Stress and fear — two emotions you likely feel when you worry you aren’t producing enough breast milk for your baby. Unfortunately, these two emotions can stall milk production.
So what’s a new parent to do? You’re sleep deprived, feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, and now your milk supply is lower than expected. When it comes to breastfeeding, it’s easy to find yourself spiraling toward worry. If you’ve found yourself in that situation, you’ve come to the right place.
Keep reading to understand how to increase your milk production, as well as learn specific tips and tricks.
Increasing your milk supply is probably going to take a little time. Through pumping and hand expression, you’ll likely be able to get more milk out of your breasts immediately, but it may take several days to see a large increase in your breast milk supply.
Before taking steps to increase your milk supply, evaluate your current supply. Increasing the amount of milk you produce is not always necessary and can lead to overproduction if you already have an ample milk supply. Plus, the Mayo Clinic notes that most women produce one-third more milk than their babies drink.
How do you know if you’re making enough milk? If your baby is gaining weight and producing a sufficient number of wet and dirty diapers, you may not need to supplement or increase your milk supply.
Newborns should return to their birth weight by 14 days of age and put on approximately 3/4 to 1 ounce every day for the first 3 months and 2/3 of an ounce each day after that. By their fifth day of life, your mini me should be producing around 6 wet diapers and passing 3 or 4 stools per day.
You might want to increase your milk supply if your baby is not putting on sufficient weight. Or you may just want to store milk because you’re returning to work and/or need to be away from your little one.
Your milk supply is based on supply and demand, so the more milk your baby (or pump) demands, the more milk your breasts will create. Thus, the secret to increasing your milk production lies in frequent feedings, especially in the first few weeks, and making sure to drain all the milk possible from your breasts.
There are many ways to increase the frequency at which breast milk is taken out of your breasts.
Spend a day or two (maybe even three!) skin-to-skin in bed with your baby just focusing on nursing. Offer your little one your breast frequently and encourage them to breastfeed as often as they seem interested. The relaxation, frequent feeds, and empty breasts should result in an increased milk supply!
Power pumping is designed to resemble cluster feeding. (Babies cluster feed when they’re growing to signal your body that they need it to produce more milk!)
While there’s no set schedule for power pumping, a sample schedule might include 20 minutes of pumping, a 10-minute break, 10 minutes of pumping, a 10-minute break, and 10 minutes of pumping done 2 or 3 times throughout the day.
An alternative schedule might be to alternate pumping and resting every 5 minutes for 30 minutes 5 to 6 times throughout the day.
Nursing or pumping between feeds
There’s no reason to wait several hours between feeds, especially when your baby is in the mood to cluster feed. Don’t wait until your breasts are full to drain them. Also, adding in a pumping session after feedings can allow you to build a supply of breast milk and help increase production.
To ensure that you’ve drained your breasts completely and signaled your body to produce more milk, you can try the following:
One way to maximize the amount of milk that you’re getting out of your breasts is by massaging them before a feeding or pumping session, as well as during the feeding process. (Bonus points if you also include some heat/warmth before the feeding or pumping session to help with let-down!)
Combination of breastfeeding and pumping
After you’ve breastfed your baby, do a short pumping session to make sure that no milk has been left behind.
When pumping, it’s a good idea to use your hands as well as the pump. This is called hands-on pumping. Interested in giving this a try? First, the breasts are massaged. Then, the pump is used. Finally, the hands are used again to express any milk that might still be inside the breast. You can also try massaging the breasts while using the pump.
For a more detailed set of directions and visuals, make sure to watch this short video.
Switch breastfeeding positions or your hand position when hand expressing to apply pressure to a different part of the breast. Changing positions means that different milk ducts are stimulated and encouraged to let down milk. The result? More breast milk coming out!
Check your pump
Check your pump parts and make sure that you’re using a commercial-grade pump. The quality of your pump can make a big difference in the amount of milk you’re able to get out of your breasts.
No one brand is the perfect one for every person, but you’ll generally get the most out of a commercial-grade pump if you plan to increase your milk supply. If the price tag is a little steep, you may want to check what pumps your insurance will cover.
Some hospitals and local birthing support centers rent out commercial grade pumps as well.
Furthermore, if you have the option, it may be worth trying more than one pump. Some pumps work great for some people and not so great for others. In fact, some people find that they get more milk out of a manual pump (and some by hand expressing!) than out of an electric pump.
Take your vitamins
Remember to take your prenatal vitamins and supplements. As you produce more breast milk, your body will need lots of nutrients. The extent to which some nutrients are found in breast milk mirrors their presence in your diet, but other nutrients will be taken from your body regardless of whether you’re taking in a sufficient amount.
Avoid things that decrease milk supply
Avoid alcohol, smoking, and tight bras, as these can all negatively affect your ability to produce milk!
Additionally, you’ll want to avoid certain prescription and over-the-counter medications that can dry up your milk supply. (If going back on birth control, make sure to tell your provider that you’re breastfeeding so they can offer you a method that won’t harm your milk supply.)
When in doubt, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or midwife to make sure that any medications you’re taking are safe for breastfeeding and won’t harm your milk supply.
Spend skin-to-skin time
Spend lots of time skin-to-skin with your little one. This will help get those loving feelings (and hormones!) flowing, and they’re key to your let-downs and good milk production.
Drink more water. Breastmilk includes lots of water, so it can be a struggle to increase your breast milk production if you aren’t well hydrated.
In addition to drinking regular water, you may want to consider some lactation tea. While more research on its effectiveness is needed, it’ll certainly help keep you hydrated, which can only help your milk production!
Get help when you need it
Consider working with a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant can help make sure that you’re getting the best possible latch and expressing the most possible milk from your breast.
They can also offer pumping advice to maximize the amount of milk you are getting out of your breasts with your pump.
Take care of yourself
Get extra sleep or a massage! Doing this can help you relax so you’ll be able to let down breast milk easier. This can also get the necessary hormones to create breast milk flowing.
Stick with the breast
Avoid pacifiers, bottle nipples, and supplementing with formula (if possible). The more your little one sucks at the breast instead of a pacifier or bottle, the more your breasts will be stimulated and encouraged to produce milk.
Add galactagogues to your diet
Try some galactagogues (foods that may increase your milk production). Some popular ones include:
- green/unripe papaya
- protein-rich foods (e.g., chicken, eggs, tofu, and seafood)
- sesame seeds
- brewer’s yeast
Another great galactagogue to consider? Cookies! That’s right, we’re encouraging you to eat cookies! Lactation cookies typically include oatmeal, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, and flax seed — all things that may increase milk production.
If you think you’re not producing enough breast milk, you’re probably feeling all kinds of negative emotions. Instead of letting yourself become fearful and stressed, take action to increase your milk supply.
Take care of yourself by getting some extra sleep, drinking more water and even lactation tea, and enjoying skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Over time, these small steps can lead to a significant increase in breast milk production.
While you may not wake up the next day to a freezer full of stored breast milk, every little bit of milk you produce can make a big difference for your little one.