Increasing Your Milk Supply: What to Expect When Following the Care Plan
If you're following the Care Plan: How to Increase Your Milk Supply, there are stages along the way that will indicate you're heading toward your goal: being supplement free and breastfeeding easily. While the rate of improvement will vary for each woman—it will depend on your milk supply and your baby's skill—most of the time you can solve your breastfeeding situation in two weeks, and sometimes after only two or three days.
If you follow each phase, or function, of the plan, you should get good results. To help you gauge your success, here's how a situation typically plays out:
Your baby begins to take supplement after every feeding
This is good! The amount and type of supplement will vary with each situation. Here are some examples.
- If your baby hasn't been gaining weight well up to now and your pumping yields were low at first, he might be taking large amounts of supplementation after each feeding. Don't despair—he's playing catch-up because he hasn't received enough nourishment until now. Also, your supply might have been affected and dropped a bit. Stay on the plan because this situation is fixable.
- If your baby shuts down and sleeps a lot, you might begin to see of a paradox, in that the more he eats and takes in supplement, the more often he'll wake to eat. That's normal. Again, your baby is catching up on his feedings, and you'll have to adjust to his shorter stretches of sleep.
- If your baby has been gaining weight well but seems hungry after feedings, you might find his intake of supplementation after breastfeeding is large too, or he might only take an ounce or two. This doesn't mean he won't need to be supplemented. For situations such as this, monitor his behavior after feedings to see if he seems more satisfied.
Your pumping yields might drop, and it could seem as though there's an increase in supplementation volume
The purpose of pumping is to drain your breasts so your milk supply will increase. Up until now this probably hasn't been happening, but when you start pumping after each feeding, you're taxing and demanding more from your breasts. This can result in your pumping yields dropping during the first few days. Don't worry—just keep supplementing and pumping, and the situation should resolve itself.
If your supply is good and the problem is mostly with your baby's ability to access your milk, you might not have much of a problem with pump yields. In fact, you might not need to use any other form of supplementation besides your own breast milk. This is good, but it doesn't mean your supply won't need to be increased in order for your baby to get a full feeding. If you're only supplementing with your own breast milk and your yields are good, your feeding problem will likely be resolved in a few days.
Pumping yields go up and formula supplementation goes down
This is a great sign of improvement. It's why it's important to log both your pumping yields and the amount of supplementation your baby takes each time.
You become formula free
At this point, the only supplement you need is coming from your own breasts. If your baby is still taking significant amounts (over an ounce and a half) of your own pumped milk after each feeding, you'll still need to supplement.
You go into "over supply," or what you're pumping is more than your baby needs
This if often when everything comes together and breastfeeding begins to work. Your baby may start to reject the supplement in the bottle or only take small amounts of half an ounce or so. He might be able to access a full feeding from your breast alone if you give him more time on the breast. Keep him on longer than the 25 minutes you've been doing up until now and see how he does. Don't overdo it, though. After you've fed him a bit longer—from 40 to 45 minutes at the most—take him off, supplement and pump. Continue to pump after feedings until you're sure he's getting a full feeding from your breast each time. This could happen suddenly or gradually.
You wean off pumping
Once you've reached the above milestones, you can start to drop pumping sessions one at a time. It's best to drop one session and wait a couple of days, then lose another at the opposite end of where you dropped the first. So if you dropped the 3 a.m. feeding, you'll lose the 3 p.m. one next. It might take 2 weeks to wean yourself completely off pumping after feedings; slower and gradual is always better, so that's fine. You'll want to make sure your baby is able to "drive" the supply on his own, and that he isn't doing well only because you've been keeping the supply up from pumping.
If you follow the Care Plan: How to Increase your Milk Supply, you should get to the point where you're able to just breastfeed, and you'll only need to give your baby a bottle when you feel like it, not out of necessity.
Tips for success
- Every mother and baby is different, and it's up to you to judge where you are in the plan.
- It's not unusual for women to never need other supplementation such as formula and to rely only on their own pumped breast milk to supplement. But if you have to use another form of supplementation, don't worry—the top priority is that your baby receives the nourishment he needs to thrive.
- Your breastfeeding difficulties will be resolved when your baby is able to get a full feeding from your breast every time, and you give him a bottle out of choice rather than necessity.
Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who also sits on the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council. Heather has been practicing in New York City since 2001.