A concern about milk supply is one of the most common reasons for early cessation of breastfeeding.
Evidence regarding the true percentage of mothers unable to make a full breastmilk supply is poor.
However, while many mothers worry they have a low supply, in many cases the problem isn’t true low supply but rather a breastfeeding management problem or a perceived low supply.
3 Signs Of Low Milk Supply
So, how can you tell if you have a true low supply or rather just think you have low supply?
The answer is determined by what signs you are relying on to determine if your supply is low or not. So what signs should you rely on?
Reliable Signs Help You Determine If Your Supply Is Low Or Not
Often the signs women rely on to determine if their milk supply is low are not reliable ones. You can read more about this in 5 Unreliable Signs Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk.
While you cannot see how much breastmilk your baby drinks at a breastfeed, there are ways to reliably tell if your baby is getting enough breastmilk and hence if your supply is sufficient. You can find out more in 3 Signs That Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breastmilk.
If your baby is showing reliable signs of getting enough breastmilk, your supply is not low!
So, what then are signs that your supply is low? Here are 3 signs your supply might be low.
#1: Your Baby Isn’t Gaining Adequate Weight
Babies typically lose weight in the very early days after birth before starting to put on weight between days 4 and 6.
From this time, there is a wide range of variation in terms of average weekly gains. Some weeks your baby may gain a small amount of weight and a larger amount other weeks.
Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends looking at a baby’s weight gain over a period of 4 weeks rather than weekly to find an average weekly weight gain.
As a rough guide, Australia’s NHMRC recommends the following for weight gain in infancy:
- Birth to 3 months: 150 to 200 grams a week
- 3 to 6 months: 100 to 150 grams a week
- 6 to 12 months: 70 to 90 grams a week
It’s important to check with your healthcare professional for a thorough assessment if you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain. This is because there are many factors which can influence your baby’s growth such as genetic factors and medical issues (eg infection, heart or digestive problems).
If a thorough assessment reveals that a low milk supply is likely the issue, working with an international board certified lactation consultant can help you work out the best plan for you and your baby to boost your supply.
For more information about your baby’s weight gains, check out BellyBelly's article Baby Weight Gain – What Is Normal? 5 Questions Answered.
#2: Your Baby Doesn’t Poo Often Enough
A baby’s first poos are thick, sticky and black (meconium). After 24-48 hours, the poo is brownish and gradually continues to lighten in colour and become runnier.
Around day 5, babies have the typical breastfed poo which is runny (sometimes with little milk curds) and yellow-mustardy (occasionally green or orange) in colour.
If your newborn’s poos are not gradually lightening in colour as described above, he may not be getting enough milk and so it’s a good idea to check with your healthcare professional.
From around day 5 onwards, if breastfed babies are getting enough milk, they do at least three poos every day. Many breastfed babies will do many more than three!
A few healthy breastfed babies do only one very big poo each day. If formula is given, this often reduces how often a baby poos and also changes the colour, consistency and smell of the poos.
After 6 weeks or so, some breastfed babies don’t poo as often. Some may only poo every few days or so. As long as the poo is runny and there’s a lot of it, there should be no need to worry.
If your baby is pooing less often than as described above, your baby may not be getting enough breastmilk and so it’s a good idea to check with your healthcare professional.
#3: Your Baby Doesn’t Wee Often Enough
From around day 5 onwards, a baby who is getting enough breastmilk will have at least 5 very wet disposable nappies every 24 hours, or at least 6 very wet cloth nappies every 24 hours. The urine should be pale in colour.
If your baby is weeing less than this or has dark, foul-smelling, urine, your baby may not be getting enough breastmilk and so it’s a good idea to check with your healthcare professional.
So, if you are worried you have a low supply, be sure you determine this based on reliable indicators. Also, if your supply is low, there are things you can do about it and seeing an international board certified lactation consultant can help you work out a plan to increase your supply and support breastfeeding.