Breastfeeding or chestfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby, but it's not always an easy journey. One of the most common concerns among breastfeeding or chestfeeding parents is how to increase their milk supply.
While it may seem overwhelming at first, there are many things you can do to boost your milk production and ensure that your baby is getting the nutrients they need. Here are the most effective strategies I have found working with many families over the years to increase supply:
1. Feed on demand to increase milk supply
The first step to increasing your milk supply is to feed your baby on demand. Feeding on demand is a feeding technique where you feed your baby whenever they show signs of hunger, rather than sticking to a rigid feeding schedule. This means that you may be feeding your baby many times throughout the day and night. The average breastfed or chestfed baby feeds 11 or more times per day. By offering a feed whenever your baby needs it, you are responding to their natural hunger cues and ensuring that they receive the proper amount of nutrition.
Feeding on demand is important because it helps establish and maintain your milk supply. When your baby feeds frequently, it sends a signal to your body to produce more milk. This means that your body is able to adjust to your baby's needs and produce enough milk to sustain their growth and development.
It's important to note that feeding on demand does not mean that you have to give up your routine or daily activities. You can still plan outings and events and feed where ever you go (breastfeeding or chestfeeding in public is protected by law in all 50 state), and can even pump and store breast milk for times when you're away from your baby. Ultimately, feeding on demand is a natural and effective way to ensure your baby receives the nourishment they need while also promoting a strong bond between you and your little one.
2. Use a good latch to increase milk supply
Getting a good latch is crucial for successful breastfeeding or chestfeeding. There are several steps you can take to ensure a good latch:
- Position yourself and your baby correctly: Lay back on a bed or couch with support for each arm and bring your baby to your breast, tummy to tummy. Make sure your baby is facing your breast with their head and body in a straight line. They can be diagonal across your body or even laying along your body. Try some variations and see what works for you.
- Support your breast: Depending on the size of your breast or chest tissue you may need to support it with your hand or a rolled up receiving blanket.
- Wait for your baby to open wide: When your baby's mouth is open wide, quickly bring them to your nipple so that their lower lip is below your nipple and their tongue is underneath it.
- Check the latch: Make sure your baby's latch is asymetric. You should see more of your areola above your baby's top lip than below their bottom lip.
- Listen and watch for swallowing: You should hear a rhythmic sucking and swallowing pattern when your baby is properly latched and feeding.
Remember, getting a good latch takes practice and patience. Don't hesitate to seek help from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group if you're having trouble. With time and persistence, you and your baby will find a comfortable and effective latch.
3. Use skin-to-skin to increase milk supply
Don't downplay the importance of this stragy. Skin-to-skin contact is another powerful way to increase milk supply. This technique involves holding your baby skin-to-skin against your chest, with their bare skin against yours. This simple practice can help stimulate the production of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk letdown. It also helps your baby regulate their body temperature, heart rate, and breathing. You can do skin-to-skin as often as possible, ideally for at least an hour a day.
4. Breast crawl to increase milk supply
The breast crawl is another technique that can help boost your milk supply. This method involves allowing your baby to crawl to your breast and self-attach. This allows your baby to use their instincts and find the right latch. This technique can be especially helpful for newborns who are still learning how to nurse.
5. Hydrate to increase milk supply
Hydration is incredibly important for breastfeeding mothers and chestfeeding parents, as it directly impacts the production of human milk. When you breastfeed or chestfeed, your body uses water to produce milk, and if you're not drinking enough fluids, it can affect your milk supply. This is why it's essential to stay well-hydrated while breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
Drinking enough fluids can also help prevent dehydration, which can cause fatigue, headaches, and other health issues. When you're breastfeeding or chestfeeding, you may find that you're more thirsty than usual, as breastfeeding or chestfeeding can increase your body's need for fluids. You should aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day, or more if you're feeling thirsty. Many common recommendations are to drink to thirst but from my experience its very easy to get so caught up in baby care and daily life that noticing your bodies feeling of thirst can easily get over looked.
It's important to note that the quality of the fluids you drink also matters. Drinking water or unsweetened electrolyte beverages is the best way to stay hydrated. Beverages that are high in sugar or caffeine, such as soda or coffee, can actually dehydrate you and should be consumed in moderation.
