If you’re a mom new to breastfeeding, you might be looking for ways to increase milk supply. Breastfeeding is hard, takes a lot time to learn, and can challenge and stretch us (literally and figuratively!) in ways we never thought possible.
Some moms struggle with supply issues and need more support to make breastfeeding successful. However, sometimes moms think they have low supply when in fact they are producing exactly the amount baby needs.
In this post, we’re going to find out how to know for sure if you have low milk supply. Then we’ll go over seven ways to increase your milk supply naturally.
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WHAT TO DO FIRST IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE LOW MILK SUPPLY
- If you suspect you may have low milk supply, but aren’t 100% sure, speak with a lactation consultant before you take the time and effort to increase your supply.
- Read this post, How to Know if Your Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk, to find out how to spot true supply issues. Ask yourself if baby is producing enough wet and dirty diapers, gaining weight normally, and meeting her milestones. If she is, then you probably should not try to increase your milk supply.
- Have your baby’s latch assessed by a certified lactation consultant to rule out oral restrictions (i.e. lip and/or tongue tie). Oral ties can prevent baby from getting enough milk, which makes it difficult to increase milk supply, so it’s important to rule them out early.
THINGS THAT DON’T INDICATE YOU NEED TO INCREASE YOUR MILK SUPPLY
Babies become fussy for many different reasons, and most of the time they aren’t connected to your milk supply. It’s very common for newborns to have a fussy period every day, especially for a few hours each night.
Breasts feeling soft or empty
As your body adjusts to baby’s needs, your breasts may not feel full and heavy like they did when your milk first came in. But this doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your supply!
Breast changes are normal while breastfeeding and are not an indicator of low milk supply.
Also, don’t worry if your breasts aren’t leaking as much (or at all) as before. As your supply becomes established it’s quite normal to notice less leakage.
Low milk output when pumping
It’s normal to pump only a small amount of milk at each session, especially when you’re nursing on demand.
Pump output isn’t an accurate representation of milk supply and low pump output does not mean you don’t have enough milk for your baby.
Every woman responds to the breast pump differently and output is dependent on many factors, including flange size and fit, pump strength, experience with pumping, etc.
If you are suddenly pumping less milk than you were before, your pump parts or motor may need to be replaced.
Baby always wanting to nurse
Babies love to nurse! It’s normal for very young babies to cluster feed in order to build up your milk supply, meaning they nurse frequently for long stretches at a time.
Babies also nurse more when they’re teething or going through developmental leaps and growth spurts. They do this for both the extra nutrients AND the comfort breastfeeding provides.
Frequent feeding is extremely beneficial for your supply, so if you’re worried about not having enough milk, let baby nurse more and as much as she desires!
Related Post: 17 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
WAYS TO INCREASE BREAST MILK SUPPLY
Increasing milk supply can be a lot of work, so be sure you really have low supply before you start trying to increase it!
In this post, we’ll talk about 7 effective ways to increase breastmilk supply.
Babies are the most effective at removing milk from the body. It seems counter-intuitive, but the more your baby empties your breasts, the more milk your body will produce. This is because breastfeeding is a supply on demand relationship. Your body intuitively adjusts milk production to your baby’s specific needs.
In the early weeks of your baby’s life, it’s important to nurse often and on-demand to establish your milk supply. The more baby is on the boob, the better! Aim to either nurse or pump at least 8 times in a 24 hour period.
Ignore any advice to put your baby on a feeding schedule. Feeding schedules can be detrimental to your nursing relationship. Instead, follow your baby’s cues and feed on demand.
It can be overwhelming when all your newborn wants to do is nurse all day (and all night) long. Your first thought might be that baby isn’t getting enough milk. But remember that frequent nursing signals your breasts to make more milk.
It’s actually quite normal for newborns to want to constantly be on the breast.
Practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby
Skin-to-skin contact has been researched extensively and proven to provide a plethora of benefits for mother and child. One major benefit is that it increases vital hormones that aid in milk production.
If you’re recovering from birth, it’s easy and enjoyable to lay baby on your chest for a quiet and relaxing snuggle. Simply strip baby down to her diaper and lay her on your bare chest.
Perform breast compressions while you nurse
Emptying the breast signals the body to make more milk. You can get the most out of your nursing sessions by removing as much milk from the body as possible.
A great way to accomplish this is with breast compressions. Breast compressions are simply massage and squeezes to the breast. You can perform these to remove every last drop of liquid gold for your baby.
Start compressions once you notice baby’s swallows slowing down or stopping, or when your baby starts to fall asleep at the breast.
This video gives a great explanation of how to easily perform breast compressions while you nurse.
Try power pumping
Power pumping is an effective strategy to get your milk levels up quickly, because it attempts to recreate the effects a cluster feeding baby would have on your body. Remember that the more breasts are emptied the more milk gets produced!
Power pumping is a good solution for working moms or moms with little ones in the NICU.
BUT–power pumping should never replace nursing sessions with your baby as doing so could actually have the opposite effect you desire!
