Breastfeeding is one of the most wonderful bonding experiences a mother shares with her baby. But what happens when she struggles because of low milk supply?
If your body isn’t producing enough milk for your baby it can be a challenge figuring out different ways to increase breast milk production. You might have questions like:
Should you use all natural methods to increase milk supply?
Are there any safe medications for low milk supply?
Can recipes be used to safely increase low breast milk production?
We’ve searched high and low and collected helpful suggestions for any mom who struggles with producing enough breast milk for her baby. Here are 45 ways on how to increase low milk supply when pumping and breastfeeding.
Rest and Self Care
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A mother’s health is important when it comes to producing breast milk. Try to sit and rest with your feet up and watch a favorite show or read a book instead of cleaning or working while baby is asleep so that your body functions properly and can keep up with the demands of breastfeeding.
A hot shower can help a mother’s milk to release and flow.
When you are more relaxed, your milk flows more freely. Try some deep breathing exercises while you’re nursing to relax your body. Also try stretching and getting plenty of fresh air.
Talk to your doctor about birth control that may be causing a decrease in milk supply due to estrogen.
This goes along with relaxation. Stress can affect your ability to make enough milk. Try to avoid people and situations that are stressful to you and to your baby.
I can’t stress this enough. Get enough rest. Nap when your baby naps and if needed, get someone else to watch baby when you’re exhausted so you can nap for a bit and be well rested. Your body needs rest to function optimally.
Smoking is just generally bad for your health and the health of your baby. It can interfere with your let-down reflex which can make it harder to keep nursing. Never smoke around your baby. (source)
You may want to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight but take it easy on the exercise. Remember you need some extra calories to keep up a good milk supply. Try to establish a very good supply before revving up your exercise routine.
Food, Herbs and Supplements
Dehydration can be a cause for low milk supply. Keep a bottle of water with you and drink plenty throughout the day so you can always stay hydrated.
Because of its high iron, ability to help reduce cholesterol and being a comfort food, oatmeal is thought by some to increase milk production. There are no scientific studies that definitively say this is true but many mothers swear by it. There are few downsides to trying oatmeal as a means to increase milk production, so if you’re feeling up to it, try eating a bowl each morning and monitor your milk output throughout the day.
Fenugreek is used by some mothers to increase breast milk. In some cases, it is said to increase milk production only a few short days after beginning it. Although fenugreek is on the USDA’s “Generally Recognized as Safe” list there are some possible side effects from using fenugreek. Talk to your doctor before using any supplement while breastfeeding. (source)
There isn’t any scientific proof that alfalfa increases breast milk production, but some women claim to have success increasing their breast milk by taking alfalfa as a supplement or in food form. Alfalfa contains plant based estrogen which is thought to increase milk supply. As with any supplement or medication, check with your health care professional before consuming. (source)
Galactagogues are described as any herbal or medical supplement taken to help with the increase of breast milk supply. This can be natural herbs like those discussed in this article such as blessed thistle and fenugreek or they can be medication prescribed by a health care professional. Talk to your doctor about low milk supply and any galactagogues recommended to help increase production. (source)
Some lactating mothers report an increase in breast milk supply when they take blessed thistle, especially in combination with fenugreek. Blessed thistle is thought to help with breast milk production as well as have other health benefits. Ask your medical professional before using blessed thistle to see how it can help you make more milk for your baby. (source)
Breastfeeding mothers need about 300-500 extra calories a day. Be sure you’re getting enough nutritious food to keep up your supply. (source)
A cup of coffee each morning is probably ok, but large amounts of caffeine can dehydrate your body and lower your production of breast milk. (source)
Taken in large enough doses, some women have noticed a decrease in their milk supply. Try to steer clear of peppermint while you’re trying to increase your milk supply. (source)
Decongestants like pseudoephedrine have been known to decrease milk supply in lactating mothers. This ingredient can be found in many allergy and cold medicines. Talk to your doctor about the effects it can have on your milk production and see if there are any recommended alternatives. (source)
Breastfeeding and Pumping Education
Take a class and learn more ways to improve breastfeeding. Find a class through your local hospital or birthing center, or take one like this one by Milkoloy from the comfort of your own home.
