10 Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Health & Wellness on 08.20.12
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I've met three new moms in the past month who have all expressed concern that they are not producing enough milk for their babies. They are preoccupied and worried about whether their babies needs are being met. Their whole day is filled with feedings; nursing their babies, pumping to further stimulate production, and bottle feeding their babies formula or the pumped breast milk. Breastfeeding a newborn can certainly feel like a full time job, but no one needs the added pressure of wondering if it is going well.

The encouraging news is that breastfeeding works through the system of supply and demand. The demand for milk is determined by the volume of milk being emptied from the breasts and the frequency of the nursing sessions. It is never too late to increase milk production, even if your baby is already past the newborn stage. These 10 ideas can help to increase your breast milk supply so you can continue to breastfed whether you chose to do so for a few weeks or well into toddlerhood.

1) Find support. Attending local La Leche League meetings (or other community breastfeeding support groups) is a great way to get additional support and tips from experienced breastfeeding moms. Connecting with moms who are also struggling with breastfeeding issues can reassure you that you aren't alone and that it can get easier. 

2) Learn proper mechanics. Use a lactation consultant to evaluate your baby's latch and suck and to see if anything 'mechanical' is going wrong. A baby with a poor latch and suck cannot fully empty a breast of its milk, which leads to less and less milk being produced. When the breast is emptied regularly while nursing, milk production gets ramped up to keep up with the high demand.

3) Go to bed. Commonly referred to as a nursing vacation, going to bed with your baby means you can get extra rest, which lets the body focus on making milk. It also gives you dedicated time to nurse your baby more frequently. According to Dr. Sears, taking a nursing vacation keeps both mom and baby more relaxed and encourages more time spent nursing. Longer nursing sessions stimulate the important milk producing hormones to increase supply.

4) Take Fenugreek. This herb has been used for centuries to increase milk production in nursing moms. It can be taken in supplement form or you can drink it in a tea. When taken as a supplement it has the nice side effect of sometimes making you smell like maple syrup.

5) Drink Mother's Milk tea. There are a few different brands of prepackaged tea on the market that provide additional herbal support. They usually contain fennel seeds, which is another herb that promotes milk production. I found it helpful to brew up a quart-sized jar each morning to be sipped throughout the day.

6) Hydrate. Typically an infant drinks about 32-40 ounces of milk a day, which means you need to drink more fluids too. Adding at least an extra 4 cups of water per day to the 8 you are already drinking can ensure you are getting enough fluid for yourself.

7) Ditch the pacifier. A pacifier can greatly reduce the amount of time an infant is put to the breast which lowers the demand for milk. The more time an infant spends sucking on the breast, the more milk production is stimulated.

8) Delay dieting. Losing weight too quickly has been shown to decrease milk production. Eating enough calories and fat supplies the mother with much-needed energy to produce milk. I set up a 'mini bar' in my bedroom when my daughter was a newborn so I could snack in the middle of the night and keep myself well fueled.

9) Eat extra fat. A diet high in healthy fats like fish oil, flax seed oil, eggs, and butter has been shown to increase the fat content of breast milk, which can range from 2% (like reduced fat cows milk) to 9% (more like heavy whipping cream). Breast milk higher in fat has been correlated to increased brain and neurological development in babies.

10) Lower stress. Part of successful breasfeeding comes from the brain. Being in a relaxed state while touching and focusing on your baby can stimulate the milk ejection reflex. This reflex relaxes the milk-making cells to effectively push the milk out.

What breastfeeding tips worked for you?

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