As soon as I fell pregnant with my first child I knew that without a doubt I wanted to breastfeed him.
I researched, watched videos, and went to classes.
While researching I came across many weird and wonderful ways that moms do to try and increase their breast milk supply fast.
However one of the biggest issues with breastfeeding is that you just don’t know how it’s going to work out until your baby arrives.
My partner and I did not want to give formula, so I wanted to see if there were ways that I could naturally increase my breast milk supply.
This post shares my experience, which can cause breast milk to decease and the practical tips that helped me increase my breast milk in a matter of days.
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Breastfeeding is definitely natural but far from easy.
Anything that can make breastfeeding easier and help you get on the right track from day one is definitely vital.
As a new mom – there is just SO much to know about breastfeeding a baby!
From my experience, it’s a great idea to prepare for breastfeeding by taking, simple and affordable online breastfeeding class.
I like the Milkology Course as it is run by a certified lactation educator, is video based, and comes with a troubleshooting guide – that’s important.
You can read my honest review of the online class here.
Why did I need to Increase my Breast Milk Supply?
I wanted to increase my breast milk for many reasons.
When my baby arrived he didn’t latch on properly for the first few weeks and lost weight, so I had decided to exclusively pump.
I also was due to return to work part-time so I wanted to pump and build a stash of breast milk for those days I had to be away from my baby because mama needs a day off too. Right?
My daughter also had a tongue tie and although I had plenty of milk, I had to exclusively pump for her while I waited for her surgery.
However, as time went on, I was putting her on the breast less (I will address this point later on) my milk supply began to drop.
I HAD to think of ways to increase my milk supply.
RELATED:HOW TO GET THE PERFECT LATCH
What Causes Low Milk Supply?
Making enough milk is a battle that many new mothers face.
I personally experienced it and had to take some extra measures to increase my milk production.
There are many things that can cause or contribute to a low milk supply:
RELATED: Do I have low milk supply?
Supplementing with Formula
Nursing is based on supply and demand.
Milk is produced as your baby nurses and the amount that he nurses lets your body know how much milk is required.
Every bottle of formula, juice or water that your baby gets means that your body gets the signal to produce that much less milk.
Preference for a bottle
When your baby drinks from a bottle it requires a different sucking technique than when they drink on the breast.
If you bottlefeed with your baby laying down, this could cause excess gas and spit-up.
A faster flow bottle could cause excess gas and spit-up also.
Slow flow premie nipples are adequate to use until 4- 6 weeks old. If your baby is unable to suck with slow flow, you may want to go to the level one nipple size.
Keep baby upright in head, neck, shoulder straight alignment to ensure optimal digestion.
It is easier for your baby to extract milk from a bottle than if they are drinking at the breast.
Related: Best Bassinet for Breastfeeding
Pacifiers can affect baby’s latch, they also require babies to use a different sucking motion that is required at the breast.
They can also significantly reduce the amount of time your baby spends at the breast, which may cause your milk supply to drop.
This can result in your baby to have problems sucking properly at the breast, or can result in baby preferring the feeding form a bottle as it is easier.
It is best not to introduce a bottle in the first 6 weeks until breastfeeding is established.
Some infants can change back and forth from breast to bottle, without confusion.
Other babies don’t do well with switching back and forth and prefer one feeding method over another.
6 weeks is a general rule. There are always options to bottle-feeding, such as cup feeding, tube to breastfeeding, etc.
See an IBCLC-lactation consultant for more help if breastfeeding issues arise and you don’t want to use a bottle.
Nipple shields can be a useful tool in some cases.
However, they can also reduce the stimulation to your nipple or interfere with milk transfer, which can interfere with the supply-demand cycle.
Putting baby on a schedule
Unlike formula feeding putting a baby on schedule when breastfeeding is not recommended.
Scheduled nursing will interfere with the natural supply and demand cycle of milk production.
You should nurse your baby whenever he is showing signs of hunger.
Building supply takes time. For some moms, it will take 12 hours. For others, it will take longer.
If you pump and breastfeed, pump after breastfeeding for 15 minutes with a double electric pump.
Continue to pump 1-3x/day in addition to breastfeeding. Another way to boost supply is to breastfeed on one side, and use a milk catcher on the other side.
The Haakkaa is my favorite. But there are others that can be placed into the bra, to catch milk drips while your infant feeds on the opposite side.
This is an excellent way to collect milk to store, and not use up breast pads. If mom strictly pumps, ensure you pump 8+ times/day, to stimulate the breasts adequately.
Power pumping is another great way to increase supply. Instead of pumping 15 min with a double electric pump, pump with a double electric pump 5 min on 5min off for 1 hour, in the AM and PM like 08 AM and 08 PM. Moms have found this to be beneficial to increase supply within 24-48 hours when other things have not worked.
