Breastfeeding: How to ensure your breast milk supply is adequate
Breastfeeding is an emotionally bonding experience for a mother and her baby and has been found to benefit the health of both. Breastfed babies are likely to have a higher IQ and are less likely to develop intestinal, respiratory and ear infections. Singapore’s Ministry of Health strongly recommends breastfeeding, as do health organisations around the world.
“Mothers who breastfeed are also at a lower risk of developing breast, ovarian and possibly womb cancers,” says Associate Professor Yong Tze Tein, Senior Consultant, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Singapore General Hospital.
But, breastfeeding can be challenging for some women, with inadequate milk production being the most common reason why women stop breastfeeding earlier than recommended. In reality, most women produce more than enough breast milk to satisfy their babies.
Since breast milk is easily digested, your baby needs frequent feeds from both breasts, as many as eight to 12 times a day, to ensure that production remains satisfactory. This frequent feeding is necessary as suckling gives feedback to the mother to produce more milk. Breastfeeding should also begin as soon as possible after the birth of the baby.
In the absence of quantifiable measures of supply, women presume their breast milk supply isn’t adequate and start supplementing it with formula. This actually causes milk supply to be reduced.
The World Health Organization recommends that women “exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.”
How to tell your breast milk production is adequate
The best measure is a satisfied, content baby with adequate urine and stool production, says Assoc Prof Yong. By the fifth day of life, infants typically urinate six to eight times a day and have three or more stools a day.
Another good indicator that your baby is getting enough breast milk is that your breasts feel soft after feeding.
Breast milk production may be inadequate if:
Your breasts did not develop sufficiently during pregnancy
You have had breast surgery or radiation treatment
You suffer from hormonal imbalance
You are on medications such as those containing pseudoephedrine that interfere with milk production.
Babies don’t get enough breast milk if:
They are not fed frequently enough
They are not latched on properly
They are separated from their mother too often
They are also fed formula
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