Having low breast milk supply can be frustrating, disheartening, upsetting, and leave you feeling helpless. Because breastfeeding is “natural,” most moms never imagine that they will suffer from low milk supply.
So what happens when your breast milk decreases and you need a boost to your supply? How do you go about pumping more breast milk or being sure your baby is satisfied after each feeding? And how do you do that without getting a prescription from your doctor?
Not only is increasing your supply possible but it can be done fairly quickly!
20 Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply
(Please Note: These suggestions pertain to a healthy, full-term infant and healthy mom. I am not a doctor and do not profess to be one. A sick or preemie baby should always be fed according to how a doctor directs and any health or growth issues should be discussed with your doctor.)
1 – Nurse on Demand
This is by far one of the best things you can do to not only increase your milk supply but also to maintain a healthy supply. Let your baby eat on demand.
Offer the breast often, even if it just for comfort. Any suckling at the breast will promote milk production. Don’t get caught up in the timed feeds!
2 – Do Lots of Skin-to-Skin
Skin-to-Skin holding of your infant promotes your body to increase levels of prolactin, which is the hormone responsible for helping your body produce milk. It is also a great way to calm a fussy baby and help you both relax.
Skin-to-Skin has many other benefits from warming your baby to regulating sugar levels. Read more about Skin-to-Skin here.
3 – Do a Nurse-In
Along the same lines as Skin-to-Skin, doing a nurse-in is a great way to increase your milk supply. The idea is to spend a few days laying bed with your baby, skin-to-skin doing nothing but cuddling and nursing.
Moms can see a significant increase in their milk supply using this method. It isn’t always easy to find the time, especially if you are a working mom, but you can easily do it over a weekend.
4- Avoid Pacifiers and Bottles
Breastfeeding, of course, is based on supply and demand. The more milk your baby demands from you, the more you will make. Part of breastfeeding an infant is ensuring they are at the breast frequently. Pacifiers can affect a baby’s latch and will greatly reduce the amount of time a baby spends nursing.
Bottles also require a different suck than the breast does. Your baby can actually start to prefer the bottle and the fast flow over the breast. Or they can start to have latching issues and have difficulty draining your breast causing your supply to drop.
It is better to hold off on using a bottle until your supply is well established if you can.
5 – Power Pump
The idea behind power pumping is to replicate when a baby cluster feeds. Emptying the breast quickly over a short period of time promotes more milk production. Start by setting an hour aside and pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10, pump for another 10 minutes, rest for 10, and pump again for 10 minutes.
You can do this once or twice a day and then pump regularly as you would the rest of the time. You will likely need to power pump over the course of 2-3 days before seeing an increase in milk.
6 – Double Pump
Pumping both breasts at the same time has been shown in research to result in additional milk letdowns and produce more milk than single pumping. The fat content is also higher when moms double pump. So not only will pumping be faster but you will pump fattier milk and more of it!
If you plan to be pumping for any length of time, investing in a good double pump is worth it. Read more about the benefits of double pumping here.
7 – Use a Hospital Grade Pump
While the term “hospital grade” technically means that a pump can be used by multiple users since it is a closed system, most brands reserve this term for their best, strongest pumps. You will find the pump strength of most hospital grade pumps to be quite superior to their regular counterparts.
If you are having major issues with your milk supply or have a preemie, you might be pointed to renting a hospital grade pump like the Medela Symphony. These monster pumps are quite efficient and very strong. It can make a big difference in moms who need that extra help.
8 – Ditch the Nipple Shield
Nipple shields, in general, should be used on a temporary basis and always under the guidance of a lactation consultant. Often times nipple shields are used without direction and can cause major issues. If a baby isn’t latched correctly, then they will not be able to pull out adequate milk.
The result of not emptying the breast efficiently can result in clogged milk ducts and mastitis in mom. If a baby is not nursing efficiently and emptying the breast, then your milk supply will drop. Unless you have been directed by a certified lactation consultant to use a nipple shield, then it is not advised to start using one.
They can cause more problems than its worth for the temporary nipple relief that most moms use them for.
9 – Give Baby Only Breastmilk
Before the age of one, breast milk should be your baby’s main source of nutrition. Breastfeeding your baby on demand and as often as they want, leads to a well-established supply.
Avoiding other sources will help maintain that supply and help avoid early weaning.
Babies under 6-months should only be given breastmilk. Once your baby is over 6 months you can nurse and offer solids starting once a day.
Be sure that you nurse your baby before feeding any solids (recommendation is to wait around an hour after nursing to offer food). This ensures that your baby gets their main source of nutrition from breastmilk.
Watch baby’s cues for when they have had enough (closing mouth, turning head, spitting food out) as anything beyond that will be overfeeding. If you are offering too much solid food or feeding solids before breastfeeding sessions, your baby will fill up and nurse less. Your supply will drop and will likely lead to early weaning.
