HOW TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY FAST
Breastfeeding problems are common among women everywhere, with milk supply issues as one of the top reported–in fact, most women who want to breastfeed end up quitting because of a decreased milk supply.
We want to give our child what is best for them (and quite frankly it’s cheaper than the alternative.) With the stress of adapting to a life with a baby and recovering from childbirth, it is SO difficult to give yourself the care you need to breastfeed successfully.
Breastfeeding can be particularly hard if you have to go back to work, and with my first kiddo, this made my milk supply TANK. At the time I was a nurse in an Animal ER, and so I struggled to justify the importance of pumping when I was dealing with cardiac arrest and hit-by-car cases.
Once I was like you, and desperately searching the internet for ways I could increase my milk supply–so I get it. I tried multiple different tactics and ended up increasing my milk supply within a day (yay!)
Related: Breastfeeding Hacks for the New Mom
The problem with lists like this is most moms will try multiple products at the same time, and so it can be difficult to know for sure what actually works. There are wayyy too many variables to isolate a single thing that improved milk supply, and so your best bet will be to try multiple things until you see results.
**If you don’t have time to read this now, pin it for later!
ARE YOU ACTUALLY NOT PRODUCING ENOUGH MILK?
It’s important to figure out if you are actually having a milk supply issue. Studies have shown that it is more likely that a woman has a perceived milk supply issue than an actual issue.
If this is your first child, you are entering the world of the unknown with your baby. Quite frankly, the world of baby can be terrifying. As new parents, if we see something we don’t understand and we immediately assume we are having issues. We feed this worry by finding other phenomena going on that may support our assumptions.
Sound like anyone you know?
I am not questioning your intelligence as a person, but I want to be sure that you are thinking critically about what’s going on. The best marker for low milk supply is a combination of your baby’s weight gain and how many wet diapers your baby is having.
Your little one will most likely lose some of their birth weight (5-7%) in the first couple of days, but they should have this gained back by the time they are 14 days old. After this, a general rule is that your baby should be gaining close to an ounce daily for the first three months. After this, their growth slows and you should see a weight gain of approximately a half ounce daily from ages three to six months.
Your pediatrician will watch your baby’s weight gain very closely for the first month, so it’s likely you will get a heads up if your baby isn’t gaining enough. If you feel that your baby may not be getting enough milk, drop into the clinic and ask them to weigh your little one. Most clinics will do it.
As a general rule, you can add a wet diaper to each day your baby is alive for the first week. For example, when your baby is four days old, you should see four wet diapers. Once your milk comes in entirely, expect to see six to eight wet diapers daily, and 3-4 soiled diapers.
If you don’t see this, consult your pediatrician because you may be right in thinking you have a low milk supply problem..
YOU DON’T NECESSARILY HAVE A LOW MILK SUPPLY IF…
YOUR BREASTS FEEL SOFT
Within a week of my first daughter being born, my breasts became huge and hard as a rock. That was painful, but I thought “hey! I’m lucky lucky because I apparently am very good at producing milk!” Within a week they felt normal again. I was alarmed because I worried that my milk supply was decreasing, so I began Googling like mad.
I am here to tell you that soft breasts are normal, and usually, it is just a sign that your body has adjusted to making the RIGHT amount of milk instead of overdoing it.
YOUR BABY EATS A LOT
Babies are supposed to eat every 2-3 hours–this is just a general rule of thumb. As you may be finding out, baby’s don’t always do what they are supposed to do.
Sometimes they are cluster feeding, other times they are going through a “slow health phase.” Cluster feeding will usually coincide with your baby’s “fussy” time, and they may want to feed more often. Once your kiddo is going through a growth spurt, you will also notice they eat more often. Which means you get to go on a nursing vacation! Hopefully anyway.
YOU DON’T FEEL LETDOWN, OR FEEL IT LESS THAN BEFORE
Try not to feel let down if you stop feeling letdown. Hah! Either way, some women feel significant letdown at the beginning of their breastfeeding journey, some women never do. I always had a very strong letdown with both of my kids, but it’s also perfectly normal to not experience it or have it wane.
