Breastfeeding: Is your milk drying up?

My four-month-old son has nurses very well and weighs 18 pounds so I am assuming he's getting enough to eat. He nurses approximately every three hours and can sleep 9 to 10 hours at night. But now I feel my supply has diminished quite a bit. He's quite cranky from 4pm to 8pm and I end up trying to nurse him practically every hour then. We're both frustrated and I can tell that my milk is not letting down. Finally I end up giving him a bottle and he drinks at least seven ounces and falls asleep.

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

If your baby is healthy and growing well, and if his output is good, he's more than likely getting enough milk. (At around three to four months, a baby's average weight gain slows to three to five ounces per week. Growth in length averages one inch per month, with increases in head circumference about one half inch per month. A baby over six weeks of age should be wetting five to six diapers daily and having regular substantial bowel movements.)

There are several things that could be going on:

  • Your baby may be experiencing a growth spurt -- whcih is an easy fix. It takes just about three days of more frequent nursing to increase your supply.
  • Pacifier use can cause changes in feeding patterns that diminish your milk supply. If you feel this is the case, ditch the paci for a while.
  • Your baby may be fussy due to oversupply. The first step in helping to correct this is to change his pattern of feeding. Nurse from only one breast per three to four hour period. If your baby wants to nurse more during that period, put him back to the same breast. Remember, your breasts produce milk as your baby nurses, so your baby will never be nursing on empty.

Many babies will drink what is offered to them. This does not necessarily indicate a low milk supply. If you are still supplementing one or more times a day, after reading this, evaluate your milk supply prior to supplementation. If you think it was probably adequate, gradually begin to decrease supplementation. Decrease supplementation by no more than two ounces every four days, monitoring your baby's output and taking him for weekly weight checks. (Most pediatric offices don't charge for weight checks.)

Nurse your baby more frequently during the day. That may help to decrease some of these evening feeds. Breast milk digests in about one and a half to two hours, so it isn't unusual for your baby to be showing hunger signs (such as sucking) within this time period.

It is not unusual for babies to feed frequently at night. These nighttime feeds are very important in increasing your milk supply. Your baby may be getting a large portion of his nourishment in the evening. Babies this age are very easily distracted during the day. Relax while he nurses. Get comfy, with everyhing you need within arms reach. Have something to drink and a snack nearby, a magazine or book, and the remote control. If you're a napper, lay down when the baby does.

Working moms (inside and outside the home) need to get some rest in the evenings, and breastfeeding gives you a perfect excuse put up your feet. Obviously, there are times when you will need to get things done around the house, so consider a sling/pack while doing chores. Your baby may be craving time in your arms -- they love skin to skin contact and being held.

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