How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
“Drip, drip….” Watching your breast milk drip into the bottle as you pump is like watching a suspense movie. Am I having a good milk day and I will score tons of liquid gold? Or am I going to pump out next to nothing and feel like my boobs have dried up? Some days, when I pump more than I expected, I feel like doing a victory dance and parade my full bottle around like a trophy. Then on the other days… I just feel like sitting around, eating ice cream and doing nothing.
It’s hard not to be obsessed with milk supply when you are a nursing mom. After all, it is pretty miraculous how your breastmilk contains protein, antibodies, and all the nutrition your baby needs to thrive. So naturally, if you feel like your precious milk supply is running a little low, you start to feel anxious. I remember when my supply tanked when I got food poisoning and wasn’t able to keep food down for days. Despite the fact that I wanted to die every time I got up from the bed, I continued to nurse my baby and researched on all the ways to increase milk supply. Now that I have nursed my son successfully for 2 years and am currently nursing my 10 months old daughter, I have several tricks up my sleeve when it comes to kicking milk production into high gear. So when you are feeling low, give these a try, and the results may just “perk” you right up (ha… ha…)!
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The law of supply and demand may be derived from economics (yes, nerd mom here), but the postulation also applies to breastfeeding. Barring any medical problems, you should be producing as much milk as the baby needs. Therefore, to increase supply naturally, you need to trick your body into thinking that the baby needs more milk and trigger your breasts to produce more milk supply to keep up with the demand. There are several ways to do so:
- Increase Feeding Frequency: Feed the baby as often as you can during the day, preferably every 2 hours, if not more. The baby being fussy? Take out the boob! The baby seems bored? Take out the boob! The baby looks happy and content? Take out the boob anyway and offer it. Point is, you want your baby to be sucking on you as frequently as possible so that your boobs think you have a ravenous baby and produce more milk! Try nursing while holding your baby skin-to-skin to encourage even more milk production. Now, if your baby is back to his or her birth weight, you don’t need to wake up the baby every 2 hours for a nursing session at night. God knows you need all the rest you can get!
- Pump after breastfeeding: You want your breasts to think your baby needs more milk, but your baby has already drifted off to la-la land, full and drunk off your milk. You can’t force an already stuffed baby to drink more milk (unless you want to see the milk come out of your baby in reverse), so pump instead right after a feed to completely empty your breasts. Instead of telling your breasts your baby needs to feed more often, you are now telling your breasts that the baby needs more milk per feeding session. You don’t have to do this after every single feed but try to do as many as you can during the day; again, there is no need to stay up just to pump during the night.
- Power pump: Remember the evenings when your baby likes to cluster feed and you are stuck on the glider for hours at a time nursing your little one? Power pumping is similar in concept, but much easier because you are not dealing with a fussy baby and this only takes one hour a day. Here is how it works:
- Pick one hour each day (preferably in the mornings, when you produce the most milk).
- Pump for 20 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump for 10 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes.
- Pump for 10 minutes.
- Pump as usual the rest of the day.
The idea behind power pumping is stimulating your breasts frequently in quick succession. This should kick-start an increase in supply after 2-3 days. You can resume your normal pumping schedule after you see a result, but feel free to power pump again whenever you feel like giving your supply a boost.
USE BREAST COMPRESSIONS.
Sometimes, your baby gets so comfortable while nursing that he or she starts falling asleep and stops sucking. While I feel like I have sleep-inducing super powers whenever this happens, a sleepy baby does not help with milk supply. Use breast compression and squirt some breastmilk into the baby’s mouth to wake them up just enough to start sucking again. Breast compression also helps remove milk more effectively from the breast while pumping. Trust me, you will love hearing the sound of more liquid gold getting sucked out by the pump and landing in the bottle when you compress during a pumping session. If that’s not the most satisfying sound on earth, I don’t know what is.
MILK BOOSTING FOOD AND SUPPLEMENTS.
If you do some research, you will find a bunch of food that increases milk supply. The ones that work personally for me are:
- Fenugreek: Fenugreek is a common galactagogue (a substance that increases milk supply). I take these in capsule form and they work fairly fast – I usually can feel a difference within 48 hours.
- Oatmeal: Granolas are one of my favorite snack items, so I have no issue with eating lots of oatmeal. Great for boosting milk supply. Not so great for my weight.
- Organic Mother’s Milk: Especially during the cold winters, I love drinking Mother’s Milk tea to help keep me warm as well as increase my supply. The tea is a combination of milk-boosting herbs such as fenugreek and blessed thistle. I find the Mother’s Milk tea quite pleasing to the taste buds with a little bit of bitterness and sweetness.
- Lactation Cookies: Eating delicious cookies while increasing milk supply? Yes, dreams do come true. There are tons of lactation cookies recipes out there, but make sure the essential milk-boosting ingredients such as oats, brewer’s yeast, and flax seed meal are part of the recipe. I know, I wish chocolate chips could help with milk supply too, but at least now you have an excuse to eat cookies.
EAT A WELL-BALANCED DIET.
You have little factories in your breasts pumping out milk while you are nursing. Therefore, you need to eat 3 healthy meals and about 3 healthy snacks per day to replenish the calories necessary to keep the factories running.
DRINK MORE WATER.
Don’t force yourself to drink an uncomfortable amount of water, but drink at least the recommended eight 8-ounces glasses of water a day. While drinking more than the recommended amount does not make me produce more milk, drinking too little does make me lose supply.
Especially for mothers of newborns, it’s difficult to get enough sleep. However, mothers tend to produce more milk when they are rested and are not stressed. Therefore, nap when your baby naps. Seriously. Hire someone to help with the house chores or walk the dog. Ask your relatives for help. Order healthy take out instead of cooking for a week. Let go of some responsibilities so you can spend time cuddling and nursing the baby all day. Take a “nursing vacation” and spend 2-3 days with nothing to worry about except breastfeeding your baby, sleeping, and eating. You will be stressed about your kids the rest of your life – take 2-3 days out to do something that’s good for you and the baby.
Sometimes, the source of low milk supply may be due to incorrect latching, hormonal problems, medication, etc. If nothing is working at home, seek help with a lactation consultant or attend a breastfeeding support group near you. You can also find a la leche league in your area for breastfeeding education and encouragement.
Breastfeeding is not an easy journey, but one so worth taking. Whether you are exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or doing a combination of both, you are giving your baby the best nourishment he or she can get. Don’t panic if you start seeing a decrease in supply because there are many ways to get your milk going again. I hope these tips will help boost your milk supply naturally and you will be back to worrying about shooting your baby accidentally in the eye with a strong letdown in no time!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Always seek the advice of a pediatrician, breastfeeding consultant, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
What way(s) of increasing breast milk supply worked for you?