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I already wrote about power pumping as a way to increase your milk supply. I wanted to see what other tips I could find to help increase supply and I was in for a surprise.
As I started researching breastfeeding tips to increase milk supply, I found that most women hopefully should not need these tips. It seems many women may have a fear that they are not producing enough milk. In fact, it is cited as one of the most common reasons many women stop breastfeeding. But the truth is that most women can produce enough milk for their baby with breastfeeding and pumping alone. While there is a big market for supplements and other products to help increase your supply, these products may not even be needed.
Fears of low supply
Many women wonder if they are producing enough milk from time to time. Some become absolutely convinced they are not. Unlike bottle feeding, it can be difficult while breastfeeding to know how much your baby is consuming. Especially for a first time mom with a newborn. I know I found it very concerning to have no idea how much milk my baby was getting when I had my daughter. But it seems that although many women worry about their supply, most can produce enough.
If your baby is having enough wet diapers a day and is gaining weight then your supply is most likely just fine. Losing weight or not having wet diapers can indicate an issue and should be discussed with your doctor. If you are worried about your supply, get in touch with a lactation consultant right away. That is the most helpful thing you can do.
Signs and symptoms that are NOT indicators of low supply
Your baby wanting to eat all the time. Some women wonder why their baby seems so hungry, so frequently, or even right after breastfeeding. This is normal and does not mean your baby is not getting enough. Breastfed babies eat very frequently and should not be compared to formula fed babies or fed on a schedule. Pressure or questioning from unknowing relatives or friends can be unhelpful and make you wonder if your baby is getting enough to eat. Growth spurts might also cause a breastfed baby to feed very frequently or cluster feed nonstop. None of these signs means you do not have enough milk.
Your pumping output seems low? This is not a good indicator of milk supply either. You will usually pump less than your baby can take in during breastfeeding. Your supply can go up and down depending on the time of day and other factors so unless you start pumping significantly less for a long time this is probably not a good indicator.
If your breasts feel less full or do not leak. This is not really a good indicator. Most women’s breasts will feel normal and not as full once supply levels out.
Best way to increase supply
If you are still convinced that your supply is low the best way to increase it is to breastfeed or pump more frequently. It’s all supply and demand with breastfeeding, so the more frequently you empty your breast the more frequently milk will be made.
Make sure you are feeding your baby a lot. Again, newborns breastfeed a ton. Don’t expect your breastfed baby to really go two to three hours between feedings. I am sure that happens for somebody, but it never really did for me until they were older or while they were sleeping. If they were awake they wanted to eat.
Other ways to increase supply or check supply
If it seems like your baby is not getting enough or draining your breast check your latch. If they do not have a good latch then they will not be able to drain the breast properly. A lactation consultant can help you with this.
If normal pumping or breastfeeding do not seem like enough you can try power pumping as a quick way to increase supply. You can also try adding a pumping session for 5-10 minutes after each breastfeeding session.
Drink water, the more fluids the better, although this alone should not affect your supply too much.
Do not supplement with formula or give solids before six months. If it’s after six months decrease solids if you are worried about your supply. Supplementing because you think your supply is low is really a proven way to lower it. The more supplements your baby eats the less they breastfeed and the less your breast is emptied actually lowering supply. Don’t fall into this trap if possible.
Do not use pacifiers or bottles until you are sure your baby is nursing well. If they prefer one of these they may not nurse as easily.
Try to feed on both sides frequently.
Some less proven but word of mouth techniques to increase supply
The use of galactagogues, a product to help increase milk supply, is not usually needed for most women. If you really feel you need them or want to try them you should consult with a lactation or breastfeeding counselor. Do not attempt to use herbs or drugs without consideration or counseling on their effects. If you are not pumping, breastfeeding, or draining the breast efficiently these will only mask the issue temporarily.
Certain herbs such as fenugreek, blessed thistle and others are known galactagogues. Fenugreek is the most popular herb taken for increasing breast milk supply and most women do notice a difference in supply when taking it. None of these will work if you are not making sure to empty the breast every two to three hours though.
There are prescription drugs that can help with supply, but they have side effects and they are not all available in the US. This is definitely something to discuss with your doctor.
Lactaction cookies or oatmeal cookies or even just plain oatmeal. It’s not proven that these help but some women feel they really do and cookies are not harmful in anyway so give it a try if you want.
You may have heard beer can help increase supply. It’s not really the beer but the hops and yeast in beer that may help. Definitely not a proven technique but doesn’t hurt to have a beer once in awhile and see.
I hope this helps clear up some of the confusion regarding low milk supply and that the tips here are helpful. Most of you can produce enough breast milk for your baby without much need for anything other than frequent breastfeeding or pumping. If you are facing an issue of low supply please contact a breastfeeding resource such as La Leche League or a certified lactation consultant. They are the best resources for getting help.