Ways to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
As a breastfeeding mom of twins who has experienced low milk supply and then regained it, I have put this page together as a referral for all those breastfeeding mommies in need of support. This page includes detailed information that is designed to help you be successful.
1. Breastfeed as frequently as possible:
Instructions: Let the baby stimulate your nipple even if he isn’t hungry. Do this for a few days. If your nipples are sore, try using a nipple shield and/or alternate Lanolin and cooling gels. While awake, use nipple shells.
2. Pump often:
Instructions: Get a quality pump: Quality pumps are expensive. I don’t recommend that you go out and buy the cheapest pump you find. It may not work well, or be too uncomfortable to use. This is something that is worth investing in, if you must buy out-of-pocket (the cost of formula far outweighs the cost of a good pump). There are many other ways to obtain a quality pump. If you are insured, check with your insurance company to see if they will supply you one for free. These companies know that children who are breastfed are generally healthier than those who are not and therefore have a vested interest in preventative care. If your insurance plan doesn’t cover it, you can look into renting one from the hospital. If you are uninsured and qualify, check with your local WIC agency. They may be able to help you get one for free.
Timing: Many women make the mistake of pumping too close to a feeding. If you pump too soon after your baby feeds, it can lead to discouragement when nothing or very little comes out. Waiting to pump too long can interfere with your baby’s next feeding. Here’s a pumping tip: wait 45 minutes after the baby eats. Then pump away!
How to do it: If you can, use an electric pump and pump both breasts simultaneously. Use a hands free pumping bra to hold the pump shields in place. Let the pump keep going even after it seems you have expressed all the milk. You may find that if you wait a few minutes, you can get another “let down” response.
Think about it: Breastfeeding is a very psychosomatic experience. If you are with your baby while pumping, look at your baby. Think about how much you love him or her. If you are not with your baby, look at a picture or video of your baby (use your smart phone if you have one). Listen to a recording of your baby crying, just long enough to get the “let down” response. Just thinking about your baby can help. Imagine he’s crying because he’s hungry. This stimulates your brain into sending the message to your breasts to make milk.
Why pumping works: Another mistake many mothers make is thinking they have to “save” the milk they have in their breast until the baby is ready to eat. Your brain is in control of all your bodily functions and it takes cues from what other body parts are telling it. For example, if you touch something hot, like a stove, your fingers send the signal to your brain that it is in pain. Your brain then sends the command back to the hand to move! Every time milk leaves your breasts, they send a signal to your brain that says, “This baby is eating a lot, I need to make more milk!” Your brain, in turn tells your body to make more. When milk is not expelled by way of pumping or eating, your breasts tell your brain, “Hey, I’m making plenty, so there’s no need to make more.” So your brain doesn’t send the command to make more. By feeding more or pumping, you are essentially “tricking” your brain into thinking that it needs to ‘pump’ up production.
If you go back to work: It is extremely important to pump each time your baby would eat. So even if you’re working part time, tell your employer that you need a short break to pump. (With a hands free bra, you can also eat at the same time). If you are working full time, you need several breaks. If that’s a problem, ask if you can go in a little earlier, stay a bit later or break up your lunch hour.
3. Drink tons of water
Instructions: Forget the 16 – 20 oz bottles, you need much more. Get a pitcher or gallon sized container and drink directly from that. Every time you pee, chug more. Every time you breast feed or pump, chug more. Chug, chug, chug all day long. Keep water by your bed and drink it whenever you wake up at night as well. Staying well hydrated helps your body make milk.
4. Take herbs
Instructions: There are herbs called galactogogues that help boost supply such as fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, and fennel. To get started right away, try your local health food store for these and other “lactation” supplements like teas and cookies. You can also order them online and are often less expensive and easier to find that way.
5. Eat foods that are known to help boost breast milk supply
Instructions: Carrots, oatmeal, nuts and seeds (especially sesame) have been used for centuries to increase breast milk supply. Garlic and ginger are said to help as well. I love to add Chia and ground flax seeds to my oatmeal as well. As mentioned earlier, you can purchase prepared cookies but you could also make your own cookies or brownies. Use the secret ingredients to make them “lactation cookies” or “lactation brownies”. The secret ingredients that the manufacturers use in order to label them “lactation” are: flax seed, oats, and brewer’s yeast.
6. Make sure you are eating enough
Instructions: Sure, you are eager to lose that baby weight. But your body still needs energy from food. Eat quality calories and foods that are high in healthy fats such as Omega 3s. When you are breastfeeding, you are literally being drained of energy. If you don’t refuel, it will affect the quantity and quality of your breast milk.
Instructions: This is often the one that mothers have the most problems doing. “Sleep when your baby sleeps” isn’t always possible. But try to get someone to help you do housework and other jobs that must get done. Also prioritize. What’s more important? Doing the dishes or for you to sleep? Sleeping will help you stay well physically and mentally and help you make more milk.
Why sleeping works: Ever notice that your breast milk supply seems to be at its peak in the morning? That’s because sleep helps restore the body and help it heal and function properly. Your brain doesn’t have as much external stimuli to process and can focus on internal tasks. Even when you can’t sleep, try to find ways to relax your mind. Even breathing exercises can help you make more milk.
8. If you have a medical problem that is causing your supply to be low, ask your health care provider if a prescription galactogouge is right for you.
Caution: Prescription drugs for increasing breast milk production should only be used in certain circumstances. They are not likely to be prescribed simply for the purposes of increasing production, rather, they would be prescribed in the event that you have a particular medical reason you are not producing milk. All other options should be engaged before resorting to this one and caution must be used, as these drugs can have serious side effects and may be contraindicated with other drugs or herbs you are using.
Examples: One of the most popular galactogouges that is approved for use in the United States is Reglan (caution to women who are prone to depression – this medication is known to be associated with causing or exacerbating depression). Some other drugs have the side effect of increasing lactation, for example, some atypical antipsychotic drugs have been reported to do just that.
Breast is best but…
Formula is not evil. It has gotten a bad rap but it has been a lifesaver to some babies (and probably mothers as well). In some situations supplementing or formula feeding is warranted. For example, a baby may be underweight and need some extra calories. In rare cases, a baby can have an allergic reaction to his own mother’s milk. Sometimes it’s just a personal choice. Whatever the reason, try not to feel guilty. You have not failed your baby. As long as you love your baby, and do the best you can for him or her, you are succeeding. And if you are a mother who is or has done well in the art of breastfeeding, please do not judge formula feeding mothers. Just because you did it doesn’t mean that’s the best choice for them.
I am not affiliated with any products or vendors, nor do I receive any kind of incentive to advocate a product, it is simply what I recommend based on experience, cost and value.
Great Pump: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Medela-Pump-in-Style-Advanced-Breast-Pump-Backpack/15388874
Great Hands free Pumping Bra: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=23487406&cp=&parentPage=search (Alternative: cut very small slits in an old spandex bra, preferably one that opens from the front)
Great health food site (free 3 day shipping on $20 orders): http://www.iherb.com