10 Tips to Boost Milk Supply
So you’ve decided you’re going to breastfeed your little one: way to go mama! Breastfeeding can be tough but you can be sure you are giving your baby the best nutrition possible. Whether you are brand new to breastfeeding, have a growing babe, or are returning to work there are plenty of reasons you may be concerned with how to increase your milk supply. Here are 10 basic tips to follow to get you headed in the right direction:
- Double check your baby’s latch
First and foremost, your breasts produce milk based on supply and demand. This requires your baby to be able to efficiently suck milk from your breast. If they are latched on poorly they won’t be stimulating your body to make the milk required to match your baby’s needs. In general, baby should be able to get a large amount of breast into their mouth (including the areola) and it shouldn’t hurt. Think latching baby on “bottom to top” of the breast; just like you would fit a hamburger in your mouth. It’s not a “bulls-eye” approach. If you’re not sure, there are lots of resources out there, including Spectra Baby USA lactation specialists. Bottle feeding your baby with pumped milk instead? Make sure all your pump parts are working right with good suction.
- Feed on demand and often
Again with supply and demand, feeding your little one on demand (especially in the first few months to establish a strong supply) will keep your breasts stimulated and producing to keep up with your baby’s needs. This generally means feeding your little one every 1-3 hours in the first 3 months (except maybe at night) for a frequency of 8-12 times per day. Worried you’re teaching your baby bad eating habits? Most experts agree that in the first year of life it is impossible to spoil your baby when providing them with their basic needs. So, do lots of baby-wearing, skin to skin time and snuggling!
- Empty the breast or pump after feeds
When feeding, the biggest “trigger” for producing more milk is an empty breast. Make sure one breast is empty before switching to the other side to optimize this trigger. If baby can’t empty both adequately with each feeding, keep track of which breast you start with each session and alternate so they are both emptied throughout the day. If this still isn’t enough, consider pumping right after a feed to finish emptying the breast before the next feeding (5-7 minutes of pumping is plenty of time). If you are exclusively pumping, your supply will reduce to a slight drip when your breast is emptied. If you want to further stimulate a boost, try pumping for another 5 minutes after this point.
- Nourish your body
Breastfeeding requires approximately 500 more calories per day. Plus, your body is taking a lot of vitamins and minerals from what you’re eating to provide your baby with the best milk possible. Keep in mind that just like when you were pregnant and the body took all the nutrients for the baby first; this is the same concept when you are making milk. You eat well in pregnancy to ensure a healthy baby and healthy mom (since the nutrients go to baby first). With breastfeeding, the nutrients are taken to protect the milk supply first and then, what is remaining is given to mom. If you aren’t replenishing your reserves it will be hard for your body to keep up with milk demand. You should be eating a balanced diet to optimize your milk production. Although the research is limited, foods that are claimed to boost supply in addition to having an adequate diet include oatmeal, almonds, spinach, garlic, fenugreek, and fennel. On the other hand, there are some foods believed to decrease milk supply to avoid such as alcohol, caffeine, parsley, mint, sage, and oregano.
- Stay hydrated
Breastfeeding requires an increase in water intake to not only make up for direct loss in your breast milk but also the increased demand breastfeeding places on your body. Dehydration will most definitely affect your milk supply, so don’t wait to drink water until you’re thirsty! Try to stay ahead and drink water periodically throughout the day. A trick a lot of moms use is to keep a glass of water with them when feeding with the goal of drinking at least one glass per feeding. The amount you need will vary but doing a quick urine check (it should be clear to light yellow) will ensure that you are hydrating adequately.
- Get rest
Getting enough sleep is tough with a baby yet it can greatly impact your milk supply if you are always exhausted. Try your best to sleep when the baby sleeps. This might mean asking for more help from a friend, family member, or significant other or letting your to-do list slide for a while longer. Checking out resources to help your baby sleep better through the night may help you get more rest as well. Your body needs time to recover to be able to “run” optimally!
When you are stressed, your body releases hormones that can impact the breastfeeding hormone that helps to release your milk. Everyone alleviates their stress differently. Being tired with a new baby may make it seems hard to “relax” but start small: ask for help, meditate while feeding, focus on some deep breaths, start a light yoga or exercise routine (if your doctor gives you the go-ahead), or take some time to talk to a good friend or family member.
- Add an extra pumping session
If your baby’s eating frequency simply isn’t enough to increase your supply as you would like, consider adding a pumping session between feeds. Generally, with a good double pump, this means a 10-20 minute session.
- Talk to your doctor about supplements
There are homeopathics and herbs that are believed to help with milk supply, just make sure to get the ok from your doctor first. Herbs are easy to find in capsules and teas in natural food stores such as fenugreek, thistle, stinging nettle, alfalfa, and goat’s rue. Homeopathic may require a subscription.
- Stick with it!
Don’t get discouraged and start skipping feedings. Talk to other mom’s that have been there for support and seek out a lactation specialist if you are struggling. You are not alone in your breastfeeding journey!
Let us know your tips below!