Breast milk supply FAQ

Having milk supply problems? Our experts from the breastfeeding organization and Philips Avent help to answer your questions.

 

What should I do if there is insufficient breast milk? Should I take supplement/food for my baby?

Generally, if mothers manage the demand and supply of milk well, most of them are more than capable of producing enough milk for their babies. Mothers need to understand the mechanics of how breast milk is produced, BEFORE they deliver, so that they know what to do in the initial days/weeks post delivery. It takes 4 to 6 weeks sometimes to establish a good supply of milk but mothers who do not realize that may give up after the first 2 weeks and start to supplement. Supplementing with formula can be a pitfall because it deprives the baby of the opportunity to nurse and stimulate the breast more frequently.

Therefore, let‘s encourage mums to learn about breastfeeding FIRST. Once the baby is born, they are too busy and tired coping with the newborn to learn about breastfeeding at that time. And as a result, they fall back on supplement, which then affects milk supply.

Galactagogues or foods/herbs that help with milk production are present in many cultures around the world. Fenugreek is used by Malays and Westerners. Fenugreek can be bought fresh as a vegetable and cooked but it is not very easily found. Mothers tend to buy it as a supplement. Other supposed aids include Mothers‘ Milk Tea. Whether these aids really work or they act more as psychological aids, is uncertain.

Managing the demand and supply in the initial days/weeks is still the MOST important aspect of successful breastfeeding.

This answer was contributed by Mrs Angeline Wee-Yew, President, Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group (Singapore)

Many of my friends say they are not producing enough milk. How come?

If a baby cries often, mothers or the family may assume the baby is hungry and does not have enough breast milk. They often forget that crying in a baby is not always due to hunger. She may simply need to be held or cuddled or may be crying due to a wet diaper, or feeling hot or cold or unwell.

Many mothers also assume they are not producing enough milk if the baby keeps sucking her fingers. This sucking is due to the rooting reflex. If you touch the baby‘s cheeks with your fingers, she tends to turn her mouth in that direction. This is called rooting.

You may also worry that the baby is not getting enough if she feeds for a prolonged period or if she finishes her breastfeed too fast. Some babies are fast feeders; others are slow. Also, as babies grow older, they may finish the feed in a shorter time compared to the early days when they suckle for a longer period.

Another reason why mothers think they do not have enough milk is because the breasts feel soft. Engorged breasts tend to happen only the early days of breastfeeding or if frequent suckling is not emptying the breasts. When the supply and demand of breast milk are well adjusted between the mother and the baby, the breasts will feel soft. You should note the colour of your baby‘s urine and count the number of times the baby wets her diaper to determine if she is getting enough milk.

I hear that my milk supply will not come in till after the third or fourth day. What do I feed my baby with during till then?

Your newborn baby does not require anything other than colostrum — the milk that the breasts make in the first few days after delivery. Colostrum is essential for the baby and although it‘s produced only in small amounts, it‘s enough to meet all the baby‘s nutritional needs the first few days of the baby‘s life. It is also rich in Vitamins A and K and zinc and contains large amounts of antibodies that protect the child against infections. Colostrum also has an immunoglobulin that coats the lining of the baby‘s immature intestine and prevents large protein molecules from entering the newborn‘s blood system. This reduces the risk of her getting allergies like asthma and eczema later in life.

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