One last item to help increase supply is hand expression. Moms who have done hand expression with breastfeeding and/or pumping have statistically increased their output 20% or more.
If you had a baby that graduated out of NICU, it is reasonable to believe that your baby will need to continue the scheduled feeds that were normal in the NICU setting.
Feeding on demand 8-12x/24* for the first 6 months of life is usually how often an infant will feed.
Sometimes feeds will be 1 hour apart, other times 3-4 hours apart. Babies can skip a night feed after 6 weeks of age.
That is when their brain is large enough to be able to go longer than 3-3.5 hours. Infants are unique individuals. They will eat, sleep and play as they need to. No two babies are the same in their ability to eat the same.
For the first few weeks, some babies are very sleepy like was the case with my son.
I would feed him when he woke up naturally, this would sometimes be a 4 or 5 hour stretch during the day.
As a new mom I was told not to wake a sleeping baby and that the would wake to nurse when he was hungry.
As a result, he lost a lot of weight and we ended up in the hospital.
Until your baby learns to wake up by himself to be nursed and breastfeeds well you may have to wake him to feed him.
You should nurse your baby at least every two hours during the day and at least every 3-4 hours at night to establish your milk supply.
Most pediatricians and medical providers do not know the difference between an acceptable latch and one that is not.
The best follow up care every mom needs is a visit with an IBCLC lactation consultant.
Excellent correct latch and feeding technique videos are online at www.drjanemorton.com, and www.stanfordbreastfeeding, as well as www.breastfeedinginc for information on credible lactation support.
Contraceptives containing Estrogen can lower milk supply.
The mini-pill doesn’t have estrogen and is often prescribed to breastfeeding mothers.
However, all women’s bodies can react differently to it and not all mothers who take contraceptives containing Estrogen will experience a low milk supply,
any type of birth control with any hormone replacement can decrease supply in as little as 24-48 hours.
Providers may not ask, nor would they know that a mom’s desire to breastfeed and her choice of contraception is not always discussed.
Providers are not trained on breastfeeding skills or things that could create a challenge for breastmilk supply.
Being aware of this concern prior to talking with your provider regarding contraception, can be empowering.
Have the provider lookup Dr. Hales Medication and Mother’s milk, or look up www.infantrisk.org for the most up to date acceptable medication with breastfeeding.
Estrogen can also cause your supply to tank even when your baby is older after milk supply is well established.
If you feel your pill could be affecting your supply, speak to your OB and let them know.
Alcohol could be affecting your milk supply.
First of all, it can get in the way of your let down reflex, thus causing less milk to leave your breast.
This could also lead to other issues, like a clogged duct or mastitis!
Secondly, it can also change the way your breast milk tastes to your baby, meaning they will feed less.
This sends the signal to your boobies that there is less demand, so make less milk.
Return of your period
Menstruation or ovulation can result in a temporary drop in milk supply.
You might also notice cyclical dips in milk supply before your period returns, as your body begins the return to fertility.
The drop in milk supply that is associated with your period can be associated with a drop in blood calcium levels which occurs in the middle of your menstrual cycle, around the time that you ovulate.
To combat this, you can take a calcium/magnesium supplement.
If you decide to try this, you should start taking the supplement when you ovulate generally about two weeks before you’re due for your period.
Another option, if you’re not up for tracking ovulation, is to just take it for the whole month.
Make sure that you buy the combination calcium/magnesium supplement, as that much calcium should never be taken alone.
Lack of sleep and stress
This is actually one of the largest causes of low milk supply.
Most moms are not skipping out on their sleep by choice.
It’s not easy during the first few weeks, but it’s very important that you get enough rest.
Take a nap when the baby takes a nap and try to breastfeed with your feet up or lying down.
Ask your partner, family, and friends for help with older children and chores.
They can also watch the baby for a little while so you can take a break and lie down.
Without sleep, the efficiency of breastfeeding hormones can become compromised and may lead to a decrease in a woman’s milk supply
The hormones that your body releases when you are stressed can have a negative effect on your breast milk supply.
Has there been a stressful event in your life, are things getting on top of you.
If so, it’s important to find a way to either solve the issues or unwind from them as stress can also decrease milk supply.
Tips to increase breast milk supply:
Increase Feeding Frequency
My son was a very sleepy and would not wake up for a feed. If your baby has been napping for more than two hours, wake him up.
Consider waking your baby for at least one extra night feeding, too, especially if you have a baby who sleeps for more than a four or five hour stretch at night.
Breastfeed your baby at least every two hours during the day to help with increasing milk supply.
One of the most powerful ways for increasing milk supply is to “take your baby to bed and nurse.”
This relaxes both you and your baby and stimulates longer and more frequent nursing.
It also increases your milk-producing hormones and reminds you that breastfeeding your baby is the most important thing you can do at this stage of your life together.
