Tips from an LC: 8 Tips if Your Baby Has Lost Too Much Weight and About Newborn Weight Loss
Learn all about newborn weight loss in the hours and days after birth, including what's normal and what may be a concern to mention to your pediatrician and healthcare providers. See our video for more!
8 Tips if Your Baby Has Lost Too Much Weight
Transcript: 8 Tips if Your Baby Has Lost Too Much Weight and About Newborn Weight Loss
In the first few days after birth, your body is producing colostrum, an amazing milk jam-packed full of protective components perfectly designed for your baby. But colostrum is not very large in volume and it doesn’t really fill your baby up; its main function is a protective one at this stage! Therefore, it is normal for babies to lose about around 5 - 7% of their birth weight in the first few days after birth.
Around day 3, most moms notice that their milk starts coming in and building in volume. This is when babies start to regain their weight. See our video on what to do if your milk hasn't yet come in for more information on this topic.
If babies lose more than 10% of their birth weight, then your healthcare provider will want to have a look at your breastfeeding techniques to see if there are any small adjustments which can help your baby draw the milk out of your breast easier. Often, simple changes to how you hold your baby and latch them on can make big differences. They will probably advise you to give your baby some extra milk. Ideally, this will be your own expressed breast milk, but in some circumstances it could be that your baby requires infant formula for a short period of time.
It is important to note that supplementary feeding with infant formula in a breastfed baby will of course help them to gain weight, but if you are not supported at the same time to increase your breast milk supply, it will often lead to a reduction in your overall milk volumes and your ability to continue breastfeeding in the long run.
So, How Can You Increase Your Milk Supply?
Seek help from a breastfeeding specialist! This is the first and most important thing! They are there to help you on your breastfeeding journey and give you suggestions and support along the way.
They may suggest several things as a feeding plan to help build your milk supply:
- Changing or adjusting your feeding position and/or helping you to improve your baby’s latch. When your baby is well-attached to your breast and nipple, they are able to drain the milk effectively from your breast. If a baby is only nipple feeding (i.e. sucking just on the end of the nipple) often they are unable to get enough milk out of the breast. This often causes a vicious cycle of events; the shallow latch causes nipple soreness and the shallow latch causes your baby to not be able to get enough milk each feed, which in turn causes your baby to want to feed more and leads to potentially more nipple damage and soreness and a very tired and distressed new mom. Not a good place to be. So, seeking help for any improvements in positioning and latch is always a good idea!
- Feed your baby a minimum of 8 times in 24 hours. If they are not already doing this, try
to wake them so they feed more frequently.
- Pump in addition to breastfeeding (i.e. after each feed.) This can be done immediately after the feed or you might want to wait an hour and then pump. Find out which one works best for you; there are no hard and fast rules. This extra pumping will make your breasts feel like you’ve got “twins” and that they need to increase the milk production! The making milk equation is simple: The more we demand = the more milk is made. So, the breasts need to have plenty of demanding messages sent to them! It may take a few days until you start seeing the milk increasing, but remember that every time you express you’re sending messages to your milk-making cells to "make more milk". So, even if you do not see much milk yet - Do not panic, the breasts are getting the message and, in a day or two, they will start to make more milk.
Some other tips to note for pumping:
-Gently massage your breasts before and during breastfeeding and pumping.
-Use a double electric breast pump (i.e. pumping both breasts at the same time.) This will not only save you time, but also can help you express up to 18% more milk once your milk is in.
-Use the correct sized breast shield. See Medela's video for more information about choosing the right sized breast shield.
-Download and use our printable feeding and pumping log to help keep track of your baby's feedings and your pumping sessions.
- Top up your baby with any available breast milk after breastfeeds. If you have been advised by your healthcare practitioner to also give infant formula, make sure that you always give your expressed breast milk first.
As your pumped milk volumes increase, you will be able to gradually stop using infant formula. Your healthcare professional will be able to discuss this further with you.
- Have more skin-to-skin contact with your baby before or during a feed. This helps to get the wonderful love hormone (known as oxytocin) flowing. This hormone helps your milk flow down to your baby.
Using relaxation techniques to reduce any feelings of stress or anxiety that could be affecting your milk supply or your sleep can also be helpful.
- You may be prescribed medication or herbal supplements known as galactogogues. These may be helpful to increase your milk supply. But these don’t work alone! Remember the easy equation above - Milk supply works on supply and demand or, rather, demand and supply! If milk is not being frequently removed from the breast, then the milk supply will not continue. Frequent feeds and extra pumping (if required) are the most important part of this feeding plan. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that just increases our milk without the extra work. We all wish there were!
- You will be very busy at this time and likely exhausted, so keeping a log of everything can be helpful for some moms. Keeping a record of how frequently your baby is feeding, how often you are expressing, how much milk you’re expressing, how much expressed milk and/or formula you are feeding, and how many wet and dirty diapers you are getting in every 24 hours can be some helpful points to note down. See our video on how to know if your baby is getting enough milk for more!
Once things are back on track, you no longer need to keep a record. Go back to normal, go back to just breastfeeding, and being much more relaxed.
- Remember to get enough rest. Right now, the focus needs to be on you and your baby making enough milk, building your milk supply, and getting back to just breastfeeding and feeling confident and relaxed. You will be tired, so getting in extra sleep where you can is really important. Don’t forget this point!
Remember, Take it One Feed at a Time - You're Doing a Great Job!
As your milk supply increases and your baby starts to regain weight, you will probably notice your baby improves in how they feed at the breast. If your baby is still having problems latching to the breast, make sure you seek as much support as possible to help improve this.
Remember this may take time, it could be just a few days, but may also be a couple of weeks to get back to full breastfeeding. Take it one feed at a time. Be kind to yourself, you’re doing a great job and this is not easy! In time, everything will start to feel a lot easier and you will feel much more confident with everything.
Please know you are doing a brilliant job and the best you can. There may be tears along the way as it is always difficult when we are worried that our baby is losing weight or not feeding enough. So, make sure to check in with your healthcare provider regularly and get support from good friends or family, whether in person or online. Look after yourself, get as much sleep as you can, eat yummy and healthy foods, and enjoy lots of skin to skin cuddles with your baby.