Do you feel as if you aren’t producing enough breast milk to supply your baby?
All breastfeeding mothers have felt the same way. You’re so excited to start breastfeeding as a new mom, but you soon feel shattered. You don’t know what to expect, and you have no idea how much your baby is eating. Breastfed babies often nurse frequently – sometimes hourly – and it leaves you wondering if it’s healthy or if you have a milk supply issue.
The first thing to know is, you might have a great milk supply, but if not, it’s not your fault. There is no crazy overnight fix for low milk supply, but you can work steadily towards increasing your milk supply. With these tips, you’ll soon be able to feed your baby and store some in the freezer.
Is Your Milk Supply Really Low?
Before we dive too far into how to increase your milk supply, it’s essential to know if your supply is actually low. It can be hard to determine. Our breasts don’t have ounce indicator levels on the side to let us know how much milk our baby is drinking. That fills you with self-doubt and worry.
What is Not an Indicator of a Low Milk Supply
Unfortunately, the wrong information has led to mothers feeling like their milk supply was low when it was fine. Don’t use these as an indicator for low milk supply.
How Much You Pump
I’ve breastfed several babies, but the pump and I aren’t best friends. I wish we had a better relationship, but it’s strained, to say the least. Friends of mine can pump 10 to 15 ounces at a time, but I was always lucky to pump 4 ounces.
How much you pump isn’t an indicator of your supply. Some breasts don’t respond to the stimulation from the pump. Apparently, my breasts knew that the pump wasn’t the real deal and didn’t want to give up the milk.
- Baby Nursing Often
If your baby takes longer to nurse or wants to eat more often, that doesn’t automatically mean you have a problem with your supply. Some babies like to nurse, or they aren’t as efficient as other babies.
My second baby took forever to nurse, and he nursed every 1.5 to 2 hours on the dot. So, when I had my third baby, and our sessions were only 15 minutes, I KNEW something was wrong. I did multiple weight checks, convinced he wasn’t getting enough milk. It turns out that my third baby was a more efficient nurser, so it didn’t take as long to transfer milk from breast to belly.
Everyone dreads cluster feedings, but I have a secret – they’re normal. Babies have periods of rapid growth called growth spurts, and during these times, your baby might be permanently attached to your breast, or so it feels. Babies might nurse every hour because they’re increasing your milk supply.
Baby Takes a Bottle After Nursing
Have you ever had a snack when you weren’t hungry? Chances are yes, you have. If you nurse your baby and then she drinks some from a bottle, that doesn’t mean your milk supply is low. More than likely, the baby just wanted to suck on something, and the bottle was available at the time.
Eating isn’t always the goal. Most babies love to suck on anything. That’s why people invented pacifiers.
Baby is Fussier Than You Think is Normal
You might have this lovely image in your mind of a content baby, but I’m here to tell you that isn’t always the case. I have what is called “high needs babies.” These babies cry – A LOT. It doesn’t have to do with hunger. It could be colic, or it could be their personality or your baby is just struggling to adapt to the new world.
Actual Indicators of a Low Milk Supply
Still have concerns about your milk supply? Here are some real indicators that there might be an issue with the amount of milk your baby is drinking.
Slow Weight Gain
If your baby isn’t gaining weight properly or does so slowly, you might have a low milk supply. This doesn’t include the first few days of life because all babies lose some weight. Babies can lose up to 10% of their body weight before doctors are concerned.
Within one to three weeks, babies should be at or above their birth weight. Most babies will gain almost an ounce per day or just a bit less for the first four months of life. Make sure your doctor is looking at a breastfed baby weight gain chart, not a formula fed baby chart.
Insufficient Dirty Diapers
After the first week of life, an average breastfed baby has at least three bowel movements per day that are the size of a US quarter or larger. As your baby gets older, babies do start to decrease their bowel movements.
The color of the poop should be a mustard yellow, and it might look like there are little seeds inside the poop. Exclusively breastfed poop is loose. Don’t worry; this is all normal!
So, if your baby doesn’t have a sufficient amount of dirty diapers, it might be an indicator that he isn’t receiving enough milk.
Enough Wet Diapers
Wet diapers are just as crucial as dirty diapers. An average baby, after the first week of life, has an average of 6-9 wet diapers each day.
12 Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply
So, if you really do need to increase your milk supply or you want to increase just a bit to build a freezer stash, there are a few things you can do to improve your milk production. Let’s take a look!
Breastfeed More Often
First and foremost, you have to understand that breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. Not matter if you nurse your baby or pump, your body only knows that you need milk if you demand it. Milk supply is based on milk removal. Your body creates more milk when you remove more milk. The faster you remove the milk, the quicker your body produces more in larger quantities.
So, if you want to make more milk, demand more. When your baby is fussy, offer a breast instead of a pacifier. Bring baby to breast sooner than usual. If the baby seems hungry and it’s only been an hour, feed the baby.
