You can tell if your baby is getting enough milk by looking at how much they are weeing and pooing, and whether they are gaining weight. If they are producing the expected amount of wee and poo, and their weight is increasing and approximately following their centile line on their growth chart, then they are getting enough milk. You cannot tell how much milk you are producing from how full/empty your breasts feel, or how long your baby feeds for.
Sometimes breastfeeding mothers worry that they are not producing enough milk for their baby. However, most mothers ARE able to produce enough milk, and if your milk supply does drop, you can usually increase it again with some simple measures, including adjusting your positioning and attachment and feeding your baby frequently and responsively.
If you are concerned that your baby is not getting enough milk, speak to your breastfeeding supporter, midwife, health visitor or GP. This article on low milk supply (and why many mothers may worry that their supply is low when it actually isn’t) may also be helpful: Low milk supply 101 – Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
Some suggestions to increase the amount of milk your baby is getting:
In the first weeks we now think that babies become sleepy when the flow of milk slows, not because they are full.
The following points should help you baby get more milk at each feed:
- Aim for the best attachment possible. Even good attachment can be better. You can read more on our “how to breastfeed” page.
- Learn how to see milk being transferred: open mouth wide–>pause–>close mouth: the longer the pause the greater the amount of milk your baby is drinking
- Offer both breasts at each feed. Your baby may need a pause between breasts
- Ask your health visitor, midwife or a breastfeeding supporter (at a group or on the National Breastfeeding Helpline) about how to recognise early feeding cues. It is easier to attach a baby before they are really hungry. You can read more about early cues and responsive breastfeeding here.
- Feeding in response to early cues may mean it is possible to fit in an extra feed within 24 hours
- Ask a health professional or a breastfeeding supporter to show you how breast compression works. It can be a good way to give your baby some extra milk at a feed.
Breast compression is a simple method to try and get your baby to take more milk during a feed. It is done whilst the baby is attached to the breast. You can gently squeeze the breast using a c shaped hand held away from the nipple. You should gently compress the breast and then hold, until you see your baby start to suck and swallow more rapidly and then slow again. Once the swallowing slows you can release the breast and then do another compression, maybe in a slightly different position on your breast. You can keep doing this as long as it seems to have an impact on how much milk your baby is taking (e.g. sucking/swallowing increases).
Take a look here for video explanation of breast compression.
If breast compression helps, the amount of wee or poo your baby is doing may increase. If there is no change, ask for a breastfeeding supporter or health professional to check for other factors which might make feeding more difficult.
Very occasionally, medications such as decongestants or contraceptives may affect your milk supply. You can read our factsheets to find out more or contact our Drugs in Breastmilk service to discuss this.
For more information on how to tell if feeding is going well, you can have a look at Off to the Best Start.
Common causes of low milk supply/your baby not getting enough milk:
Positioning and Attachment: How your baby attaches to your breast, including how you hold them, is often called ‘positioning and attachment’. If your baby is not effectively attached at your breast, it will be harder for them to remove milk efficiently. This may mean that they are getting less milk than they need. If this continues, your milk supply may drop as milk production works on a supply and demand basis. Working on your positioning and attachment will mean your baby is able to drink more milk more efficiently, and as they take more milk from your breasts, your body will respond to the increased demand by increasing your supply. Even if some of the other causes here are relevant for you and your baby, improving how your baby comes to the breast will improve milk transfer. Read more on our page on how to breastfeed.
Spacing out feeds or feeding to a schedule: If you attempt to space feeds out, wait for your breasts to “fill up” or to feed to a schedule, rather than feeding responsively, your breasts may become over-full in between feeds. When your breasts become full, a hormone called feedback inhibitor of lactation (FIL) tells your body to stop making milk. This in turn can cause your milk supply to drop. Breastfeeding responsively, including putting your baby to your breast any time your breasts start to feel full, is the best way to establish and maintain your milk supply, and to ensure your baby gets enough milk. Your breasts are never completely drained, they are always making more milk, so you can offer them for a feed even if they feel empty. This will help increase your milk supply.
Using a dummy or pacifier: A dummy or pacifier can mask early feeding cues, meaning you don’t feed your baby as soon as they start to feel hungry, and feeds may become more spaced out. This could lead to your baby taking less milk overall, and your breasts becoming over-full in between feeds, causing your milk supply to drop. Breastfeeding parents who wish to use a dummy could consider waiting until breastfeeding is well established before introducing it.
If you are still struggling with your milk supply after trying the suggestions above, speak to your midwife, GP or health visitor. Sometimes, a galactagogue – a medicine or substance that increases milk supply – may help. You can read more in our factsheet Increasing Milk Supply – use of Galactagogues.