This is a question I see and hear very often. Just recently a friend who gave birth to twins asked me the same question.
Well, my answer would be “there is no reason why you would not have enough milk”. Why?
Because breastfeeding is not meant to fail; the dynamics that activate milk production are in perfect synchronicity, since milk production is stimulated by suction. If the baby nurses properly, your breast produces milk. In fact, it seems that if a baby started to nurse frequently the breast of any woman, with time the stimulation would activate the prolactin, hence the milk production.
The key is then having the right approach to breastfeeding, despite all the information we receive about “the milk will not be enough after six months”, “the toddler is not growing enough, because your milk is like water now”, and so on and so forth.
I myself had to listen to more than one pediatrician tell me such things. I trusted my gut, looked at my baby and knew for sure that what they were saying was nonsense.
I know it is not easy, insecurities are just around the corner, you feel such a deep love and sense of protection that you tend to doubt your instinct. It is understandable, but not healthy. So, try to connect to your motherly self and never doubt your capability to take care of your children.
Back to original question; so, the key to produce milk is having the baby nurse as frequently as possible, especially at the beginning. Sometimes they don’t suck enough because they are also given pacifiers or the bottle. Sucking the breast is a hard work, so if they learn there is an easier way to eat (with bottle, for example), then they will refuse to take the breast.
Now, given the fact that the milk supply depends entirely on the baby suction activity, let’s see what can be done to increase your milk supply:
- Make sure the baby is nursing efficiently. If the baby is not transferring milk properly, then I recommend you extract milk between and/or after nursings to maintain the milk supply.
- Nurse frequently, forget about waiting 3 hours or such things. The baby knows when he/she needs to eat. Nurse every 1.5-2 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night. Nursing on demand is the very best. It takes some time to find the right balance between your milk supply and the baby nursing. Be patient and don’t give up! Your milk is the perfect food for your baby, you are prioritizing your baby’s health over your freedom. It is a 100 times worth it.
- Do co-sleeping. Sleep with your baby, this way you will be able to rest and nurse your baby whenever he/she wants. Otherwise, you will be soon too tired and stressed, jeopardize your milk supply.
- Offer both breasts at each feeding.
- Switch sides 3 or more times during each feeding.
- Avoid pacifiers and bottles.
- Give baby only breast milk. Avoid all solids, water and formula if baby is younger than six months and decrease solids if baby is older.
- Take care of yourself. Rest, sleep while baby sleeps. Relax. Drink liquids when thirsty. Do not force liquids, if your body does not demand them it means you don’t need more.
- If baby is not nursing efficiently or frequently enough, consider pumping after or between nursing sessions.
- Eat a healthy diet – a lot of fruits and raw vegetables. Green leafy vegetables, nuts milk and juicy fruits are recommended.
My personal experience:
I nursed my daughter on demand for more than two years. My milk supply was huge because she loved to suck my breast very frequently. Sometimes she would feel upset or unwell and request my breast just to soothe her discomfort. She would suck for 5 minutes or less and then forget about it. I never refused her my breast, never watched the clock or checked her weight before and after feeding. I simply met her needs and offered her comfort and the right food any time she felt the need for it. Was it hard? I don’t remember it being hard. I remember enjoying every second of it, because I had very clear in my mind that I was doing the most natural and beautiful thing: feeding my baby with the best food and emotional support.
In fact, various studies showed that “children who are raised on a breastmilk substitute are at an increased risk in the long term of :
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Coeliac disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes”
From a psychological point of view, breastfed children develop into more “mature, secure and assertive individuals”. Dr. Erikson found that “the infant who has his needs met and feels physically safe grow in confidence and comes to trust his environment.”
I recommend a very interesting article by Patricia Hatherly.
If you have any doubt and feel you need to chat about your insecurities with breastfeeding, here I am. I will be more than happy to help you find the right support.