If you're having trouble staying hydrated, there are several things you can do. Keep a water bottle with you at all times so you can sip on it throughout the day. You can also try adding flavor to your water by infusing it with fresh fruit or herbs. Drinking herbal teas can also be a good way to stay hydrated while also enjoying the health benefits of the herbs.
In summary, staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining a healthy milk supply and overall health while breastfeeding or chestfeeding. Aim to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, focus on drinking water and other healthy beverages.
6. Nourishment and increasing milk supply
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is important for all lactating people to maintain good health and provide the necessary nutrients for their baby's growth and development. It is also important for increasing milk supply.
In general, breastfeeding or chestfeeding parents should aim to consume a diet that is rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats.
There are several specific foods that are known to support milk production and may be particularly beneficial for lactating parents looking to increase their milk supply. These include:
- Oats: Oats are a great source of iron, fiber, and protein, and are known to have a positive effect on milk production. Try eating oatmeal for breakfast or adding oats to smoothies or baked goods.
- Brewer's yeast: Brewer's yeast is a type of yeast that is used in the production of beer and is also available as a nutritional supplement. It is rich in B vitamins and protein and has been found to increase milk production in some women.
- Dark, leafy greens: Dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are rich in iron, calcium, and other nutrients that are important for breastfeeding and chestfeeding parents. They may also help to support milk production.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats and protein, which are important for milk production. Try snacking on almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds.
It is important to note that while certain foods may be beneficial for increasing milk supply, there is no single "magic" food that will guarantee a boost in milk production. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and staying hydrated are the most important factors in maintaining a healthy milk supply.
7. Pumping to increase milk supply
Pumping can be an effective way to increase milk supply for breastfeeding mothers. Here are some tips on how to pump to increase milk supply:
- Use a double electric breast pump: A double electric breast pump is more efficient at emptying the breasts and stimulating milk production than a manual or single electric pump. It's also important to make sure the pump is set at the right suction level for you.
- Pump after nursing: After your baby has finished nursing, try pumping for an additional 10-15 minutes on each breast. This will help empty the breasts/chest completely and stimulate more milk production.
- Relax and be comfortable: Make sure you're in a comfortable and relaxed environment when you're pumping. This can help stimulate the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is necessary for milk letdown. You can also try using relaxation techniques like deep breathing or visualization to help stimulate milk production.
- Use breast compression: While pumping, you can use breast compression to help increase milk flow. Gently massage your breasts or use your hands to apply pressure to the breast/chest while pumping to help stimulate milk production.
- Don't get discouraged: Its okay if you are only getting a very small amount of milk at first. It's important to remember that it can take some time to see an increase in milk supply when pumping. Don't get discouraged if you don't see an immediate increase. Keep pumping frequently and consistently, and seek help from a lactation consultant if you're having trouble.
8. Using a Haakaa to increase supply
A Haakaa is a silicone breast pump that can be used to collect milk on one side while nursing on the other, or to help stimulate milk production and increase milk supply. Here's how to use a Haakaa to increase milk supply:
- Position the Haakaa: Place the Haakaa on your breast, with the suction cup centered over your nipple. Make sure the Haakaa is fully compressed and that there are no leaks or gaps between the suction cup and your breast.
- Squeeze and release the Haakaa: Use your hand to squeeze and release the Haakaa a few times to create suction. The suction will help draw milk out of your breast and into the Haakaa.
- Adjust the position: If necessary, adjust the position of the Haakaa on your breast until you feel a comfortable and secure suction.
- Nurse on the other breast: While the Haakaa is attached to one breast, nurse your baby on the other breast as usual. This will help stimulate milk production and increase milk supply.
- Remove the Haakaa: Once you're finished nursing, gently remove the Haakaa from your breast/breast
- Switch sides: When you finish with the first side, switch the baby to the second side and the haakaa to the opposit breast/chest.
- Feed the baby: Offer your baby an milk that has been removed by the haakaa.
Using a Haakaa can be a simple and effective way to increase milk supply while nursing your baby. By collecting milk on one breast/chest while nursing on the other, you can help stimulate milk production and ensure that your baby is getting all the nourishment they need.
9. Herbal supplements that increase supply
There are quite a few herbs that can be very helpful at increasing supply.
