How to increase breast milk supply
How to increase breast milk – 10 steps to success
In my experience, I have found that In the early days and weeks of breastfeeding many breastfeeding mothers start to worry about their milk supply. Often they feel that their supply is dropping and that they haven’t got enough milk for their baby.
If this is you, I would encourage you to look at the information which will help you to look out for some really reliable signs to help you know whether your baby is getting enough milk.
Also, look at the information on normal patterns so that you can be well informed, and know whether you actually DO have an issue with your milk supply or not.
Once you have looked at that information, if it indicates that your supply HAS dropped a little, then here are ten ways of how to produce more breast milk!
The importance of a good latch
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.
Increase time at the breast
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 mothers to schedule feeds. Some have been led to believe that this is a good thing to do, especially if they are reading parenting books that are very strict and regimented.
However, bringing your baby to the breast frequently, even as much as every one and a half to two hours, may be necessary, because your supply has dropped.
Bringing your baby to the breast like this throughout the day, and at least every three hours at night can help to boost your supply.
Also, 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 help to stimulate your supply.
During this time of increased feeding at the breast, try to keep your baby close for two to three days, where you spend lots of time with your baby – lots of resting, lots of feeding – and remember to feed yourself as well!
Also make sure to offer both breasts at each feed. Ensure your baby is fed well from one side before offering the other, and doing this over a few days can make a huge difference to supply.
Skin to skin
Thirdly, try skin to skin with your baby. Strip your baby down to only the nappy, and lie him against your bare chest for at least a couple of hours in every 24 hours.
Skin to skin helps to boost those lovely hormones that will keep you both calm and connected, and will also boost the hormones that make milk, particularly prolactin hormone. This is a fantastic way to boost your milk supply!
If your baby is quite sleepy and falling asleep at the breast a lot, and not actively swallowing, you may also find that the feeds tend to be taking a long time, perhaps even longer than 40 minutes.
It’s likely that your baby will not be stimulating your supply very well. So in this situation it can be extremely useful to use a technique called breast compression.
Try to allow all of your baby’s sucking needs to be at the breast. If you have been giving a dummy (pacifier) to your baby this is likely to be masking the feeding cues.
Some babies will suck on a dummy and therefore not suck at the breast, and some will feel satisfied enough to do that without actually coming to the breast and stimulating the milk supply.
I once met a breastfeeding mother who regularly gave her baby a dummy for two hours per day. However, her baby was only slowly gaining weight, and the mother wasn’t producing the milk she needed.
When she stopped using the dummy, the weight started to increase. She was now bringing the baby to the breast for all of his comfort needs as well, and this helped to stimulate the supply.
How to increase milk supply when pumping
If you are still not seeing those signs that your milk supply has increased, 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.
These types of pumps are usually more effective than hand pumps. You can pump your milk after a feed, or even between feeds, and any extra milk you get can be given to your baby.
The great thing is that by using the pump, the pump will put in extra demand at the breast, causing the breast to empty more, and so because of the pump, your body will then make more milk on that particular breast.
Use a hospital grade double pump
This is a really effective way to boost your supply – and at the same time your baby can receive the milk.
If you find that when you are pumping your milk, you are not getting much milk at all, or you find that the pumping sessions are taking too long, and cutting into the time spent with your baby, (doing the skin to skin, and the breast compressions), a really useful thing that you can do is to rent a hospital-grade double pump.
These amazing pumps will help you to get more yield of milk in less time, and they are very efficient – so that is always an option.
It is especially important to use a good quality pump like this if you find that you are needing to give your baby formula because you are not producing enough milk with your present pump.
Galactagogues – Lactation supplements
You may also wish to use a galactagogue, which is a substance which may help to increase milk supply.
However, I would only encourage you to consider a galactogogue if you find that even after doing all of the things above, you are STILL not seeing an increase in supply.
A galactogogue needs to be taken on top of doing all of the above strategies, and can potentially increase milk supply within two to four days.
Don’t go it alone
It may seem like a really obvious thing to do, but the ninth point I wanted to make is to get lots of rest while you’re trying to boost your supply.
Accept help from friends and family with household tasks and give yourself time to rest with your baby, and recuperate.
Get professional help
Finally, I would really encourage you to seek out skilled help from an IBCLC or a breastfeeding counsellor. Also, have a chat with your doctor just to check your baby, medically, for reassurance, and your health visitor (public health nurse).
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 quickly with your own pumped milk or formula until your supply starts to increase.
I do want to acknowledge that there are a small percentage of women who, for various reasons, usually anatomical or medical, may not be able to generate a full milk supply even with all of those interventions that I’ve mentioned.
Even if this is the case the great news is that you can still go forward with breastfeeding, where your baby can still receive some of your breast milk and a supplement of formula as well. See alternative feeding methods information.
I hope, after having worked through these ten different methods, you’ll no longer have the worry of how to increase milk supply, and that you’ll have all the confidence you need.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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