As moms, we all want the best for our children and without a doubt we know that, "breast is best". You hear it everywhere you go from the doctor's office to your closest mom friend. So it's no surprise when after a few months of breastfeeding you think you are not producing enough milk and begin to really panic. For some, it's not really that big of a deal and you have no problem supplementing with some formula, but others it is a serious problem.
First, check to make sure that you are definitely not producing enough milk. Weight gain is the best way to check for this. Babies should gain an ounce a day from birth to three months old and then from there until six months old they should gain a half an ounce a day (however, remember that newborns lose a few pounds after birth for a few days before reaching their birth weight again).
Another good way to check if you need to produce more breast milk is by noting how many wet diapers your baby is making. There should be at least 7 or 8 cloth diapers or 5 to 6 disposable diapers wet daily. Don't focus so much on wet diapers though because even dehydrated babies can make one. Other ways to check is to pay attention to your baby's activity level and note whether they are nursing at least every 2-3 hours or at least 8 times a day. If you still have concerns, the best and most important way to check is to see your doctor or a lactation consultant, it is possible that you could have a low thyroid level.
Ok, so now you have found out that it is true: you need to produce more breast milk. So what's next? The best thing to do is to encourage your baby to nurse more often. If necessary, wake your baby up for feedings if they sleep more than three hours. When he/she nurses, manually express some more milk into your baby's mouth, if needed. In addition to these ideas, in between feedings, pump to tell your body to produce more milk and store that milk for future use. Try not to supplement with formula or use a pacifier too often. Some mothers even look to galactogogues for assistance. Galactogogues are herbs that are meant to help your body produce more breast milk. Nevertheless, be sure to check with your doctor before using any herbs, especially while breastfeeding.
Another important way to produce more breast milk is to have a nutritious and healthy meal plan. Notice that I said 'meal plan'. Do not make the mistake of going on a heavy diet while breastfeeding. Your body needs the extra calories and nutrients to produce enough breast milk and provide enough energy for you. Aim to plan meals with plenty of grains, fruit and vegetables, dairy, and meat/beans. Try to make at least half of your daily worth of grains whole grain. Another good idea is to plan your meals about every two hours so your stomach is not empty for an extended period of time. Last but not least, do not forget to take your prenatal vitamins which will help give you all the nutrients you may be missing from your meal plan.
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