YOU DON’T LEAK AS MUCH
As much as we all hate leaky boobs, something about it makes us feel confident that we are producing an adequate amount of breastmilk. This has absolutely nothing to do with your supply.
There are affiliate links in this article, which means I will get a small commission if you purchase any of these through the link I provide (at no additional cost to you). You can read more about this in my disclaimer.
STILL THINK YOU HAVE A LOW MILK SUPPLY?
HOW TO UP MILK PRODUCTION
Studies have shown that most women discontinue breastfeeding because of three things– inadequate milk supply, perceptions that baby wasn’t getting enough milk, and difficulties with baby figuring out how to breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, most of these problems revolve around not having a good understanding of breastfeeding basics. We want to increase milk supply fast, but we need to have some foundational knowledge first.
I would suggest looking into this Milkology course, as this is an excellent place for detailed foundational knowledge as well as tips and tricks to help with common breastfeeding issues. Stacey is a certified lactation consultant, so she knows what she is talking about.
DRINK LOTS OF FLUIDS
This step is so important and probably one of the hardest to do. Especially if you are like me, and don’t really like water. The fact of the matter is, as a breastfeeding mom, you need to be drinking at least 96 oz of water a day.
I personally liked these Contigo water bottles. Not only did they have a straw (which is super important for me), but they have measurements on the side of the bottle so I could keep track of what I was drinking. I had a 32 oz bottle, so I tried to shoot for four bottles a day, so I was drinking even more than what was recommended.
Drinking Gatorade can also help with milk supply, as it contains electrolytes. Some women swear that they saw an increase in breast milk supply within a few hours of guzzling a bunch of Gatorade.
PUMP…AND THEN PUMP SOME MORE
Pumping is the one thing that saved my supply more than anything else. Sorry, that needed to be bolded because it’s super important and you are probably skimming. I recommend getting a double pump if you are able, as this will save you a lot of time.
Remember, your body produces milk based off of supply and demand, so theoretically as long as you are hydrated you should be able to produce more milk. Certain medications and hormonal disorders can definitely mess with your milk supply, but this isn’t an issue for the majority of women.
At one point I was pumping after every breastfeeding session, but that gets incredibly exhausting. I switched it up to only pump a few times a day which was much more manageable for me.
When I was working hard to increase my milk supply, I power pumped.
Power pumping is what it sounds like–intense pumping sessions that are longer in duration. I did my power pumping session in the morning, as most women have a pretty good supply in the morning. The process took me an hour, which wasn’t bad for a once a day thing.
To power pump, just remember the rule of tens. I pumped for ten minutes, rested for ten minutes, and repeated twice more. Make sure you wait a half hour after baby finishes eating, and at least an hour before you expect them to eat again so you can be sure that you will have enough milk.
I will warn you–this will get tiring. Consider reaching out to your lactation consultant if you want to start power pumping. You definitely don’t want to cause an overabundance of milk. Because ouch.
Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t seem to be producing a lot at first; it takes a little time for your body to relay the message.
Remember, there is an art to pumping. Many women just don’t get the same results with pumping as they do with a baby nursing. Consider replacing your pump parts if you struggle with producing with a pump, as worn out pump parts can contribute to low success in pumping.
CHECK YOUR LATCH
I can admit that breastfeeding did NOT come naturally to me, and I had to be coached to figure out what a correct latch was.
A lousy latch means your baby is not nursing as efficiently and it’s probably painful for you as well. For a good latch to occur, you need to have your little one positioned correctly with their whole body facing your chest. You don’t want to turn baby’s head to the side, you want their body in a straight line.
Here is an excellent video that can show you what a good latch should look like.
If you aren’t a visual person, this breastfeeding article gives excellent step-by-step instruction to help you make sure you have a good latch. I think the best advice regarding latch that I got was to make sure your baby has as much of the bottom of the areola in their mouth as possible–as they need to stimulate this area to get milk out.
Galactagogue is just the proper term when referring to substances that promote lactation. Or at least SOME people think they do. There is not a lot of scientific data that proves the effectiveness of most of these products, but a quick search online will yield a lot of good reviews for numerous products.
