I love breastfeeding. It’s not only the optimal food for baby but it’s wonderful for mama. I’ve previously written about some surprising breastfeeding benefits, and also shared tips that made breastfeeding easier for me.
But what happens when you can’t produce enough milk for baby? In this post, I’ll share 10 tips that will tell you how to increase milk supply naturally.
When we aren’t producing enough breast milk, our first inclination is to panic, but that’s the last thing we want to do. Stress can deplete milk supply more than anything else. (Here are some surprising ways to reduce your stress levels.) Breathe deep and remember that everything will be OK. Focus on what we can do to help increase our supply, which many women have been able to do successfully without resorting to drugs or formula. (And we don’t feel bad or mama guilt if we try everything we can and have to supplement. I’ll have some healthy options at the end of this post.)
Here are 10 tips that will help you increase milk supply naturally
Increase milk supply tip #1: Nurse, nurse, nurse…
There is nothing that can increase your supply like your baby’s suckling. You see, breast milk creation is all about supply and demand, and it’s a tightly regulated system. Don’t worry if your breasts don’t feel full or think baby isn’t getting much milk, the sucking reflex will help stimulate more milk over the long run. So, anytime you can, bring your baby to the breast and let him nurse, nurse, nurse.
Increase milk supply tip #2: Nurse skin-to-skin
When you do nurse, go skin-to-skin. Take off your shirt and bra and keep baby in just a diaper. Wrap a blanket around the two of you and nurse away. This practice is not only incredibly bonding for mama and baby, it also helps release more of the hormones that produce milk as well as the milk ejector hormones. Continue this practice during nap time, bedtime, and throughout night.
Increase milk supply tip #3: Put no time limit to nursing sessions
If you are struggling with supply, it’s best not to schedule feedings or limit how much time baby is on each breast. Try to give baby both breasts during each feeding for more overall production. Consider even taking a “nursing vacation” where you spend the weekend in bed with baby and nurse as much as possible.
Increase milk supply tip #4: Don’t use pacifiers, bottles or food
These not only satisfy the oral stimulation but can reduce hunger, making the baby less likely to nurse. Talk to your doctor but it’s best to only limit solid food if your baby is less than 6 months and he/she is at a healthy weight.
Increase milk supply tip #5: Get enough sleep and stay relaxed
Easier said than done with a newborn but try as best you can. Studies show that mothers produce more milk and have a better milk letdown when they are calm and relax. Nap when baby naps. If you can get a babysitter, neighbor or family member to help out. Cancel or eliminate too many outside activities and keep things simple. Order takeout or better yet have friends or hubby cook you homemade meals in bulk for easy access to nutritious food. Listen to tranquil music, think of flowing streams and trust that you can and will successfully nurse your baby.
Increase milk supply tip #6: Watch your diet
Be sure to drink a lot of liquids. I know we hear this all the time but it really does makes a difference. Shoot for at least 12 – 8 oz. glasses a day or drink to thirst. For nutrition, many moms have boosted supply by eating galactagogues like oatmeal, barley, millet and quinoa as well as spices like fennel, ginger and turmeric. Brewer’s yeast, flaxseed, almonds, and sesame seeds can boost your supply. Try my delicious cookies that contains many of these pro-milk foods! Of course, Mother’s Milk tea, the herb fenugreek, and moringa powder are very effective in increasing milk supply. Be sure you are eating enough to keep up with the demands of nursing. For exclusive breastfeeding, you are going to need at least 500 calories more a day.
Increase milk supply tip #7: Pump in-between nursings
Pumping can be a great short-term way to keep your breast stimulated and produce more milk. I know from experience that consistent pumping really works! You can do right after a feeding until all of your milk drains from both breasts and then continue for 5 additional minutes. If there is no milk from the beginning, just keep pumping as the stimulation will still help. Aim for 10 minutes for each breast. As an FYI, milk production tends to be highest between the hours of 2-5 a.m. (I plan on asking God about why this is one day 🙂 ) so you may want to set an alarm and pump during this time as well.
Increase milk supply tip #8: Take some helpful supplements
Fenugreek is one of the most popular herbal supplements to boost supply. Brewer’s yeast is another great supplement as are green powders, calcium and bentonite clay due to their calcium and alkalinizing effects. Blessed thistle and alfalfa are natural milk boosters and some say work best in conjunction with fenugreek. As a very last resort, you can talk to your doctor about prescription medication to boost supply.
Increase milk supply tip #9: Make sure latch is right
Obviously, if your baby can’t efficiently drain the breast, you may have problems with supply since the breast isn’t stimulated enough. It can be a simple as correcting a bad latch or addressing any anatomical issues that are preventing a good latch from a baby being lip tied, tongue tied or mama having inverted nipples. The good news is most of these issues can be corrected and baby and mom can be breastfeed successfully. If you’re having any issues in this department, it’s best to see a lactation consultant or seek out your local La Leche League chapter.
Increase milk supply tip #10: Switch breasts or double feed
For a sleepy baby that falls asleep before they reach the second breast, stop her a few minutes into nursing and switch her to the other side. By doing so, you have a good shot at keeping her awake to feed more. Keep switching back and forth when you notice her starting to dose off until breasts are drained. You can double feed which is to nurse, take a break by burping baby, and then place her back on for another feed at both breasts. By taking the burping break, you are releasing gas bubbles in her stomach that allow more room for milk.
Need breastfeeding help?
I hope these 10 tips help you!
Hopefully, these 10 tips will help you increase breast milk supply naturally and you’ll be back in the swing of things in no time.
If you’re still struggling with supply after a few weeks, I’d highly recommend finding a milk donor if you can. Here’s a great resource for more information.
If you need to go with formula, I would recommend the Nourishing Traditions homemade version.
For those that are adopting, you may be able to breastfeed. Check out kellymom.com for more information on relactation and adoptive breastfeeding.
How about YOU? Did you struggle with supply? What helped you increase milk supply?