10 – Do not Supplement
Unless directed by a doctor or lactation consultant, supplementing with formula can lead to low milk supply. Breastfeeding is supply and demand, so if you are replacing a feed with a bottle of formula, your milk supply will continue to drop.
If supplementing is necessary, then nursing your baby first and then offering a bottle while you pump is the best practice. Or try a supplemental feeding system to feed your baby while they are latched.
11 – Avoid Giving Your Baby Water
Exclusively breastfed babies do not need water, even on a hot day. Breast milk is comprised of 88% water so even when it is hot outside, breastfeeding is more than enough to keep your baby hydrated. Water can actually do more harm than good.
It can fill babies up so they nurse less which leads to less caloric intake and can cause weight gain issues in the baby and low milk supply in the mom. Avoid water, especially in young babies.
12 – Use a Warm Compress
The heat from a warm compress will stimulate blood flow to your breasts. The opening of these blood vessels will allow the milk to flow more freely from the breast tissue to your nipple. A warm washcloth being held to your breast for a few minutes or a warm shower should do the trick. Feed your baby immediately afterward or pump.
13 – Massage Your Breasts
Massaging your breast before and while breastfeeding or pumping can help promote a stronger milk letdown and keep the blood flowing to your breasts. As explained above, increased blood flow helps the milk flow better. Start at your armpit, using the opposite hand and using your fingertips, massage your breast in a circular motion slowly making your way toward your nipple.
Continue this motion around your entire breast working from the top of your breast down to your nipple each time. The pressure doesn’t have to be strong.
14 – Eat Milk Boosting Foods
Foods like oatmeal, omega-3 rich salmon, nuts, etc have been shown to help increase a moms supply. Add a hot bowl of oatmeal to your daily morning routine or some granola on your yogurt. It’s a simple way to naturally promote an increase in your supply!
15 – Drink Lots of Water
Well, not too much. Lactating moms may feel more thirsty and since 88% of breast milk is water, it is to be expected that we need to drink more.
Make sure you are getting a healthy amount of water each day to help maintain a healthy supply but don’t overdo it. Gorging yourself on water has not been proven to increase your milk supply. You should drink until your thirst is satisfied.
16 – lactation supplements
Foods, herbs, actions, or medication that help lactation in mothers are known as a galactagogue. Galactagogue is a combination of the Greek terms “galact-” meaning milk, and “-ogogue” meaning leading to or promoting.
One of the more popular ways to take galactagogues is through supplements in the form of pills or teas. Herbs like fenugreek, fennel, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, etc are all common herbs you will find in lactation supplements in some combination. The most popular being fenugreek.
Do they actually work? Well, considering they have been used by civilizations for hundreds of years to promote milk production, the answer would be a resounding, yes! MotherLove More Milk Special Blend is one that I have had a lot of success within the past if you want to check that one out.
17 – Lactation Cookies
Yes, I said ‘cookies.’ Lactation cookies are a great way to have a filling snack and get a boost in your milk supply. Most lactation cookies use oatmeal as their “milk producing ingredient” but I found more success with the ones that contain Brewers Yeast. You can actually buy pre-made lactation cookies which are by far my favorite way to do it!
Or you can make them yourself! There are tons of recipes on Pinterest (like these). One suggestion if you do make your own, be sure you buy Debittered Brewers Yeast. Otherwise, you will end up with a very bitter aftertaste. You’re welcome.
18 – Use Essential Oils
The use of essential oils has become very popular. There are a few essential oils that can help promote milk production. Look for Basil, Clary Sage, Geranium or Fennel essential oils. Before using essential oils, however, be sure you have done your homework on proper use (including talking to your doctor if needed).
19 – Eat a Balanced Diet
Though eating foods that help promote a healthy milk supply is a way to make more milk, you need to also ensure that your overall diet is balanced and healthy. It takes a lot of nutrients to make milk for your baby and your body will continue to deplete your vitamin levels for your baby.
So it is important to replenish that. It has also been shown that moms who are deficient in certain vitamins can have a lower milk supply. So focus on eating small nutritious meals throughout the day.
20 – Get Some Rest/Take Care of Yourself
While getting sleep with a new baby might sound impossible, it is important to do your best to get some rest. Sleep when your baby sleeps. If that isn’t possible, power naps can do wonders (20-minute nap).
Eat. Don’t skip meals. Your energy and milk supply will tank. Take a hot bath. Relax. Give yourself a few minutes to recharge daily. Stress is a killer of a lot of things and milk supply can be one of them.
Self-care is a big part of maintaining a healthy milk supply. Taking care of yourself is essential to being the best you can be for your baby.
There you have it, 20 ways to increase breast milk supply!
What works for one mom may not work for another, however, so trying several things or a combination of things to increase your supply may be necessary.
Have some proven tips for increasing your milk supply? Drop a comment below and share them with us!