This is the #1 conversation I have with breastfeeding moms. They want to know how to increase their milk supply because they believe it is low. First thing they would have to do is determine if they truly have a low supply, what is the cause, and what are ways to increase it. While I will briefly touch on the first two subjects, this article will focus mainly on ways to increase a mother’s milk supply.
Some of the possible reasons a mother may suspect low milk supply are:
- Inadequate weight gain.
- Baby falls asleep after a few minutes of feeding.
- Baby seems unsatisfied after feedings.
- Breasts feel “empty.” (Breasts changes will occur when after the first month of breastfeeding and then again long term when “milk production goes from hormonally regulated to production on demand”)
- Expressed milk volume is less than expected.
Some causes for low milk supply are:
- Physical problem with baby, such as ineffective sucking, tongue/lip tie, palatal variation, facial abnormalities, airway problems, cardiac problems, and/or nervous systems or sensory processing disorders.
- Physical problem with mom, such as anatomical variations of the nipples, insufficient glandular tissue, breast surgery, breast injuries, and/or hormonal dysfunctions. 1
I urge mothers to speak with a lactation counselor/consultant and/or their doctor to determine if they truly have low milk and the possible cause for it to best remedy the situation. The following are suggestions on how to increase your milk supply once cause has been determined and a plan is in place to fix it.
- Nurse, nurse, nurse. Nurse on demand, not on a schedule.
- Milk is made based on supply and demand. The more a baby feeds and removes milk from the breast, the more he is telling your body to produce more milk.
- Stay in bed with the baby for an entire weekend, cuddling and nursing, resulting in frequent nursing and a well-rested baby and mother.
- Breast Massage
- Massage your breasts starting from the chest and work towards your nipple.
- You can do this just before feedings or during feedings when baby’s eating has slowed down.
- Hand Expression
- While this takes practice, once mastered, is more effective than a pump due to the combination of touch and warmth versus a machine.
- Please visit http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/faqs/hand-expressing-your-milk
- In between feedings, right after a feeding (never right before a feeding), and/or if baby is sleeping a longer stretch at night, pump in the middle of the night when prolactin levels are higher.
- When working away from baby- pump at the times your baby would normally eat (every 2-3 hours).
- Use a double pump when possible. Get a hands-free bra or create your own for more freedom to move and multi-task.
- Stay calm and relaxed. Use guided imagery, your baby’s blanket for smell, and/or a picture or video of your baby.
- Power Pumping- pump for 20 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes. Pump for 10 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes. Pump for 10 minutes. Stop. Do this at least once a day. *If you become antsy, restless, or irritated with pumping in the slightest bit, then stop immediately.*
- Try massaging and/or warm compress while pumping.
- Galactogogues 1,2
- ***Please speak to your doctor or Master Herbalist before using. Some herbs can have an effect on certain medications and health conditions. ***
- Herbs in teas or tinctures may help boost supply. There is no direct research to support the effectiveness of this, but many cultures and mothers use them and see a difference.
- Common herbs are:
- Blessed thistle leaves
- Dandelion root and leaves
- Marshmallow root
- Raspberry Leaves
- Essential Oil massage4
- 2 tablespoons carrier oil (olive oil, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil are my favorite) and 15 drops clary sage, fennel, or geranium essential oil.
- Please get your essential oil from a reputable supplier and not from Amazon or your local grocery store.
- Common herbs are:
Again, please speak with your doctor or lactation counselor/consultant to see what the source of the problem is if you truly have low milk supply. These suggestions are the most common and many mothers have found them to work after a few days, while some it take up to two weeks. Everybody and situation is different and you will find the best solution and combination that works for you. Don’t give up. Stay strong and relaxed. You are an amazing mother giving her baby the greatest gift.
- West, Diana, and Lisa Marasco.The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
- Clark, Demetria. Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company, 2015. Print.