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If you’re here, you’re probably wondering how to increase breastmilk supply. And while that can be a legitimate question and problem, most of the time it actually isn’t.
That’s why guest author Melanie O’Reilly Rogers, a lactation professional, is writing this article for you. This is going to be like one of those “annoying,” well-meaning moms in a mom group who asks you to address the issue from another angle: figuring out whether you actually need to increase your milk supply, and looking at the difference between anecdotal advice and evidence-based ways of doing so. So, a helpful angle, we promise!
In this article, Melanie will:
- Address common signs mamas THINK mean that their supply is low;
- Give the 2 actual signs that mean milk supply is low;
- Talk about other reasons you might want to increase your supply; and
- Give you 3 great ways to increase your milk supply naturally.
Do you need to increase your breastmilk supply?
Let’s take a look at the common signs that people THINK mean their supply is low:
- Fussy baby: Babies are generally fussy in the beginning. They’re still figuring out life! It doesn’t mean that baby is hungry.
- Baby “chugs” a bottle after a nursing session: Typically, a baby will drink a bottle if it is offered. It’s important that you pace feed bottles to avoid babies “chugging.”
- Low pump output: The pump is not your baby. What you pump is not indicative of what baby is getting, and can also vary greatly depending on your pump! Everyone will respond differently to each kind of pump, and it’s important to make sure you’re using it correctly. A lactation consultant can definitely help with that.
These are not signs that your supply is low.
Here are the 2 things you should look for to tell if your supply is enough:
- 6+ wet diapers in 24 hours
- Appropriate weight gain and not weight loss
I know breastfeeding can feel overwhelming, but in terms of supply, this really is what matters. And the great thing is that these are two very simple things to watch.
In addition to these 2 things, pay attention to baby’s hunger cues (rooting, putting things in their mouth, restlessness, etc) Check out this post for a more in-depth explanation: Is my baby getting enough milk?
What To Do If Your Milk Supply is Good But Baby is Not Getting Enough Milk
While many moms want to know how to increase breastmilk supply because their milk supply is low, there are a number of reasons you might think your supply is low when it actually isn’t.
In other words, even if you’re producing enough milk, your baby might not be getting enough milk, for a few of the following reasons.
- Baby’s latch: If your baby has a poor latch (due to being lazy, extra tired from jaundice, lip or tongue ties, or a newborn recessed chin), then you are not being “emptied” efficiently. A lactation consultant can help you with this!
- Not feeding enough: If you are not latching baby enough or are not pumping enough (if you are an exclusive pumper).
Improving baby’s latch with the help of a certified lactation consultant can make a huge difference in milk production, as well as in the ease of feeding. Feeding more often will also allow your body to get better in tune with baby, if your baby is producing hunger cues that you haven’t been following.
And we get it–reading hunger cues and following them can be hard. Remember, mama, you’re learning here.
Why would you need to increase your breastmilk supply?
There are a number of reasons to work on increasing your milk supply.
One, obviously, is that you don’t produce enough milk to feed your baby. Looking at the issues we discussed above can help determine if this is you.
Another is to fill as many bottles you can as a pumping mom. Babies can be overfed via a bottle very easily. That’s what I recommend you practice pace feeding your baby.
Finally, many mamas want to increase their milk supply to build up a milk stash: Mamas, I get it. You want a stash for nights out and just a dang break.
If you’re going back to work, remember that you only need enough for a day or 2 and what baby is eating now is what you’ll be pumping when you’re away!
To create a stash, build in one pumping session before the baby’s longest stretch of sleep. This will also help if you’re wanting your husband to help with breastfeeding. More than that could lead to oversupply, which trust me (and keep reading), is not the dream.
How to Increase Breastmilk Supply
Once you’ve figured out that yes, increasing supply is necessary, you will probably find lots of information on ways to increase breastmilk supply.
There’s a reason that a common Google search is “What foods help produce breast milk?” Nursing mothers want the answers to these questions!
Foods or herbs to increase breastmilk that you’ll likely find include:
- Brewer’s yeast
- And more
You’ll also read about certain drinks that supposedly increase milk supply:
- Coconut water
- Extra electrolytes
- Mother’s milk tea
Most of these are circumstantial. Food and drinks do not make breastmilk.
The only tried and true way to make breastmilk is by removing milk from your breasts. It is a supply and demand system.
Relying on these herbs, foods, and drinks can create a false sense of security and make moms not put in the actual work to increase breastmilk supply.
The work is what it takes to make more milk naturally.
How can I increase my breast milk supply naturally?
Since naturally, which I’m interpreting as meaning the way your body intended, means pulling more milk from your breasts, you have to expel more milk in order to increase your milk supply.
Here are my top 3 tips for increasing your milk supply.
1. Power Pump
Add a power pumping session or 2 to your day. Power pumping mimics a cluster feeding baby and tells your body that you need more milk.
To power pump, pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes.
People often ask, “How can I increase my milk supply quickly?” Power pumping, just like any other reliable method, isn’t going to yield more milk right away. But it is going to tell your body that you need more milk, so your body will start producing it. For some people it takes 2 days, for some people it can take 2 weeks. Consistency and persistence is key here!
If you’re power-pumping, it’s important to make sure your pump parts are working correctly and you’re pumping correctly with your modes on your pump. You should be starting with short, quick sucks to mimic your baby. Then, when you get a letdown, switch to the long, deep sucks. When your milk stops flowing, switch back to the short, quick sucks and repeat.
2. Latch, latch, latch
Some moms suggest going on a “nursing vacation.”
This means you lock yourself in your room with your baby for a day or 2 and just keep baby latched and engage in a lot of skin to skin contact. Skin to skin and frequent latching is known to help with milk supply because it produces oxytocin- as I’ve said, it’s a supply and demand system.
Make sure you are staying hydrated and eating enough calories. You have to take care of yourself to take care of your baby! Every person is different so I’m not going to give you a guideline on how much water to drink or calories to consume – if you’re hungry, eat. If you’re thirsty, drink!
Also, keep in mind that, if you do not need to increase your breastmilk supply but try to anyway by pumping more than baby eats, you can create an oversupply.
Trust me, having a breast milk oversupply is not as glorious as it sounds! You’re more prone to mastitis and clogged ducts, and you are a slave to the pump!
Above all, if you are scared and not sure about your breastmilk supply, please see a lactation professional. It is their job to walk us through these troubles and help us work through them!
What questions do you have about your body’s breastmilk supply? Let us know in the comments below!
Melanie O’Reilly-Rogers is deep into the training to become a breastfeeding counselor. She blogs at mostlyundercontrol.com about breastfeeding, twin parenting, early childhood activities at home, meal planning, and just general parenting chaos. She’s a simple mom who is pretty easy to please. In her spare time (i.e. when the kids go to bed), she can be found on her couch eating lots of ice cream with no guilt and watching too much TV with her husband.
Other Breastfeeding Articles
- Breast milk oversupply
- Dairy free breastfeeding
- Exclusively pumping tips
- How to choose a breast pump
- The best nursing pajamas
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.