As a first time mom, I think it is common and normal to have some level of insecurity about insufficient milk supply. I was very pleased with the support and care I received at the Kaiser hospital I gave birth in. A lactation nurse visited me the same day, going over all the do's and don'ts of breastfeeding, teaching me how to use my pump, and shedding light on the importance of my liquid gold. I admit her visit confirmed my intention of attempting breastfeeding for as long as I can and as supplies last; so I did just that. I am still breastfeeding Surah at 11 months, though I supplement because my supply has decreased gradually overtime (but the important thing is that there is still some left!!). The nutrients she receives from even one ounce makes it all worth it.
Real or Perceived Insufficient Milk Supply
Now you are probably thinking I was blessed with sufficient milk supply to last 11 months or you're comparing your milk supply to what you think I may have had. I will tell you are wrong! Though our bodies have the same functions, we are still all different. So comparing will do not good. Listen to your body on its own merit. Do not see it in comparison to anyone else's or especially to the painted perception you have in your mind.
Did you know there is a high chance that you may perceive you have low milk supply but in fact, your supply is actually abundant depending on your baby's needs? Supplementary bottle feeding may even be unnecessary because you may have sufficient supply to give your baby the nutrients they need. The perception of insufficient milk supply likely leads to real low milk supply. How? Because you may feel discouraged and give up on breastfeeding, preventing your body from receiving signals to produce more milk. This results to the milk eventually drying out on its own.
Studies & Scholars
Gussler JD; Briesmeister argues this perception is a result of the lack of knowledge regarding the makeup of human milk and how it is delivered to the infant (Gussler, Briesemeister 1980). She explains that there is an element of modernization in how moms today develop feeding patterns to their infants. It's these feeding patterns that are not compatible with the composition of the human break milk, the anatomy and physiology of the human breast and the nutritional needs of the infant. Her studies lead her to think the reason why many mothers will eventually believe they have a deficiency in milk supply is because they have not developed biological breastfeeding patterns to calm their babies' distressed hunger cries. She believes there is a link between urbanizing lifestyles and the feeling of discouragement to breastfeed and the insecurities of milk supply. I love how she rejects the common explanation that mothers complain about low milk supply to rationalize their hidden lack of interest in breastfeeding. (Gosh, that would makes us mothers look so bad and to think this is a "common" explanation just angers me! Breastfeeding is a personal choice, no need to play out a "fake" reason just to justify not wanting to breastfeed any longer. It is our body so our right to choose whether to breastfeed or not. Either way it is the mother's choice! No right or wrong.)
This is not to say there is no such thing as real insufficient milk supply, because there is and it is a serious issue many mothers face. But I believe (like many scholars of this topic) there is a high chance your concern can be partly a mere perception. So I encourage you to give this a probability a thought. Take a moment and re-evaluate your feeding patterns in relation to your baby's behavior, see if there is anything you can alter or try out some new techniques, or reschedule feeding times. Though ultimately you understand your body more than any doctor or scholar. Every mother and infant relation is unique so only you know exactly what to do.
Easier said than done but try not to stress yourself. Situate yourself in a relax state of mind and environment when attempting breastfeeding. Worry and anxious nerves are detrimental to your milk supply. As for pumping mothers, please know that the amount of breast milk you are able to express is not linked to the amount of breast milk you have available to your baby. There are some moms that produce little amounts with the pump but still able to exclusively breastfeed just fine (meaning they have sufficient milk supply to satisfy their baby's hunger).
If you are still concerned about your milk supply,
I have made a list of 5 ways to help you boost your milk supply.
Gussler, J. D., & Briesemeister, L. H. (1980). The insufficient milk syndrome: A biocultural explanation. Medical Anthropology, 4(2), 145-174. doi:10.1080/01459740.1980.9965867