Avoid feeding your baby milk from a bottle (whether breastmilk or formula) if you are able to physically nurse her at that moment. Each nursing session is vitally important to build and maintain your supply, especially at the beginning of your breastfeeding relationship. Replacing nursing sessions with bottles will cause your milk supply to drop, so avoid it at all costs.
What you’ll need to power pump:
- A new, medical-grade electric breast pump. Breast pumps should never be shared since doing so can spread bacteria. Pumps also lose their effectiveness with time and regular use and often need to be replaced after having one owner.
- Flanges that fit your breasts properly. A proper flange fit is essential because the wrong fit can make pumping less effective. Pump manufacturers sell spare pump parts so if the flanges that came with your breast pump do not fit you, you can purchase the correct size separately.
- Hands-free pumping bra. So you don’t have to hold anything up during the time you spend pumping.
- One hour per day. Power pumping is a time-commitment! But it can really be worth it. Set your timer on your phone and sit back and relax with some good snacks and plenty of water.
How to power pump:
- Pump for 15-20 minutes (on both breasts at the same time)
- Rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump for 10 minutes.
- Rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump again for a final 10 minutes.
If your baby doesn’t drink directly from the breast and you are exclusively pumping, you can try power pumping twice a day.
If you’re with your baby all day and breastfeeding on demand, pumping for more than an hour a day can be extremely difficult. If you still want to power pump I recommend you don’t stress yourself and stick to only once a day.
Try “hands-on pumping”
Hands-on pumping is similar to power pumping, except it adds in massage to optimize milk output.
To pump “hands-on” style:
1. Prep your breasts by massaging them for a few minutes
2. Put breast pump flanges on both breasts and start pumping. A hands-free pumping bra is helpful for this, but if you find it difficult to massage your breasts while wearing one, it can be done without.
3. While the breast pump is at work, gently massage and compress each breast to extract as much milk as possible.
4. Feel for firm spots in your breasts and massage them out. These are milk ducts that are full of breastmilk. You’ll notice more sprays in the flange when you compress these areas. Focus especially toward the back of your breasts and on the sides up by your armpits.
5. When your milk flow slows down, turn off the pump and begin to hand express your milk, one breast at a time. Go back and forth from one breast to the other until you feel like they’re fully emptied. Here is an excellent video to show you exactly how to hand-express.
If you aren’t able to hand express, you can also pump for this step, one breast at a time while compressing/massaging.
The term galactagogues refers to herbs, foods, or medications that may increase milk supply.
While there is some research and much anecdotal evidence to support their use, some moms don’t notice much of a difference when taking galactagogues.
Whichever route you choose, it’s wise to consult with your healthcare provider beforehand, especially if you have a medical condition or are on prescribed medication.
Common galactagogues to try:
Lactation Cookies. There are many recipes online for lactation cookies. Most contain a combination of galactagogues in the ingredients list, such as oatmeal, flaxseed, and brewer’s yeast. This recipe from RebootedMom.com looks amazingly delicious.
Fenugreek. Probably one of the most popular lactation supplements. These are in capsule form. Start out slow with the dosing as fenugreek can sometimes cause excess gas in baby.
Brewer’s Yeast. Good for adding to smoothies or baked treats.
Mother’s Milk Tea. This tea contains a mix of fenugreek, blessed thistle, and other herbal ingredients. Good for moms who don’t like taking supplements in pill form.
Mama’s Magic Milk Boost. This all natural breast milk enhancer is a blend of several galactagogues: fennel, marshmallow root, blessed thistle, alfalfa, and red raspberry leaf. Easy to take since it comes with a dropper so you can add it to water or a glass of juice. I love the company that makes this product, Earthley Wellness, and use their products (they have an amazing natural product line) literally every day.
Enhance your hydration with electrolytes
Hydration is a huge and essential component of milk production! Every time I nurse, I feel thirsty right away and drink at least two glasses of water.
If you’re dehydrated it can negatively affect your supply so be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Many mamas notice a big difference in their supply when they hydrate with electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade, however I usually stay away from sports drinks since they typically contain nasty additives.
A good alternative is to drink coconut water (which is naturally full of electrolytes).
You can also make your own DIY electrolyte powder to add to water or juice, or if you prefer to buy something pre-made, I like this electrolyte powder by Earthley.
You can do this!
If you’re struggling with low milk supply, know that you’re not alone; there is support out there to help you continue breastfeeding. Although there are cases of certain medical conditions affecting milk supply, these tend to be rare.
Many women are able to boost their milk supply with the right strategies and guidance.
Remember to reach out to a qualified lactation consultant if you have concerns that your baby is not getting enough milk. They can help you troubleshoot, find, and solve the root causes of your supply issues.
Your body is capable of amazing things, mama! You are doing an incredible job just by being there for your baby.
Now I want to hear from you! Have you tried any of these strategies to boost your milk production? Tell me in the comments below!
ALL YOUR PUMPING QUESTIONS ANSWERED! (in only 90 minutes)
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