How can I boost my milk supply?

How can I boost my milk supply? - Transcript

In the early days and weeks of breastfeeding many breastfeeding mothers start to worry about their supply, that it’s dropping or that they haven’t got enough milk for their baby. If this is you I would encourage you to look at the videos which talk about signs that will help you to know that your baby is getting enough – and also the one on false alarms as well (normal patterns), so that you can be well informed, and know whether you actually DO have an issue with your supply or not.

So once you have looked at those videos, and if you do still genuinely feel from that information that your supply HAS dropped a little, then I would like to talk you through 10 ways that you can boost your supply.

First of all, it’s really important that your baby latches well at the breast. If your baby is latched well, he is likely to get a far better mouthful of breast tissue and drain the breast better – and as milk comes off your breast, your body makes more. So latching is important.

It might seem really obvious, but the second point is to increase your baby’s time at the breast. It’s very common for breastfeeding mums to schedule feeds, sometimes, to think that that’s a good thing to do, looking at parenting books that are very strict and regimented – but bringing your baby to the breast frequently, and maybe as much as every one and a half to two hours, if necessary, because the supply has dropped at the moment, throughout the day, and maybe at least every three hours at night. All of this will help your supply to build up.

Bring your baby to the breast for all reasons: for comfort, for warmth, and also for the nutrition as well, because every bit of time at the breast will still help to stimulate your supply. During this time of increased feeding at the breast, try to keep your baby close for maybe two to three day, where you literally just hang out with your baby. Lots of resting, lot of feeding – feed yourself as well in the process. Just look after yourself, and offer both breasts as well. Make sure your baby is fed well from one side before offering the other, and lots of this over a few days can make a huge difference to supply.

Thirdly, try skin to skin with your baby. Strip your baby down to only the nappy, and lie him against your bare chest, at least a couple of hours per 24 hours, during skin to skin will help to boost those lovely hormones that will keep you both calm and connected, and will also boost those hormones that make milk, particularly prolactin hormone. So this is a fantastic way to boost supply.

If you find that your baby is actually falling asleep at the breast a lot, and not actively swallowing, it can be really difficult because the feeds tend to be long, and your baby isn’t really stimulating your supply as well as he could be. So here, use breast compressions, a very very useful tool (see video)

The fifth point I’d like to mention is to try to allow all of your baby’s sucking needs to be at the breast. This means that if you have been used to giving a dummy (or pacifier – the American term), those things can actually mask feeding cues, and some babies will suck on a dummy and not suck at the breast, therefore, and feel satisfied enough to do that without actually stimulating the supply.

I did come across a lady who actually said that she was allowing the baby to have a dummy for two hours per day. This baby wasn’t gaining weight well, and therefore she wasn’t producing the milk she needed – when she stopped using the dummy, the weight started to pile on then, and she was bringing the baby to the breast for all of the comfort needs as well, and this helped to stimulate the supply.

My next point is that if you are still not seeing those signs that your milk supply has – i.e the weight gain and the wet and dirty nappies, then it may be necessary, if you’re trying all of the other things, to offer a supplement alongside breastfeeding, temporarily.

The most important supplement that you can offer is your own milk. So if you are going to give your baby your own breast milk, you will need to pump your milk, preferably with an electric breast pump. They are generally more effective, and it will then cut down your pumping time. You can pump your milk maybe after a feed, or even between feeds, and any extra milk you get can be given to your baby. The great thing is that with the pump, the pump is putting extra demand in at the breast, so whenever there is a little bit of emptying going on, because of the pump, your body then makes more on that particular side.

So this is a fantastic way to boost your supply – and at the same time your baby is able to get that milk. If you find that when you are pumping your milk, you’re really not getting much milk at all, or you’re just finding that the pumping sessions are taking too long, this can cut into your time that you’d rather be spending with your baby – doing the skin to skin, and the breast compressions. So a really good thing that you can do is to rent a hospital grade double pump. Now these are the super duper pumps of the lactation world that will help you to get more milk made in less time. They are very efficient – so that is always a good backup, if you find that you are resorting to giving formula because you’re not producing enough milk with the pump that you’ve got.

You may also wish to use what we call a galactogogue, which is a substance which can help to increase milk supply. This is really only important to take if you are finding that with all of those other things that we’ve talked about, you’re STILL not seeing an increase.

A galactogogue would need to be taken alongside doing all these things as well. Sometimes we can find that within two to four days there may be an increase of supply.

It might seem a really obvious thing to do, but the ninth point I wanted to make was to get lots of rest while you’re trying to boost your your supply. Harness friends and family who can help to do your household tasks and other household things, and just give yourself time to rest with your baby, and spending lots of time doing the skin to skin, and not have to concentrate on all these other things.

Finally I would really encourage you if you are in the middle of this situation, trying to boost supply, it’s still really important that you seek out skilled help from an IBCLC or a breastfeeding counsellor. Have a chat with your doctor as well just to check your baby over, for reassurance, and your health visitor. It’s good to have that extra support.

I must stress however that if your baby is actually losing weight, then this is a more serious situation, and your baby may need to be supplemented very very quickly with your own pumped milk or formula until your supply starts to increase.

I just want to acknowledge that there are a small percentage of women who, for various reasons, usually anatomical or medical, but very valid reasons, may not be able to get that full supply, even with all of those interventions that I’ve mentioned. However, the great news is that you can still go forward with breast feeding, feeding at the breast, where your baby gets some of your breast milk and a supplement of formula as well (see alternative feeding methods video).

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020

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