breastfeeding, encouragement

Increasing Milk Supply

Why do you want to increase your milk supply? Do you think your milk supply is low?

IMPORTANT: The way your breasts feel, how your infant behaves at the breast, how often they feed, how much milk you pump and whether you feel the let-down or not are not indications of a low milk supply.

Basically, if your baby is gaining enough weight and is producing acceptable amount of wet and dirty nappies whilst taking only breast milk than you do not have a milk supply problem and need not increase your supply!

Many of us worry and think our supply is not enough when in reality it is.  The following, do not mean you have a problem with milk supply:

  • Frequent nursing.  Especially in the first few months, frequent nursing is normal and necessary. It is an automatic mechanism to make sure mama produces enough milk.  Make sure you are taking correct note of how often your little one is feeding – you start counting the time from when they started feeding NOT when they finish! So if your baby started feeding at 9 a.m. and finished at 9.45 a.m. THAN started feeding again at 10.30 a.m., your child fed after an hour and a half and not after 45 minutes!  Your breast storage capacity may be on the low side so whilst you get enough milk, your baby will feed more often than the average infant.
  • Sudden increase in feeding. These usually mean a growth spurt. Growth spurts can last from a few days up to a week. It is an intense time of development for your baby. Your breasts will likely feel drained (just like you!) as baby is literally feeding non stop. Do not supplement, there is no need to, your baby is increasing the supply as necessary themselves even if you feel completely void of milk.
  • Fussy baby, especially in the evenings.  We all have fussy days.  Sometimes babies are fussy most of the time; and whilst there are many reasons why, we might never discover what it was before the baby is back to their normal selves.  Most of the time though mamas tell me their babies are fussy in the evenings.  Remember ladies we are tired after a day taking care of our children, house etc. So our flow will be slower since this is dictated by our moods and hormones.  Again there is no need to supplement really just offer both breasts more often.  Sometimes though, the baby might seem to refuse the breast as well and in frustration give a bottle of expressed milk/breast milk substitute thinking we do not have enough milk and reinforcing this thought as the baby takes this bottle in a second.  This might actually incite a low milk supply and you can read here about why it happens.
  • Breast is soft or not leaking milk.  After 6 weeks breasts normally go back to pre-pregnancy size and feeling as we are not over producing milk.  Also not all women leak milk despite having a well established milk supply.  At other times, one might leak and after a few weeks/months do not leak any more; again its just a matter of your body adjusting and not of loss of supply.
  • You do not get much milk when pumping.  In the beginning the amount of milk we pump is also indicative of the age of the baby. so at 1 day old you will not normally pump more than 20ml each time. Eventually by 1 month old you might be getting between 90-150 ml per pumping session.  This though might not be the case as pumping is very different from actual sucking . The type of pump and how quickly you learn to pump will also effect the amount of milk you will express. Lastly pumping output normally decreases with time.

If, despite the above, you still suspect a low milk supply, it is best to contact a breastfeeding professional for guidance.  If your baby is not gaining enough weight, you might need to supplement till the reason why is found and remedied.  Supplementing with your own milk when possible is best!

How though, can one increase their milk supply?

Learning how milk is made is important to make sure your are doing the right things to help milk increase. Remember, milk is made through supply and demand and so the best way to increase it is to offer the breast more often and/or expressing milk in between. Let us get more specific:

  1. Top of the list is making sure your baby is removing milk efficiently.  A bad latch and positioning can hinder milk transfer which in turn can reduce milk supply.  Efficient milk removal can also be hindered through anatomical problems, health problems, use of nipple shields or sleepy babies.  Once all the above are ruled out we can carry on.
  2. Frequent nursing.  This means about every 1.5-2 hours during the day and every 3 hours during the night.  AND for as long as baby is nursing actively!
  3. Have a nursing vacation. Take a few days at home, stay skin to skin most of the time to promote more nursing and do nothing else but be next to the baby offering the breast, resting and enjoying those precious moments.
  4. Offer both breasts at each feeding. It’s ok if your little one refuses to feed from the second breast, but do offer it!  Also if baby sleeps or looses interest quickly or switches to comfort sucking quickly, than again change sides of the breast. do this about 4 times per feeding.  This makes sure baby is taking all milk needed will promoting efficient milk removal.
  5. Do not supplement with solids, water or breast milk substitutes when baby is younger than 6 months. Use baby led weaning after 6 months to decrease supply on baby’s terms.
  6. Take care of yourself! A tired, stressed mama will not produce enough milk or the milk will be difficult to come out. Make sure you are finding me time on a daily basis, resting adequately, drinking and eating as required.
  7. Hand expressing or pumping milk.  If you think it would work for you, add an expressing/pumping session in between feeds to stimulate your breast in making more milk.
  8. Last but not least, you might want to try a galactagogue i.e taking a herbal supplement or prescription medication that is known to increase milk supply.

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