How to increase breast milk supply

As you’ve probably realized by now, breastfeeding is hard work. And the pay is appalling! The manager (your baby) makes you work your boobs off round-the-clock, and their performance is under constant scrutiny, too, leaving you to wonder if they’re even producing enough breast milk.

If your baby is growing and putting on weight at a healthy rate, you’re most likely fine. But if you’re unsure, you may benefit from calling in an external consultant. A Lactation Consultant, that is.

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Susie Prout says, “The GOLD standard for increasing milk supply is seeing a Lactation Consultant”. They can help you identify any issues with your breastfeeding technique or your baby’s latch before your supply even comes into question.

To cover off all bases, you might also like to look into what increases breast milk supply, besides a good breastfeeding practice. For example, what foods increase breast milk, what to drink to increase breast milk, how to pump to increase breast milk, or what medications are available to help boost your supply.

That’s what this article is here for, mama! So grab yourself some tasty breastfeeding snacks and read on.

How do you know if your milk supply is low? 

Don’t start slamming lactation cookies just because your boobs don’t feel full, or your baby isn’t feeding as often as usual. Susie says, “The best and most reliable way to tell that your baby is getting enough breast milk is through weighing them, and your health professional plotting their weight on the growth curve.” 

Some good signs your baby is getting enough milk according to The Australian Breastfeeding Association include:

  • Five to six wet nappies in 24 hours.
  • Good skin color and muscle tone.
  • Your baby being alert, reasonably contented and not wanting to feed constantly (although, let’s be honest, hangry newborns are known to cluster feed and have general periods of fussiness).
  • Weight gain and growth.

What causes low milk supply?

This is rare! Susie explains, “There are a couple of medical reasons why some women can’t make enough milk for their baby.”

For example:

  • Excessive blood loss during birth.
  • Hormonal disorders.
  • Mammary hypoplasia, a really rare condition in which there isn’t enough milk-producing glandular tissue within the breast.
  • Previous breast trauma (like surgery).

A Lactation Consultant can work with you if you do have a medical condition like this, and may offer personalized recommendations on how to increase breast milk supply. 

A few other factors could contribute to a low breast milk supply, too:

If your milk supply is lower than ideal, thankfully there are some things you can try to bring it back up.

What increases breast milk supply? 

Emptying your breasts

Milk works on a supply = demand basis, so the more you produce (whether by pumping or breastfeeding) the more your body will make. As if you didn’t already feel enough like a milk factory!

Try offering your baby feeds more frequently (use a nipple shield if your nipples can’t hack it), or pumping in between feeds. Even if nothing comes out, the breast stimulation can trigger your body into making more milk anyway. 

If you do manage to pump excess breast milk, save it. The benefits of breast milk are too great to waste a single drop! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers handy tips for storing breast milk.

Perfecting your breastfeeding technique

You and your baby will get better at breastfeeding over time as your confidence grows. Try different breastfeeding positions, nut out any latching problems, and work with your Lactation Consultant to nail this part of the process. 

(Psst! Investing in comfy breastfeeding clothing could help you relax a bit more.)

Medication or herbal remedies might help

Lactation products like cookies and teas contain galactagogues (supplements to increase breast milk) and they might help boost your supply. But Susie notes that “no large controlled studies have been done” to confirm their effectiveness. Women have been using home remedies to increase breast milk based on galactagogues for centuries, and many swear by them.

Your doctor might prescribe medication to help boost your milk supply, but this should be paired with support from a lactation specialist to breastfeed effectively.

How to increase breast milk naturally at home

  • Look into what foods increase breast milk – The American Pregnancy Association suggests:
    • Fenugreek
    • Blessed Thistle
    • Sesame seeds
    • Alfalfa
    • Goat’s Rue
    • Oatmeal
    • Vegetables/Leafy greens

  • Breastfeed more often – Every two to three hours is typical for newborns. (Seems outrageous, but it’s not for too long!)

  • Believe in yourself – Try adopting some affirmations, or get advice from your Lactation Consultant to boost your confidence.

  • Stay hydrated – Breast milk is 90% water, and if you’re parting with a liter or so per day, you’ll need to make it up!

When should you get help?

If you’re concerned at all about your milk supply, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a Lactation Consultant. They can help you work through issues with positions, latch, supply and more. (Wizards!)

And if you’re ever concerned about your baby’s growth, see your doctor as soon as possible. There might be something else going on, so it’s worth getting checked out.

Remember, it’s absolutely not your fault if you experience breast milk supply problems. If your medical team suggests supplementing with formula, this is probably the best thing to do. Whether you breastfeed, formula feed, mix-feed or look into breast milk donation options, you’re a wonderful mom.

Read next: Breastfeeding supplements: Do they actually work?

Australian Breastfeeding Association, Increasing supply

Australian Breastfeeding Association, Exclusive expressing

Medela, Too little breast milk? How to increase low milk supply

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk

American Pregnancy Association, Do I Have a Low Milk Supply?

Medela, Lactation Supplements and How They Work

Verywell Family, Naturally Increasing Your Breast Milk Supply

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