I had issues with milk supply with both my girls. I know how frustrating and stressful it can be when you are nursing around the clock and your baby is still hungry. I researched relentlessly and tried everything I could to boost my supply. If you are struggling to increase your supply, or you just want a boost so you can add to your freezer stash, then this blog post is for you!
How To Know Your Milk Supply Is Low
A lot of moms worry about their supply when their baby is nursing frequently. This can be normal if it is from a growth spurt. When your baby is growing, they need more milk and the extra nursing sessions work to increase your supply. If your baby is nursing frequently and it is lasting for more than a few days, check out my recent blog post “Why does my baby nurse ALL the time?” to find out why they may be nursing so often.
A baby that is gaining weight and having adequate wet and soiled diapers is probably getting enough milk. Signs your baby is not getting enough milk are crying at the breast or right after a feed, clenched hands while feeding, limited weight gain, and less wet diapers.
You should see your paediatrician whenever you suspect low milk supply, but if your baby is not waking for feeds, has lost weight or hasn’t had a wet diaper in over 6 hours, you need to take your baby in right away. Once your pediatrician has ensured your baby is healthy and that there are no physical issues preventing them from feeding properly, you are safe to start increasing your supply.
Why Do You Have Low Milk Supply
Sometimes milk supply dips because your baby has started sleeping longer stretches. When you are a sleep deprived new mom it can be really tough to add a pumping session when baby FINALLY starts sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. Unfortunately, long stretches without nursing or pumping can really cause a decrease in milk production. Try adding a pumping session right before you go to bed if this is your issue.
Other common culprits are supplementing with a bottle, a recent illness, or medications that decrease milk production. Sometimes the issues can be more complex. If you suspect your baby has a poor latch or you have an underlying medical issue such as PCOS, hypertension, Type 1 diabetes, or your breasts didn’t grow at all during pregnancy, you should see a lactation consultant for assistance.
Tips To Increase Milk Supply
Now that we have ruled out any serious complications lets get to how to increase your milk supply!!
Feed your baby often. Offer a nursing session 8-12 times a day. Frequent nursing will signal your body to produce more milk. Find a Netflix series to binge watch and nurse as much as possible for the next few days.
Feed off both breasts and don’t time your feedings. Watch your babe instead. They should be taking big sucks, you will notice jaw movement and pauses for swallows. If babe starts flutter sucking, try breast compression to perk them up.
Pump Pump Pump It Up
Make sure you have an effective pump and start pumping after every feed. Pump for ten minutes, each breast, after every feed. This is for extra stimulation, so don’t panic when you don’t get much milk. It will signal your body that the demand is greater than supply and to ramp up production.
Try having a hot shower or using a warm washcloth on your breasts for 10 minutes prior to nursing. Then massage your breast prior to putting babe on. The warm compress and massage will stimulate a faster let down. This was my favorite, warm shower ….massage… heck yes!!!
Avoid Medications and Supplements That Are Hurting Your Supply
Just like that old PSA, “Drugs, Drugs, Drugs… Which are Good? Which are Bad?”, some medications and supplements are just plain old bad for milk supply. Spearmint, Sage, Peppermint, the Birth Control Pill, and any cold medications containing Pseudoephedrine should be avoided. This is not an exhaustive list, so if you aren’t sure a medication is safe, check with your pharmacist as they are the most reliable resource.
Soothers and Supplementation
Some babies love their soother. My first daughter could not get enough of the soother, but when you are trying to increase your supply it is best to limit the soother and let your baby do any extra sucking on you. The more breast stimulation, the more it will signal your body to ramp up production.
Supplementation with a bottle is a tough one for some moms. If you don’t have enough milk shouldn’t you be giving your baby a bottle? If your pediatrician has deemed your baby healthy and they are having normal wet diapers, I would recommend not to supplement. Babies love to suck. If you offer them a bottle they will probably drink it whether they are hungry or not, which will decrease the amount they want to nurse. If your baby is nursing less and your breasts aren’t being emptied as often, you will produce less milk, further compounding your problem.
You may have heard the story of a pretty famous guy turning water into wine. Well you, you miracle worker, are turning water into milk. But you can’t make something out of nothing. Breastmilk is 88% water, so if your body doesn’t have enough water that will result in less milk. So drink up!
Galacta-what?! A galactagogue is a food or drug that promotes or increases milk supply. I ate oatmeal every morning when I was trying to increase my supply and I swear it made a difference. I also ate Booby Boons Lactation Cookies by the bag full as they are delicious. They contain nutritional yeast, oats and flax which are all known galactagogues. You could make your own lactation cookies, but I honestly didn’t have the energy when I was nursing around the clock and trying to increase my supply. Another plus is my husband never stole them because he thought they would cause him to produce milk, haha. Below is a list of other galactagogues to add to your diet.
Millet Almonds Papaya Brown Rice Ginger Tumeric Beets
Fennel Apricots Salmon Cashews Carrots Macademia Nuts
Fenugreek Chickpeas Asparagus Spinach Oatmeal Cow’s Milk
Garlic Beets Barley Flax Seeds Spirulina Sweet Potato/Yams
Traditional and Brewer’s Yeast
I know, I know, what new mom has time for self care. You are nursing, pumping, and trying to get a handle on the massive amount of laundry this one tiny human surprisingly produces. But it is SO important. Stress affects the body negatively. If you are overtired and stressed out you will not be able to produce milk as well as if you are rested. Leave the laundry, tell visitors to reschedule, take that nap, have a bath and ask for help. I don’t know a person alive who would refuse a new mom help. Only you can nurse your baby.
I hope these tips help you. I did this for 3 days and my supply definitely increased. I was able to nurse my first daughter until 1 year without any supplementation and my second is still nursing and thriving.
If you have any questions or need support in any way, contact me, I would love to help you!
Take Care Mama’s!
Robin Forslund, RN, Lactation Counselor