Research has also shown that the fat content in breast milk increases between 1am – 5am.
Cold actually inhibits let down, so if you have a hot shower before you nurse or pump you will be making the milk more available.
This will allow for better emptying of the breast, which will tell your body you need MORE milk.
You can also use a hot compress, wheat bag or hot water bottle.
Waiting for breasts to ‘fill up’
A myth is that after feeding your baby you breasts need to fill up. This is untrue as there is always milk in your breasts and more milk is made while you feed.
Studies have shown that fat levels in milk are higher when the time between feedings is shorter.
So even when your breasts may feel ‘empty’ and you nurse your baby soon after their last feed your baby is still getting liquid gold.
Pump one breast while nursing on the other
This takes a little practice to get the positioning just right, but the baby can enhance your let-down reflex.
Turn the pump on before you begin feeding.
Try pumping into milk-storage bags instead of a bottle.
The bag is lightweight, more flexible, and allows more room between your body and the baby.
Pump between feedings
If you find nursing and pumping at the same time difficult, you could also pump between feedings.
Using a double breast pump is the best way to maximize the amount of milk you express.
While it may be obvious that double pumping saves time, it promotes an extra let down, yields milk with higher fat content and perfect for busy moms.
Nurse longer and switch sides
Milk supply will be increased if you don’t limit the time of your baby’s feedings per side.
Allow your baby to finish the first breast before switching to the other side.
This gives baby an opportunity to fill up on the high-fat hindmilk.
If you switch your baby too soon to the second breast, he’ll fill up on the watery foremilk.
This will make his tummy feel full but may not give him enough calories to grow, cause gas and extra spit-up
However, if you have a baby who falls asleep on the breast or sucks very slowly, switching the breast during nursing will encourage a baby to suck more vigorously for a longer period of time so that he gets more of the creamier, high-fat hind milk.
By switching sides during nursing, you let the baby feed on the first breast until the intensity of his suck and swallowing motion reduces.
Before your baby drifts off into comfort sucking, sit him up and switch him to the other breast and encourage him to nurse actively again.
When his sucking slows, go back to the first breast, and finally, finish feeding on the other breast.
Burp him or change his diaper between sides, if that will help to wake him.
Undressing your baby during nursing helps awaken sleepy babies. Encourage sleepy baby to awaken and eat effectively by undressing the baby down to his diaper.
To maximize skin contact, take off your bra and wear a shirt that you can unbutton all the way down the front. To prevent the baby from getting chilled, place a blanket around his back.
Supplements to Increase Breastmilk: Galactagogues
A galactagogue is something that can help a breastfeeding mother to increase her low breast milk supply.
The word itself is a combination of the Greek terms “galact-” meaning milk, and”-ogogue” meaning leading to or promoting.
Herbs are commonly used to boost low milk supply, but certain actions, foods, and medications can help a breastfeeding mom make more breast milk as well.
While I was breastfeeding I used a combination of the following:
This is the only nursing tea that made a difference to my milk supply. For me, it was evident only after a day of using it how much it helped.
RELATED: Body Odor while Breastfeeding
Having a Babymoon
Everyone’s heard the term honeymoon but have you heard of the term a babymoon?
A babymoon is a peaceful stretch of time spent in bed with your baby nursing frequently.
Spending a weekend in bed with your baby, ideally, skin-to-skin can provide a significant boost to your milk supply.
You’ll need some support so ask your partner or family and friends to help prepare meals and take care of other children while you focus on your baby.
As simple as it sounds, a babymoon can work wonders for your milk supply.
This extended period of close contact will boost your milk making hormones; especially oxytocin and encourages increased feeding.
It will also provide you with some much-needed rest, and will likely reduce your stress level.
And of course, it will allow you and your baby to connect to one another, great for baby, great for mama too.
Maybe the most obvious one, but water makes up almost 88% of breast milk, if that water is getting sucked out of you, it needs to be replaced.
If your body is dehydrated then there is no chance of it producing milk.
So step 1 of producing more breast milk is ensuring that you drink enough water.
I find it difficult to drink water, I just forget. So the easiest way for me was to keep a bottle next to me so when I was nursing I could drink at the same time.
Because I like my water always cold I like to use this bottle, it can keep it ice cold for over 24 hours which works out well for me.
During the colder months, I like to drink herbal tea and this bottle is great to herbal teas or any hot drink hot for 12 hours.
Ways to Increase Breast Milk for New Moms
Hopefully, this guide to how to increase breast milk supply for new moms will help you over a hurdle or two. Please remember to do what’s best for you and your baby!
That might mean breastfeeding exclusively, using formula or doing both! Don’t let your own expectations – or anyone else’s expectations overshadow those joyful moments with your new baby.
Don’t forget to pin for later!