How to increase milk supply is something most moms want to know at one time or another during their breastfeeding journey and with good cause. Whether a growth spurt or just life circumstances in general have you feeling like you are behind in production, it can happen. Today, I want to outline not only how to increase breast milk supply, but also how to protect your milk supply so you don’t have to play catch up.
Feed on demand and don’t delay feedings.
Breast milk is produced by supply and demand or should I say, demand and then supply. Feeding frequently and in full (fully emptying breasts) protects your milk supply from sudden dips. Growth spurts are waves that should be ridden. In other words an infant who is 10 days to 3 weeks of age will begin his first growth spurt and instead of nursing 8 time per day will nurse 11-12 times per day. If you are exclusively pumping, you should increase your pumping sessions to match this for 5 days in a row every time a growth spurt would naturally occur in your baby. The normal times for growth spurts are 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months.
A good latch or a good fitting breast flange is essential to your milk supply.
When feeding your baby, you need to consider not only how often, but how well your baby is feeding. Your baby should have flanged lips and at least an inch of the areola drawn into his mouth in order to effective drain the breasts. Breasts that are not drained fully, do not produce as much breast milk because your body thinks you have left milk there because it is not needed. The same goes with your breast pump flange. If you do not have a breast flange that is fitted well enough to draw in the nipple, but also a portion of the areola, your milk supply will suffer.
Offer both breasts at a feeding.
The same is true of how you manage your feedings. Many moms will start out with an overabundant milk supply and because the baby is satisfied with only one breast, just leave it at that. Milk supply ebbs and flows so it is very important to offer both breasts at a feeding for the sake of your future milk supply. Babies may become snack nursers and cease to drain the breast properly if you don’t offer the second breast. It is fine for them to feed for a shorter period of time on the second breast, but offering it keeps them in the habit for when your milk supply regulates (after 6-8 weeks) and both breasts are needed to fully accomplish a feed. For moms who are pumping, make sure you are double pumping with a good breast pump from a reputable company like Spectra or Ameda and that you pump for a full 10-15 minutes of double pumping to fully empty the breasts.
Don’t overuse pacifiers.
While pacifiers have their time and place, using them too often can actually hinder your baby from non-nutritive sucking at the breast. This non-nutritive sucking which usually occurs when they are falling asleep is essential for milk supply because of the oxytocin hormone that is produces during this time.
Nourish your body.
While drinking water does not make breastmilk, a dehydrated mother won’t produce as much breastmilk. Drinking to thirst and eating healthy helps your body perform optimally which includes producing more milk. While there are foods that are know galactagogues, it is hard to measure the intake needed of these milk increasing foods like oatmeal, etc. They should be a part of your diet and snacks and drinks that are formulated with them for nursing mothers like lactation cookies and lactation tea, are a great go to for a snack or fluid intake. For increasing milk supply with galactagogues, however an encapsulated herb with appropriate dosage is easily measured and moms see an effective increase in milk production when using them. One brand we recommend often is Legendairy Milk. Legendairy offers herbal combinations tailored to specific needs and once that combination is identified, these capsules work quickly for most mothers.
Protect your milk supply.
Especially when a holiday or change occurs in your normal day to day or when your baby starts solid foods, it is important to protect your milk supply. Don’t allow a change in schedule, to keep you from nursing or pumping. Infants under 6 months of age need to be fed at least eight times per day and over 6 months if they have started solid foods, at least five times per day. Life happens, so if your regular timing (I hesitate to say schedule because if the baby want to eat early, you should nurse.) is disrupted, make up for it. For example, a normal feeding or pumping session that would have occurred was missed or delayed so the next two feeding should be closer together so that at the end of the day, the same number of times the breasts were stimulated for milk products was achieved.
Also, protect your milk supply by not offering solids before your baby is sitting up unassisted. This usually occurs at about six months. Not only will it help your milk supply long term to nurse exclusively for longer, but your baby will have the benefit of lower incidence of allergies. You will also have an easier time feeding solids as infant loose their tongue thrust reflex at the same time as they learn to sit up. Once solids have been introduced, it is also important to nurse first. Always nurse before giving solids as breastmilk is the main source of nutrition for an infant under one year and the solids are a complement. This also keeps green beans off your breast:)
Enjoy your baby at the breast and the satisfaction of pumping when you are providing the precious gift of liquid gold to your baby. It is also one of the few times, you get to sit down as a mom:)
Wishing you a healthy milk supply!
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 2, Retired IBCLC, Owner of Lactation Connection since 1993