One of the most common concerns during breastfeeding is a decreased milk supply. Many women begin to notice changes in their breasts and in their baby’s eating habits after the first few weeks of breastfeeding. As a result, they think their milk supply is no longer enough to satisfy their baby. If your baby seems to be thriving (gaining weight and having frequent urine and bowel movements), he or she is getting plenty of milk.
One of the reasons many mothers get concerned about their supply of breast milk are the normal changes in their breasts. By the time a baby hits six weeks old, most women no longer have a full feeling to their breasts. This makes some women panic about their milk supply. It, however, just means that your body has finally learned how much milk your baby truly needs during the day. Combine this with the fact that your baby may be nursing for less time at each session, and most women get truly concerned. Neither of these things means that you have a decreased milk supply. They both point to the fact that both you and your baby finally “get” breastfeeding. You understand how it works, and both of you understand what to do. Your body has figured out how much milk it needs to produce, and your baby finally understands how to get the milk out.
Another reason many moms get worried about their milk supply is a decrease in the baby’s bowel movements. For the first six weeks of your baby’s life, your milk contains colostrum in varying degrees. Colostrum is a nutrient-rich, thick, yellowish substance that does a number of different things for your baby. It provides all of the vitamins and minerals your baby needs to grow. It provides essential antibodies that your baby needs to fight disease. It also works as a laxative to help your baby pass early stools. After the first six weeks, your body stops making colostrum. Your baby no longer needs it. This means that your baby’s bowel movements will stop occurring as frequently. Your baby may go only once every day or just a few times each week.
An additional reason many mothers get concerned about their milk supply is the fact that babies experience growth spurts during the first few months of life. These most often occur at two weeks, six weeks, and three months. During these growth spurts, the baby will nurse as often as possible. Most mothers think this is a sign that the baby is not getting enough. In deed, though, the baby is nursing more frequently to build up the mother’s milk supply. Because the breast work on the law of supply and demand (the more the baby demands, the more your breasts provide), the baby knows he has to work harder to get more. Allow this process to happen. Your body will get the message, and make more milk. After a few days, both you and your baby will go back to your normal routine.
If you still have concerns about your milk supply, it is a good idea to contact a lactation consultant to help you determine if you are providing enough milk for your growing baby.