Feeding patterns and milk volume
How will I know if my baby is hungry and that I have enough milk, and how can I increase my milk production?
Is colostrum enough to feed my baby?
Yes! For most babies, colostrum (the first yellowish milk) will be enough during the first few (2-4) days until your milk "comes in". Colostrum is produced in small quantities at a time, and is produced continuously, which is why it’s important for baby to feed on demand (whenever he wants to). The more frequently baby feeds, the more milk he will get and the more milk your body will produce. It is perfectly normal for newborns to feed 8-12 times a day, and sometimes even more. Your colostrum is rich in nutrients, antibodies and other components which help baby’s intestine to mature.
How do I know if I’m producing enough milk?
The most important sign you are producing enough milk is that your baby is gaining weight and following his weight curve. The child health clinic can help you with this. If you exclusively breastfeed, you can be confident that your baby is getting enough to eat if he has a wet nappy at least 5-6 times a day and a dirty nappy at least twice a day. This applies from day 4-5 through to the end of baby’s first month. Some babies may have a dirty nappy less often even though they are feeding well. While you are breastfeeding, you may notice that your baby is actually feeding, as you can both see and hear baby swallowing.
How do I know if my baby is hungry?
Newborns usually feed 8-12 times day and sometimes more. They give various hunger cues. In time, you’ll learn to recognise these signs. You may see hunger cues even before baby wakes up.
Early cues include: eye movement under the eyelids, lip smacking and sticking tongue out, moving arms and legs, rooting, putting hands to mouth.
Late cues include: fussing, whimpering and crying, full-body movement. If very sleepy, baby may show no signs of hunger. If so, wake baby and offer your breast. If baby is sleeping when you try to nurse, check that baby has a good latch and is swallowing the milk. If in doubt, consult your health centre.
More milk – using an at-breast supplementer
To help increase the milk volume available to baby, you can use an at-breast supplementer. Your baby will then feed at your breast while also getting milk from the at-breast supplementer. When baby feeds, your breasts will produce more milk. You should also breastfeed often enough and empty each breast completely. An at-breast supplementer consists of a thin tube connected to a bottle or container of milk. The milk can be breast milk or infant formula. Until you start producing more milk, your baby will receive the extra milk she needs from the at-breast supplementer. If you are unable to increase your milk production to meet your baby's needs, mixed feeding (also called combination feeding) is also a good alternative. Ask at your child health clinic if you need help.
More milk – is there anything I should be eating or drinking?
What you eat or drink has little effect on the amount of milk you produce. When breastfeeding, you should make sure you have a healthy and varied diet. Drink when you are thirsty, preferably water. Some mothers find it convenient to drink a little while they are breastfeeding. Fennel tea, often sold as ‘nursing mother’s tea’, is not recommended because fennel contains substances that could harm your baby. To increase the volume of milk, it is important to breastfeed both frequently and for long enough, and to make sure you are using the right technique. Learn more about diet and breastfeeding at helsenorge.no.
More milk – correct breastfeeding technique
When your baby feeds using a good technique, your breast will be emptied fully. This will stimulate your breasts to produce more milk to meet your baby’s needs. To increase the volume of milk, you will need to breastfeed more often and empty your breasts completely. To stimulate your breasts and empty them fully, your baby must suckle using a good technique. Poor latching can lead to poor stimulation and breast-emptying. This can result in low milk production. If that happens, breastfeeding more frequently will not help. Too little milk can cause your baby to not put on enough weight. Ask for help to assess your breastfeeding technique and your baby's latching at your child health clinic.
Learn how you can help your baby latch on well
Illustration: Ole Walter Jacobsen - Helsedirektoratet
More milk – breastfeed more often
To stimulate your breasts to produce more milk, they must be emptied more often. You should breastfeed frequently and allow your baby to feed for long enough. Offer baby both breasts at each feed. Make sure baby latches on correctly. Unless your baby gets a good latch, breastfeeding more often will not help. Your breasts will produce most of their milk in the first one or two hours after a feed. Try to breastfeed at two-hourly intervals during the day and a couple of times a night. It may take 1-3 days from when you start breastfeeding more often until you notice you are producing more milk. You can pump or manually express your breast milk in addition to, or instead of, breastfeeding.
Mixed feeding – how to maintain your milk production
To maintain your milk production, you should breastfeed from both breasts, before giving your baby infant formula. Spread the amount of infant formula your baby receives during the day over several feeds. More feeds of small amounts of infant formula at a time will lead to more frequent breastfeeding. This is better for your milk production than fewer feeds of larger amounts of infant formula. Nurse your baby at both breasts during each feed. Swap breasts when baby gets impatient with the first breast. Breast compression can help increase the amount of breast milk your baby gets. You can also use an at-breast supplementer for feeding your baby infant formula. Your breasts will then be stimulated to make milk at the same time.
Mixed feeding – why?
Breast milk is good for your baby, even if she only gets a little. That’s why it’s a good idea to combine breastfeeding with infant formula. Breast milk contains substances that are not present in infant formula. These substances benefit the health of your child, both now and later in life. They provide protection against infections and aid the development of the infant immune system and nervous system. Mixed feeding also has important health benefits for you, such as lower risk of breast cancer. For babies who cannot be fed breast milk for any reason, infant formula is a good alternative that enables baby to grow and develop completely normally.