Many breastfeeding parents want to increase how much milk they make. So here are our top 12 tips for increasing your milk supply:
1. Empty your breasts often
Make sure your baby nurses frequently and offer the breast often throughout the day AND night. Unfortunately, going longer between feedings or pumping sessions will decrease milk supply over time. But increasing the frequency of the sessions will usually increase overall milk supply.
2. Add in a middle-of-the-night milk removal
If your baby has started sleeping through the night, and you decide to not wake up and remove milk in the middle of the night, you are likely to find your supply will go down. It may not happen immediately, but we find that going a long time at night will down-regulate milk supply for most parents. If your baby is not waking to feed sometime between 2-3 AM, you may need to get up and pump at that time, or try to have the baby dream feed, in order to keep your supply up. If you have stopped having a middle of the night feeding, and your supply has decreased, consider adding a milk removal session (baby or pump) between 2-3 AM.
3. Make sure that baby is feeding effectively
ometimes babies are not very effective at removing milk, and as a result, the parent may not get a good supply established, or may see declines when their supply starts to regulate. In the early days, these babies are often very sleepy, may fall asleep at the breast after feeding just a short time, may have very long feedings, or may not wake to feed on their own. For other babies, they feed well in the beginning, but run into problems later. Once the early hay-days of breastfeeding are done, when milk flows freely and easily, these babies may be extra fussy or fight/fidget at the breast because they have been “living on letdown.” If you suspect that your baby is not feeding effectively, get an assessment from an IBCLC.
4. Avoid pacifiers and artificial nipples
Allow your baby to suckle at the breast whenever the baby needs to be soothed. This extra stimulation helps establish and maintain a better milk supply. When a baby has his/her suckling needs satisfied without going to the breast, they may not feed frequently enough to establish/maintain supply
5. Supplement at the breast if needed
An at-breast supplementer (SNS) allow a baby to receive extra nutrition while suckling at the breast. This added stimulation helps improve the parent’s milk supply and helps keep the baby associating getting a full feed from the breast. Using these devices can be a little tricky though, so reach out to an IBCLC for help.
6. Use a silicone breast pump
There are several models of silicone breast pumps on the market. The most common one is the Haakkaa pump. A parent can use this pump on the opposite breast while the baby is feeding.
Here is how we recommend our clients use these pumps: If the baby feeds on both breasts at each feeding, we recommend using the Haakkaa on the breast AFTER the baby has fed. If the baby only feeds on one side at each feeding, you would use the Haakkaa pump on the side the baby is NOT nursing on
7. Take care of mama
According to Dr. Peter Hartmann, breastfeeding uses 30% of a mother’s resting energy. This is an enormous amount of energy. Additionally, many mothers suffer from postnatal depletion. Their bodies expended an enormous amount of resources to create this new life, and sometimes this effort will deplete maternal stores of vitamins and minerals. And many women have nutritional deficiencies even before they become pregnant!
Eating healthy, nutrient dense foods can help restore the maternal stores, increase energy, decrease postpartum mood disorders and even increase milk production. Taking a good quality multivitamin is recommended, but that does not replace the need to eat well.
Some women find various herbal supplements to be helpful, but we recommend working with an IBCLC to figure out which ones are appropriate for you.
8. Get Adequate Hydration
Especially after delivery, in the early postpartum period, women may need more water than they usually do. It is important to drink water throughout the day; we say “drink to thirst.” It is not helpful to force fluids, as this may cause an electrolyte imbalance. Some women feel better if they drink a healthy electrolyte rich drink, such as coconut water, but we recommend avoiding sugary sports or electrolyte drinks.
9. Use your pump correctly
There are lots of new and different breast pumps on the market now. Most have multiple flange sizes, and multiple settings. It is important that parents use the correct flange size to maximize comfort and output. Using incorrectly fitted flanges, or using too high or too low of suction on the breast pump, will make it difficult to properly empty the breast. Consider a pumping consult with an IBCLC.
10. Use your hands
Massaging your breasts before feeding or pumping helps make more milk accessible and easier to get out. Using compressions while feeding or pumping can significantly increase the amount of milk removed during the session. It is also helpful to massage the breasts and hand express a little extra milk out after each feeding/pumping session to help get the breast even emptier. The emptier the breast is, the more milk the breast will make.
11. Power Pump
Power pumping can be very helpful to provide extra stimulation and get additional milk from the breast. The theory behind power pumping is that having multiple mini-pumping sessions with 10-15 minute breaks between the sessions will trigger additional releases of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which control milk production and letdown. Additionally, power pumping helps get the breast as empty as possible, which helps step up the rate of milk production. Most parents do a power pumping over the space of an hour. It often looks like this: (15-20 minute pump, 10-15 minute rest, 10 minute pump, 10-15 minute rest, 10 minute pump).
Reach out to your IBCLC for help
IBCLCs are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and are the experts in breastfeeding and breastmilk. These medical professionals can help identify if there are any underlying causes for milk supply issues, and help parents come up with a plan specific to their situation to improve their milk supply. IBCLCs working in private practice often have the most experience with issues that can cause low milk supply. We are here to help!