help and support.
The Breastfeeding Friend, a digital tool from Start for Life, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you – and because it's a digital tool, you can access it 24/7.