- Moringa: Moringa is a plant that is commonly used in traditional medicine to increase milk production. It is rich in nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, and iron. You can take moringa supplements or use moringa powder in smoothies or other recipes to increase milk supply.
- Shatavari: Shatavari is an herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to support lactation and overall female reproductive health. You can take shatavari supplements or drink shatavari tea to increase milk supply.
- Goat's Rue: Goat's rue is another herbal supplement that may help to increase milk supply. It works by stimulating the production of prolactin and may also improve the quality of breast milk. Goat's rue is available over-the-counter in many health food stores and online.
- Nigella seeds: Nigella seeds, also known as black cumin seeds, are an herb that has been used for centuries to support lactation. You can add nigella seeds to your diet by using them as a seasoning or taking nigella seed supplements.
- Fennel: Fennel is another herb that has been used for centuries to increase milk supply. It contains compounds that may mimic estrogen and stimulate milk production. You can drink fennel tea or add fennel seeds to your diet by using them as a seasoning.
- Blessed thistle: Blessed thistle is an herb that has been used for centuries to stimulate lactation. It contains a compound called cnicin, which is thought to increase milk production. You can take blessed thistle supplements or drink blessed thistle tea to increase milk supply.
- Milk thistle: Milk thistle is an herb that has been used for centuries to support liver health and boost milk production. It contains compounds that may stimulate milk production by acting on prolactin, a hormone that regulates milk production. You can take milk thistle supplements or drink milk thistle tea to increase milk supply.
- Nettles: Nettles are a nutrient-rich herb that may help to increase milk supply. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium, which are important for lactation. Nettles also contain compounds that may stimulate milk production. You can drink nettle tea or add fresh or dried nettle leaves to your diet as a leafy green vegetable.
It's important to keep in mind that herbal galactagogues should be used in combination with other breastfeeding/chestfeeding techniques, such as frequent feeding, good latch, and skin-to-skin contact, to help maximize milk supply. It's also important to talk to your healthcare provider before using herbal galactagogues, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking any medications.
10. Medications to increase supply
There are several medications that may be used to increase milk supply for breastfeeding. These medications are called galactagogues, and some work by increasing the production and release of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production and others by treating underlying conditions that are decreasing supply. These are all options that will need to be discused closely with a doctor knowledgable about lactation as they all have serious side effects. Here are some common medications used to increase milk supply:
- Domperidone: Domperidone is a medication that works by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, which increases prolactin levels and promotes milk production. It is available in some countries for use as a galactagogue, but it is not currently approved for use in the United States.
- Reglan: Reglan is a brand name for metoclopramide and is commonly used as a galactagogue. It is available by prescription only. For some it may have a side effect of depression which needs to be carefully considered with a physician.
- Metformin: Studies have shown that metformin can increase milk production by reducing insulin resistance and improving the function of the mammary glands. It may also help to regulate hormone levels and promote healthy lactation.
- Levothyroxine: Treating underlying thyroid conditions can make a big difference in milk production.
11. Breastfeeding/chestfeeding education
Taking a breastfeeding and chestfeeding class, like the one I offer virtually online, can be a great way to learn more about breastfeeding and how to increase milk supply.
In a breastfeeding/chestfeeding class, you can learn about the benefits of breastfeeding/chestfeeding, how to get a good latch, how often to feed your baby, and different breastfeeding and chestfeeding positions. The class can also cover topics such as how to use a breast pump and how to store human milk.
In addition to learning practical skills, taking a breastfeeding or chestfeeding class can also help you feel more confident and empowered in your breastfeeding or chestfeeding journey. You can connect with other parents and get support from a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding or chestfeedingexpert.
12. Get help with increasing supply from a lactation consultant
If you're struggling with low milk supply, consider seeking help from a lactation consultant. They can help you troubleshoot any issues and develop a personalized plan for increasing milk supply. They can also provide support and guidance as you navigate the challenges of breastfeeding or chestfeeding.
In conclusion, increasing milk supply can be a complex issue, but there are many tools and resources available to help you. It's important to prioritize self-care, seek support when needed, and follow your baby's lead when it comes to feeding. With time and patience, you can successfully increase your milk supply and continue to provide your baby with the nourishment they need.