My breasts feel empty, has my supply decreased?
Following the first few weeks of lactation, you may experience a rollercoaster of emotions and worry regarding your breastmilk supply. Firstly, with only small amounts of colostrum and a hungry baby – you worry, do I have enough? Then, often, the oversupply, engorgement, ice packs and sleepless nights, now you may feel you have too much! After all this settles, a few weeks have passed, now your breasts are soft once again, this is normal!
Even if your breasts do not feel full, there is a high possibility your baby is still receiving adequate amounts of breastmilk. In the first 4 weeks, your body responds to the number of times your baby breastfeeds, aiming to provide a supply that matches demand. Following these 4-6 weeks, your body establishes this supply-demand pattern, and your breastmilk production every 24 hours remains reasonably stable.
How do you know if your baby is getting enough breastmilk?:
- Gulping and swallowing while breastfeeding
- Producing frequent wet nappies daily
- Normal, regular bowel movements
- Baby settles following feeds
- Gaining weight as to be expected for age
It is important to remember, your baby will lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first week following birth. After 4-5 days, they should begin regaining weight until they are back to birth weight by 10-14 days of age. Following this, they should continue to gain weight, not lose.
What if you’re concerned about your breastmilk supply decreasing?
- Check your baby’s breastfeeding attachment – ensure they are productive and suck/swallows evident.
- Demand feeding – Instead of implementing a feeding schedule, allow your baby to breastfeed whenever they demand.
- Avoid dummies – these may hide feeding cues essential to demand feeding.
- Expressing - using an electric breast pump or hand expressing between feeds helps to increase your supply
- Prioritise your mental health – try to reduce stress, eat well and drink plenty of water!
Written by Keryn Thompson RM & IBCLC (L-301766)
Cernadas, J., Noceda, G., Barrera, L., Martinez, A. and Garsd, A., 2003. Maternal and Perinatal Factors Influencing the Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding During the First 6 Months of Life. Journal of Human Lactation, 19(2), pp.136-144.
Galipeau, R., Baillot, A., Trottier, A. and Lemire, L., 2018. Effectiveness of interventions on breastfeeding self‐efficacy and perceived insufficient milk supply: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 14(3).
Kent, J., Ashton, E., Hardwick, C., Rea, A., Murray, K. and Geddes, D., 2020. Causes of perception of insufficient milk supply in Western Australian mothers. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 17(1)