Here are 12 ways to increase your breast milk supply lactation specialist and mother-baby nurse approved!
Whether your baby has hit a growth spurt and needs more milk, or you want to be able to pump some extra to store, here are 12 how-to ways that increase your breast milk supply effectively.
The breastfeeding journey has many ups and downs. A breastfeeding mama may find nursing initially much more difficult during the first couple weeks of breastfeeding than she expected. Between sore nipples, engorged milk ducts, and cluster feeding there can be some twists and turns in the process.
I will encourage you with what I have encouraged many other new mothers with: if you can make it the first two weeks of breastfeeding, you can make it as long as you desire.
A low milk supply can occur for several reasons. New moms may find they aren’t producing enough breast milk because their baby’s latch wasn’t correct, or they may simply desire to have extra milk production because they know they are about to go back to work. Many mothers experience a low supply because they didn’t realize how important hydration is when breastfeeding. The use of nipple shields can also hinder milk supply. There are several reasons a mom may have less milk than needed. Nursing early and nursing often is the most important thing to increase breast milk production.
How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?
It’s common for mothers to assume that if they have a sleepy baby, then the baby must not be hungry. Exclusively breastfed babies need to eat every 2-3 hours for a total of 8-12 feedings in 24 hours. If your baby is gaining weight well, it’s ok to skip a feeding at night IF they are making up for this throughout the day. Make sure to attend all well-baby visits with your baby’s pediatrician or health care provider. They will be able to catch early on if your baby is having a weight issue.
A few ways to know if your baby is getting enough milk is to count your baby’s dirty diapers and wet diapers. A breastfed baby should have at least one wet and one dirty diaper on day one of breastfeeding. On day two, they should have at least two. On day three, three. And by day five, they should be having 5 wet and 5 dirty diapers every 24 hours.
It is normal for a breastfed baby to lose weight the first few nights after birth. By the time they are two weeks of age, they should be back to their birth weight. Make sure to attend pediatric visits so they can monitor your baby’s weight gain.
How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
1. Frequent Feedings
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. Frequently feeding your baby is the best way to keep your milk supply up. Exclusively breastfed babies need to eat every 2-3 hours for a total of 8-12 feedings in 24 hours. Even if your baby is sleepy and uninterested in feeding, waking them to feed is important in order to keep your milk supply adequate.
2. Lactation Cookies
Lactation cookies are a great snack to have on hand to boost breast milk supply effectively. Store-bought is a great convenient option. Lactation cookies can also be homemade (or ask a family member or friend to make you some when they offer to help). There are many recipes available, but adding 5 tablespoons of brewers yeast and 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your favorite oatmeal cookie recipe should do the trick! There are also lactation cookie mixes available. Simply add butter, eggs, and bake. This is a great one for the registry!
3. Power Pumping
Power pumping refers to an extended pumping session with an electric pump (double pump). Here are the instructions: pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, and finally pump for 10 minutes. Do this once per day for three days in a row. Power pumping mimics a baby’s cluster feeding pattern. It rapidly empties the breast quickly to signal the body that it needs to produce more milk.
4. Brewer’s yeast
Brewer’s yeast has been known to increase breast milk supply. This type of yeast is not the same yeast as baker’s yeast that is used for bread making. A typical daily dosage for mothers looking to increase their supply is 3 tablespoons per day. Brewer’s yeast tastes bitter, so adding it to your protein powder or added to cookies may be the best way to go! (This is one of the main ingredients that benefit breastfeeding in lactation cookies.)The study results around brewer’s yeast effectively increasing milk supply are ambiguous, however many women still say they found it helpful.
5. Lactation Teas
Mother’s Milk tea is America’s number one lactation tea. A lactation tea is an herbal tea that contains ingredients known to help increase a mother’s milk supply. This particular tea contains fennel and fenugreek (see below for more on fenugreek) which helps increase breast milk supply. Mother’s milk tea recommends using 4-6 tea bags per day for best results. The taste is described as sweet with a licorice taste.
6. Drink Plenty of Water
It is crucial to stay hydrated as a nursing mother. I recommend you sit with a water bottle when you nurse your baby. This way you are more likely to remember to drink enough fluids for a good milk supply. Making this part of your daily routine will help you stay hydrated. Nursing mothers need at least 8 cups of water per day. When I nursed my babies throughout the summertime, I stayed so thirsty. A normal water intake for me was around 12 cups. Drink to thirst. If you are still thirsty after 8 cups, drink more. An encouraging water bottle can also help you keep up!
7. Warm compresses before nursing
The Lansinoh Therapearl Breast Therapy pack is a great product for nursing. These therapy packs can be heated to provide a warm compress before nursing, which helps increase milk flow. The warmth can also provide relief to sore breasts or clogged milk ducts. These packs can also be refrigerated to help with engorgement discomfort post-feeding as well. This is a must-have product for a breastfeeding mama!
8. Lemon-Lime Gatorade
Hear me out. Us professionals are unsure as to why this particular flavor of Gatorade tends to increase milk production, but we hear again and again that it does. This is one of our top-secret hacks for increasing milk supply. Add lemon-lime Gatorade to your daily fluid intake for increased milk production.
9. Healthy Diet
Diet is important for a healthy supply of breast milk. Eating a variety of healthy foods is key to giving your body the nutrients it needs to produce milk for your baby. Plan to consume an extra 500 calories a day while nursing. And remember if it gives you gas, it may give your baby gas. Start slow when adding fiber-rich foods, like dark leafy greens, beans, and legumes to your diet.
Here is my list of the best protein powder safe for breastfeeding mothers. Protein shakes are a great way to get extra nutrients and healthy calories in!
10. Eat Oatmeal
Oatmeal is another good idea of healthy food to add to your regular diet. Choose rolled or steel-cut oats for your oatmeal. The instant variety will not do anything for your milk supply. Making oatmeal cookies with rolled oats counts as oatmeal intake as well! Here’s my basic recipe for Creamy Oatmeal which makes a good, hearty breakfast and helps your milk supply.
11. Breast Massage
Gentle breast massage while feeding your baby can increase milk flow and encourage your breast to produce more milk. Massage in a gentle circular motion starting at the top of your breast and working your way down towards the areola. Smooth and gentle long strokes can also be effective. A Lactation Massager can help you with this!
12. Breastfeeding Supplements
Certain supplements are also known to help increase a mother’s milk supply.
Fenugreek like that found in Mother’s Milk tea is a clover-like herb that has been used for decades in lactating mothers. A 2018 study found that fenugreek users saw a significant increase in milk production. Take Fenugreek supplements according to the package directions. Some women saw an increase within 24 hours and some said it took about 2 weeks. Hopefully, it works for you! Get it here.
Maca root powder is another well-known supplement that increases breast milk supply, though it isn’t known completely why. Much like a radish, maca is a root vegetable and known to be a superfood. Maca has also been shown to help improve mood which can benefit mothers dealing with postpartum blues or postpartum depression. Make sure your maca is activated or gelatinized as these forms are pre-cooked, safe, and ready to eat. This Maca Root is organic and gelatinized which makes it great for the breastfeeding mother. It also comes in capsule form, so it’s easy to open and sprinkle the powder into a smoothie or protein shake. Find it here.
How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
If you are struggling with breastfeeding, make an appointment with an international board certified lactation consultant. They are breastfeeding specialists that can help troubleshoot and diagnose most breastfeeding supply issues.
Finding what your body responds to best can be challenging. I would recommend feeding your baby frequently, hydrating well, and beginning to incorporate some of the foods listed above. Introduce supplements one at a time to see what makes the difference for you.
If you have questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help. Happy nursing!
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