One of the most common questions I get…
How can I increase my milk supply? And the answer is not complicated but often not what most women want to hear; put the baby to the breast. I get it, you’re exhausted, and you feel like that’s all you do all day every day anyway. But here are a few good concepts to think about.
1.) Supply and demand. Your body will only supply as much as your baby demands. So, nurse frequently but effectively. This could look like every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night. It might not be “time” to feed if you run on a specific schedule but if baby is cueing, take the opportunity to tell your body to make more milk by offering a feeding. And don’t skip those night feedings. A productive time for your body is between 1:00 am and 5:00 am, so make sure you are putting that order in.
2.) Check the latch. If baby isn’t effectively transferring milk, then they are most likely not emptying the breast. This tells your body “I’m making the right amount, she even still has extra for baby.” An ineffective latch is common and a few signs include, painful nipples, bleeding, or pinched nipples when baby comes off. There are many more things that can make up a poor latch, so make sure you seek out a lactation consultant if you think this is playing a role. If it’s going to be a few days before you can see someone, consider pumping after feeds to maintain the supply that you do have and are able to still exclusively feed breastmilk if baby is unable to transfer enough to meet her needs.
3.) Give it enough time. Make sure you allow baby enough time (between 10-15 minutes) to fully empty one side before switching to the next. If your baby falls asleep or is disengaged before your breasts are empty, consider pumping afterward to fully empty your breasts. Spend as much time as you can skin to skin before, after, and in between feeds.
4.) Take care of YOU. The demand on you is high right now. And that can leave you feeling stressed or low. Be sure and sleep in those precious pockets that you can. Take a bath. Relax. Exercise if you have been approved. Focus on eating nutrient-dense, whole foods. Drink fluids until satisfaction but don’t force liquids after that. Consider pumping and skipping a feeding to grab dinner with a friend that recharges you.
5.) Skip the supplementation. Don’t give your baby formula, water, juice, or solids before 6 months of age. This will diminish that appetite for breastmilk, and in return leave your breasts with plenty of milk unremoved. Avoid giving breastmilk with a bottle. We want all the stimulation to be on your breasts, telling your body to increase the milk supply, rather than on the bottle nipple.
6.) Add a galactagogue. This is an herb or a prescription that can aid in increasing milk supply. I would suggest going the herb route first, as those are easily accessible at your local drug store or Target. A few common ones are fenugreek, blessed thistle, and mother’s milk tea. Be sure and take the appropriate amount listed on the back of the bottle. Although not scientifically proven, some women swear by eating oatmeal!
7.) Is it really a low milk supply? This is a good question to ask yourself. Many women are under the impression (for various reasons) that they have a low milk supply, but in reality, they do not. If your baby is gaining weight appropriately on your breastmilk only, you’re doing just fine!