Increase Fluid Intake
To produce milk, your body needs to have extra fluids for your body to create that milk. It takes a lot of work to create breast milk, which is why you’re burning calories every time you feed your baby. Aim to drink at least 13 cups of liquids per day. That means you need to drink even if you don’t feel thirsty.
I always have water with me, but you can also drink electrolyte drinks. Gatorade, Powerade, and Body Armor drinks are popular choices among breastfeeding mothers. They are expensive, so it’s best to purchase in bulk or try to buy powdered versions if you can.
Yes, your daily cup of coffee counts as well, but be careful not to drink too much caffeine. Caffeine can have adverse effects on your body!
Eat Foods that Increase Your Supply
What you do and do not eat can increase your supply. It’s essential to pick the right, healthy foods while breastfeeding. Some foods are known as lactogenic foods, which means that they will increase your breast milk supply.
A few foods that can boost your milk supply include:
Some people say that a glass or two of beer can help increase your breastmilk supply. The jury is still out on whether or not that works, but barley is a rich dietary addition, and it’s worth including. You can add barley to soups, salads, and stews.
Oats are one of the best-known milk increasing foods. They’re high in dietary beta-glucan. You can make oatmeal for breakfast or add to your muffins and cookies. Adding oatmeal to your diet is effortless.
- Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s yeast is a nutritional supplement that is often added to lactation cookies. It can cause gas and fussiness, but moms rave that it genuinely works. Try adding brewer’s yeast to your baked goods.
Asian countries have long valued papaya as food to increase milk. You can eat papaya raw or add it with your yogurts and other fruits.
Raw almond is a source of magnesium and calcium which can drop during milk production. Eating almonds as a snack is a great way to increase your milk.
Consume Enough Calories
You might want to get your body back after pregnancy, but now isn’t the time to drop tons of pounds quickly. Breastfeeding mothers require at least 2,000 calories per day. That’s around 500 more calories than you typically need because breastfeeding burns calories.
You should pick nutritious foods that give you energy and fulfill your protein needs. Try foods like eggs, yogurts, smoothies, veggies, and meats.
Make Sure You Aren’t Taking the Wrong Medications
Always make sure that the medication you’re taking is safe for breastfeeding. Truth be told, most foods are breastfeeding friendly, but you do want to avoid taking decongestants for long periods. Allergy medications may also adversely affect your supply by decreasing how much milk you make.
What About Birth Control?
Hormones are serious, and they can mess up your milk supply in a jiffy. Not only can your period and ovulation cause a dip in quantity, but hormonal birth control can as well. Speak to your OBGYN to be sure that your birth control is breastfeeding friendly. A few popular, safe choices are the mini-pill and Mirena.
Avoid Supplementing with Formula
The formula isn’t evil, but you should keep formula way from your breastfed baby while you’re trying to figure it all out. It goes back to the supply and demand system. If your baby drinks a 3-ounce bottle of formula and you don’t pump a 3-ounce bottle at the same time, how does your body understand to make more milk for your baby?
Check Your Baby’s Latch
Tongue and lip ties can cause milk supply issues because your baby isn’t correctly transferring milk out of your breast. Take a look at your baby’s latch and speak to a pediatrician or lactation consultant to see if your baby has any ties that might need to be clipped.
Offer both breasts during a feeding, and switch sides three or more times during each feeding. If your baby starts to fall asleep or lose interest, offer the other breast. This method is excellent for distractible babies.
Add Pumping Sessions
Adding pumping sessions after or between nursing sessions is an effective method to increase your milk supply. Pumping is essential when your baby doesn’t nurse efficiently or frequently enough. You can check out the best breast pumps here.
By adding more pumping sessions, your goal is to remove more milk from the breasts and to increase the frequency of breast emptying. You should keep pumping 2-5 more minutes after the last drops of milk come out to let your body know to make more breast milk.
Bake Some Lactation Cookies
Some women find that lactation cookies give them a quick boost in milk supply. I never tried lactation cookies, but baked oatmeal has similar ingredients, and my breasts were always engorged after I had some for breakfast.
You can buy pre-baked lactation cookies to save yourself the trouble, or bake them yourself if you enjoy cooking.
Drink Lactation Teas
Most stores sell something “Mother’s Milk Tea” in the tea aisle that sells ordinary tea bags. Studies are out on whether or not lactation teas work, but it’s not going to hurt to try. They use herbs to increase your milk. So, it’s worth a shot, and you might love them if you enjoy teas.
Consider a Galactagogue
A galactagogue is any substance that increases milk supply. Most commonly, women try herbal galactagogues. Some herbs that can increase your supply include:
- Blessed Thistle
- Milk Thistle
- Stinging Nettle
- Goat’s Rue
For women with medical issues, doctors can prescribe a prescription galactagogue. Two common choices are Reglan and Motilium. Both of these medications can help increase milk production for lactation induction, relactation, or real low milk supply.
What are some ways that you’ve worked to increase your breastmilk supply? I would love to hear what works for you in the comments.