How to Increase Your Supply of Breast Milk
What is the most common reason women stop breastfeeding?
It’s not sore nipples.
It’s not the sleepless nights.
The most common reason that women stop breastfeeding is the belief they don’t have enough milk.
The sad fact is — most of the time, they do indeed have enough milk. If they were armed with good support and good information, they would be able to continue breastfeeding.
Do you really have low milk supply?
If you are not sure if your baby is getting enough milk, refer to our post about good ways (and some not so good ways) to tell if baby is getting enough. In the wise words of KellyMom:
“If your baby is gaining weight well on breast milk alone, then you do not have a problem with milk supply.”
If you are certain you have a low supply, there are ways to increase it. The remedy depends on the reason for low supply.
Potential reasons for low milk supply
- Baby is too sleepy to feed long enough or often enough at the breast, usually due to jaundice or prematurity.
- Baby latches poorly and therefore isn’t able to effectively remove milk from the breast.
- Pacifier use. To have a bountiful milk supply, it is best if baby meets all of his sucking needs at the breast.
- Feeds are delayed in an attempt to get the baby on a schedule.
- Mom is busy with other children or her job, making it difficult to take enough time to feed.
- Frequent use of bottles. Less sucking time at the breast leads to less milk.
- Use of a nipple shield. The plastic barrier between mom and baby can affect milk supply. (Note: nipple shields can be useful for babies who would not otherwise be able to feed at the breast. Some pumping or hand expression should be done to help keep up milk supply)
- Limiting baby to one breast per feed to ensure baby gets “hindmilk”. Feeding on one breast per feed works well for some mothers with abundant milk supply but other moms will need to feed on both breasts each feed. One way is not better than the other. Each mother and baby pair is different. Learn more about foremilk and hindmilk and when to be concerned in this post.
- Maternal medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure, low thyroid levels, retained placental fragments and use of the birth control pill.) Women with a low milk supply may benefit from a medical check-up.
- Insufficient glandular tissue (less than 1% of women). These women continue to struggle with supply despite their best efforts.
How to increase a low milk supply
- Nursing more at the breast is the very best way to increase milk supply. Breastfeed unrestricted night and day, whenever you think the baby may be willing. If your baby sleeps a long stretch at night, you may want to reintroduce a night feed. Prolactin levels (a hormone that helps make milk) are higher at night, making night time an ideal time to stimulate milk supply.
- Nurse on both breasts at every feed. When baby’s swallowing slows, try using breast compressions.
- Try ‘super-switch nursing’: Switch back and forth between breasts several times within a feed.
- Discard the pacifier. Try to meet all of baby’s sucking needs at the breast.
- Ensure baby is latching deeply. See this post for fore details about latching.
- Hand expression or pumping after feeds can help to increase your supply. Even if you only have a few minutes, give your breasts this extra stimulation. Note: Pumping frequently, for short amounts of time, is better at stimulating your supply than pumping for a longer time once or twice a day.
- Try to avoid bottle use. If you do need to give baby supplemental milk, try to do it at the breast with a Lactation aid. Baby will stimulate your breast to produce more milk as the baby drinks the supplement.
- Take care of yourself. Caring for young children is one of the most demanding jobs in the world; there are no uninterrupted coffee breaks! Enlist help. Try to spend 2 or 3 days at home, focusing on resting, skin-to-skin snuggling and breastfeeding. Let the housework go.
- Seek out the support of other breastfeeding mothers. La Leche League is a wonderful mother-to-mother support group for breastfeeding moms. Contact a group near you.
Many times women who doubt their milk supply do in fact have enough milk. Even if milk supply is truly low, there are ways to boost it. Please remember that any amount of breast milk provides health benefits to your baby!
References and More Information:
- Bonyata, Kelly. “Increasing Low Milk Supply.” KellyMom.com. 04 Apr. 2016. Web.
- Newman, Jack, MD, FRCPC and Edith Kernerman, IBCLC. “Protocol to Manage Breastmilk Intake.” 2009. Web.
- “Supply and Demand.” HealthChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, 21 Nov. 2015. Web.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
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