A study conducted in 2018 showed us that 80 percent of women given galactagogue herbal tea had an increased milk supply within seven days. How awesome is that? These products may work for you–they help a lot of women. However, you may be the special snowflake that it doesn’t seem to help.
Fenugreek and blessed thistle are known to work well together for milk production, so if you don’t get one of the products below, I recommend you find one that has that combo.
**A word of caution
Be aware that the majority of herbal supplements you take are not standardized, and so you really cannot know for sure how much of a product you are getting. Make sure you do some research and buy from a quality brand, as you WILL get what you pay for when it comes to herbal supplements.
Luckily, you will know if you are taking enough of the herb Fenugreek because your skin will start smelling like maple syrup if you are taking enough. Yum. If you don’t notice this within a couple of days, consider switching brands.
Here are a couple of your different options
First off let me tell you–this stuff is NASTY. It sort of tastes like a mixture between something rotting and freshly mown grass. Just put some drops in your water and chug it. It’s the only way to do it.
This liquid mixture contains organic blessed thistle, red raspberry leaf, goats rue, marshmallow root and fenugreek seed. Many women swear by it, some of these women being my friends.
This is a fenugreek seed and organic blessed thistle combo. These are in capsule form, which may be great for you if you would rather take a pill than drink some nasty water.
I noticed an increase in milk production within 12 hours of using this with my second baby, and I believe this product was probably why. Unfortunately, you have to take six of these every single day, BUT it’s better than drying up!
This is a product that is super popular, and one I am sure you have heard of. This tea also contains both fenugreek and blessed thistle, and…let’s just say it comes with an acquired taste. I struggled with this because it’s discusting and you have to drink an obscene amount for it to be effective. I will take a pill first ANY DAY!
CHECK YOUR SIZES
You want to make sure that you have a properly fitting bra. First off, your breasts DESERVE to be taken care of, okay?? Tight bras and underwire put pressure on your breasts, and you may end up with clogged ducts or mastitis. Ouch.
You also want to make sure you are using pumping products that fit. Breast pumps flanges come in many sizes, and having an improperly sized flange will yield poor results. Go to your pump manufacturer’s website and follow their sizing chart.
If you are using an electric breast pump (I love Medela’s Pump in Style by the way), mess around with the suction a bit until you find your pump’s sweet spot. The manufacturer will have advice on how much suction you should be using, so use this as your starting point.
REST AND RELAXATION
There was a study performed that showed that a back massage to new mothers had a positive effect on lactation. Another study showed that women who listened to music immediately postpartum had their milk come in sooner. These studies tell us that there is some scientific evidence behind the idea that relaxation promotes milk production. This sounds like a perfect reason to treat yourself to a back massage from your partner. Daily.
LACTATION COOKIES (YUM!)
Most lactation cookies contain brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, flaxseed meal and whole oats. These ingredients are believed to help with milk supply. These lactation cookies were really yummy and were super easy to make. You can also find lots of recipes if you would prefer to make them homemade, but who has time for that?!
Different foods also promote an increase in your milk supply because they can help stimulate your milk-making hormone. Some of these foods include barley, oatmeal, garlic, fennel, ginger, and green papaya. (Don’t worry, your baby won’t mind your garlic breastmilk–probably.)
Dark beer has been known to increase milk supply, but it’s actually the brewer’s yeast and barley that help stimulate prolactin. Drinking one low-proof beer a day is not going to harm your little one, but drinking alcohol in general can decrease your milk supply over a period of time. Alex has an excellent article on breastfeeding and alcohol so you can make an educated decision if you decide to drink. You can also buy alcohol-free dark beer, or get barley in other forms.
Massaging your breasts has a ton of benefits and can help with an increase in milk supply. It helps clear your milk ducts so your milk can flow more freely, helps with engorgement, plus it just feels GOOD.
There are prescription medications you can take that can help increase your milk supply, however there are risks attached to most of these medications. Talk with your doctor if you find you continue to struggle with milk supply.
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