There are several ways to get help from a professional lactation consultant. Contact the La Leche League for help finding a certified consultant in your area or ask your doctor if their office has a lactation specialist available for consults.
Breast and Nipple Manipulation
Warm compresses help with the release of breast milk and can be helpful in easing discomfort due to clogged ducts or mastitis.
Anything that brushes against the breasts can potentially cause a let-down reflex. So start stimulating those nipples, ladies. You can do it yourself or have a partner give you a hand.
A good breast massage can help your milk flow more freely. Try massaging your breasts before each feeding and before each pumping session to get as much milk as you can.
Listen to a recording of your baby’s crying or coos while pumping to trigger your let-down reflex.
When breasts become full and engorged, it can be painful and uncomfortable. If it happens enough times without being emptied through nursing or pumping, this can signal your body to stop making as much milk because there is simply not enough demand for it.
Breast compressions are a great way to help a nursing baby get more milk out of a nursing session. Watch the video for a demonstration on how to do breast compressions for milk flow.
Feeding and Pumping
Any liquid your baby gets through a bottle will leave less room for breast milk.
Don’t allow your baby to use a pacifier for comfort. Instead, when your baby wants to suckle, offer the breast to stimulate more milk flow.
Baby just finish a nursing session? You’re not done! Wait a few minutes and then use the breast pump to stimulate your breasts for more milk production. In between each feeding pump some more for maximum output.
Tip: Use our free pumping tracker to keep track of how much milk you’re pumping at each session.
You may be tired, but in order to make your body produce more, you need to pump more. This includes nighttime pumping and even middle-of-the-night pumping. If your baby sleeps through the night, you’ll need to wake up to pump instead.
Nurse your baby whenever she wants to be nursed. Follow her cues when she’s rooting and crying and give her the chance to empty your breasts and signal to your body to make more milk.
To make on-demand feeding work even better, sleep with your baby close by you. Either sleep with him (safely) in the bed with you or close by in a crib or bassinet. This way it will be easier to reach over and nurse him during the night to help build up your milk supply.
Babies naturally go through a cluster feeding phase where they want to nurse frequently for several hours. You can mimic this phase by offering the breast every 30 minutes for several hours to help stimulate more milk production.
Make sure your baby nurses from both breasts at each feeding. Emptying both breasts will signal that more milk needs to be made.
An improper latch can keep baby from being able to empty the breast adequately. Take the time ensure a proper latch at every feeding. Watch videos to help you learn different holding techniques that can help with latching.
A nursing vacation is when you take 2-3 days of vacation from everything and you lay in the bed and nurse your baby constantly. There are no other interruptions and you are able to focus solely on your baby. This can help you rev up your milk production in a short amount of time because of the demand it will place on your breasts.
Each time baby takes formula is a time that is taken away from emptying a breast. Since breast milk works on the supply and demand principle, it’s best to keep the demand on only the breast so the supply will continue to increase.
Don’t cut off your baby’s nursing session for the sake of following a schedule. Let him breastfeed until he decides to be done.
Use skin contact to stimulate interest from your baby to want to nurse more. It can also help with your let-down reflex.
If the flange for your breast pump isn’t the right size, you could be pumping inefficiently. If you suspect this is the case, as a local lactation consultant to help you get the right size so you can get maximum output during pumping sessions.
While breast shields are not ideal, sometimes they can be helpful when you have extremely sore or cracked nipples. If your nipples are so sore that you are skipping some nursing sessions or cutting them short because of the pain, then it may be a good idea to try nipple shields temporarily. Use them until you can stand direct contact on your nipples again.
Skipping a nursing session is one of the worst things you can do when trying to increase your milk supply. Whenever your baby and your breasts tell you it’s time to breastfeed, listen. If you’ll be away from your baby when it’s time to nurse again, take your pump so you can still release that milk and keep the flow and demand going.
To increase the amount of feedings and breastfeed more on demand, try wearing your baby. This way it will be more convenient for you to nurse anytime and anyplace.
To increase the amount of milk you make, try power pumping. Use your pump to pump breast milk for twenty minutes. Take a ten minute break and then pump for ten more minutes. Take another ten minute break and then finish with a final ten minute pumping another ten minutes. This helps create more demand for milk and signals your body to create more.
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