4 Common Mistakes That Lead To Low Milk Supply

There are several common mistakes that moms make that reduce the number of feedings or leaves milk in the breasts, both of which will result in lower milk supply. They are:

  • Feeding on a Schedule
  • Giving a relief bottle at night or skipping night time feedings
  • Allowing a sleepy baby to leave milk in your breasts
  • Not nursing or pumping when your breasts don’t feel full

Feeding On A Schedule

A rigid feeding schedule will often lead to low supply because a mother’s body doesn’t work like a clock – it doesn’t produce milk at a constant rate throughout the day.

A mother’s body typically produces more milk in the morning, and less as the day goes on. This is normal. Therefore, as evening nears it’s normal for baby to ask for more frequent feedings. Often times mothers make the mistake of thinking – he just breastfed, it can’t be that – and will fail to offer the breast again, when really baby is compensating for less milk being available by breastfeeding more often. Often times also, babies will do what is called “cluster feeding” to “tank up” for a longer sleep cycle. Whenever baby is fussy, offer the breast. Even if he only nurses for a few minutes, this is good stimulation for your breasts and may be giving baby exactly what he needs. See our full article on the “evils” of feeding by the clock.

Giving A Relief Bottle At Night Or Skipping Night Time Feedings

Some very helpful daddies will offer to take on the role of nighttime feeder and give relief bottles so mom can get a full night’s rest. A full night’s rest is terrific, but you have to remember the number one reason for low milk supply is not breastfeeding often enough. When you go a whole night without removing any milk, it tells your body that it’s overproducing and milk production will get cut.

The only way to avoid that terrible outcome and still have daddy give a night time relief bottle is to pump the same amount of milk that baby is consuming at the same ?time he is taking the bottle – in the middle of the night! At that point you and dad are both up, so dad will be tired and less helpful to you the next day. Furthermore baby may become confused by artificial bottle nipples and flow differences which will only create more breastfeeding challenges. In short, if you and dad are both up in the night, it defeats the purpose of a relief bottle and may just confuse baby.

Tips for nighttime feedings:

  • Try not to resent needing to get up with your little one. Perhaps try to think of this temporary time, as a gift you give to your baby. Interestingly, mother’s who fight nighttime feedings tend to feel more tired in the morning than those who give themselves over to this short term need.
  • Keep an early bedtime for yourself.
  • Experiment. Some mothers find that they feel more rested if they just bring baby to bed with them and nurse while side-lying, and just sleep while baby nurses. On the other hand, some mothers find they are not able to allow themselves to get into a deep sleep or get truly comfortable with baby in bed with them, and they find it better to get up and be fully awake and ensure that baby is actively nursing the entire time, and then return to bed after nursing is done.

Try both and see which works best for you. Please note however, if baby has had any difficulty with latching on, or is having difficulty with weight gain, it is highly recommended that you sit fully upright and try to stay awake for the duration of the nursing session and ensure that baby maintains a proper latch for the entire time. Side-lying nursing can be difficult to get a proper latch, and if you are drifting to sleep it is easy for baby to slip the latch. This is important if you’ve struggled with latch issues because baby may again get used to the feeling of a poor latch. Also, for weight gain, it is important to ensure that baby is actively nursing, and to use hand compressions at every opportunity.

Allowing A Sleepy Baby To Leave Milk In Your Breasts

You may have heard the saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Although it may be tempting to let your little bundle of joy sleep for long stretches, it is very important to wake them up at least every three hours to nurse. I know, because with my first, I didn’t do this. He was so colicky and hard to get back to sleep that there was no way I was going to wake him up and face the crying again. Little did I know that if I had woken him up it would have improved his mood and his health.

With my second child, I did things differently. I woke her up diligently every 3 hours without fail and she hit all of her milestones. She was such a happy, healthy little baby. Sometimes it is almost impossible to wake up a sleeping baby for frequent breastfeeding. Here?s some specific things you can try to get more active participation from babies who sleep a lot, or are mellow about nursing:

Do a diaper change: Even if baby doesn’t need one – getting baby completely naked wakes baby up and it goes hand-in-hand with the next suggestion. Be sure baby is good and awake before starting to nurse, otherwise slumber will just settle right back in.

Skin-to-skin time: Undress your baby down to the diaper before nursing and go braless (wear a button-down shirt that can be fully unbuttoned). This wakes up and energizes your baby for a good nursing session.

Play games: Stimulate baby to stay awake by tickling toes, feet and face and playing with him. Some babies can get distracted by this, but most will smile or giggle and latch back on to continue nursing. It can be a lot of fun and can help baby to more actively participate in nursing.

When all else fails to wake baby: Please don’t think I’m cruel! Get a wash cloth wet with cool water, and rub it on the back of baby’s neck – he won’t like it, but this trick works almost every time.

Once baby is good and wake, be sure he is removing as much milk as possible by:

Switch nursing: Start on one side and carefully watch for when your baby goes from feeding to comfort sucking. When you suspect comfort sucking, take your baby off and put him on the other side. Again watch for the switch to comfort sucking then switch back to the first side. Watch again and switch to the second side to finish up. It?s helpful to burp baby or change the diaper between switches to help wake baby up.

Double nursing: Instead of switch nursing you can try double nursing. To double nurse, feed your baby like usual on both sides without letting him or her fall asleep. Then walk about with your baby upright for 10 minutes to get all the bubbles and burps out to make room for more milk. Then nurse your baby again on both sides before letting him drift off to sleep.

Not Nursing Or Pumping If Your Breasts Don’t Feel Full

When it has been a long time since milk has been removed, the breasts become fuller and concentrations of a whey protein called “feedback inhibitor of lactation” or FIL increase. The higher the level of FIL, the lower the level of milk production.

An engorged breast generally equals a high concentration of FIL, and therefore can lead very quickly from an oversupply, to an undersupply. Do not wait to nurse or pump until your breasts “feel full.” Also, for many women this “full feeling” goes away as their baby grows, so do not use the fullness of your breasts as an indicator of when to nurse or pump.

Avoid these 4 common mistakes that lead to low milk supply and you are that much more likely to have a successful breastfeeding relationship!

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