When you first realize that you have low milk supply, you’re probably desperate to find out how to increase your milk supply quickly and easily, so that your baby is satisfied and you feel like your baby is not latched 24/7 (though this could be a totally normal aspect of breastfeeding).
Here’s what we’re gonna talk about:
How do you know that you truly have low supply?
Causes of low milk supply
Foods that are potentially decreasing your supply
How to get your milk supply up
There are many ways that you can increase milk production, but let’s first talk about how you know that you truly do have a low supply. How do you truly know that you have a low milk supply and not just a boob-obsessed baby who loves to comfort nurse, therefore making you feel like you have a problem?
Related: Crazy Breastfed Baby Phases
Signs of low milk supply- AKA, How in the world do you even know if you have low milk supply?
Possibly one of the most difficult, frustrating aspects of nursing is that there isn’t a way to tell just how much your baby is consuming.
According to Kelly Mom, if your baby is gaining weight well (and only receiving breast milk), then your supply is fine. You would know that your baby is gaining sufficient weight by:
- Getting a weight check from your Pediatrician
- Tracking baby’s wet and dirty diapers
Kelly Mom goes on to say that if your baby is having enough wet and dirty diapers, the following does NOT indicate a problem:
- Frequent nursing. Some babies LOVE to nurse. Okay, probably most. Some toddlers, too, just ask my daughter. Babies have a strong need to suck (and smart breastfed babies will refuse a pacifier because hello! The real thing is irreplaceable!) so human pacifier you may be. Breastfed babies also get loads of comfort and warm, fuzzy feelings from nursing, and nursing helps them to feel safe and secure.
- A sudden increase in nursing, particularly at around 7–10 days, 2–3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6months and 9 months (https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/growth-spurts/). Growth spurts are BRUTAL, but completely normal and no cause for alarm.
- Your baby cluster feeds in the evening hours. Again, completely infuriating, but totally normal.
- Your baby is fussy. There are approximately 2,647 reasons that your baby might be fussy. Actually, I just made that up, but there are a lot. Fussiness does not necessarily equal hunger.
- You do not get a lot of milk when you pump. The pump is a man-made machine, and therefore extremely inferior to your baby. Some women respond better to the pump than others, but the amount that you are able to pump is likely not equivalent to the amount that baby is able to get when nursing.
Causes of Low Milk Supply
So let’s say that you’ve determined that your breast milk supply is decreasing. What sucks is that we hear all the time about how natural breastfeeding is, and how our body’s are made to do it.
Then when you realize that your body is not producing breast milk as plentifully as it should, you feel guilty. You wonder what you’re doing wrong. You’re not doing anything wrong. There are SO MANY possible reasons, some which are really simple and easy to change and others which are more difficult.
Here are some causes of low milk production.
- You’re not eating enough, and not eating the right things to fuel your body. It is not surprisingly really hard to make sure that you are nourishing your body after baby. I remember thinking, eh, I’m not going to get to eat a hot meal, and therefore eating wasn’t high on my radar. But it’s SO important.
- You’re stressed.
- You’re tired. Find out how you can get more sleep (even if your baby isn’t sleeping).
- Jaundice. If your baby is very new and has jaundice, it could be problematic toward your supply. Your baby’s jaundice causes excessive sleepiness, therefore making it difficult to get your baby to take a full feeding.
- You didn’t produce enough glandular tissue. Who knows why, but some women simply don’t produce enough of the milk ducts that deliver breastmilk to your baby. The good news is that milk ducts multiply with each pregnancy, so low milk supply issues of this nature should be less of an issue with subsequent children.
- Birth control. The use of any form of hormonal birth control could possibly affect your milk production. The “mini-pill” is believed to be the least likely to negatively affect your milk, as it does not contain estrogen.
- Certain medications. Ingredients found in Sudafed or similar decongestants can cause your supply to drop also.
- Tongue-tie. If your baby has a tongue-tie, it will be difficult for her to latch correctly, therefore impeding her ability to stimulate your body to make milk. See more about identifying tongue-tie here.
- Lack of nighttime feedings. If your baby has slept through the night early on, or you have started to train your baby to sleep, you might see a drop in your supply. Especially early on, your baby is programmed to wake frequently through the night for a reason.
- Using a pacifier. If you are dealing with low milk production, you might want to ditch the pacifier because your baby will inevitably nurse more frequently without one. I know this might be a hard one! I practically begged my babies to take a pacifier, but sadly they wouldn’t.
- Nursing on a schedule. While nursing on demand is incredibly demanding on you, it is essential for breastfeeding success. Your baby will go through growth spurts and many developmental changes that will cause her to nurse more frequently. This frequent nursing is only going to help your body produce more milk. Don’t worry about overfeeding or comfort nursing. It’s a normal part of the process.
- Supplementation. Of course there are situations when supplementing with formula is necessary. However, if you are serious about breastfeeding, you need to make sure that if your baby is receiving formula, you are pumping. You can also try nursing after giving a bottle of formula. It’s as simple as supply and demand. If your baby isn’t demanding breastmilk, your body isn’t supplying it!
Foods That Decrease Milk Supply
Did you know that there are certain foods that could actually cause a drop in your milk supply? Who knew! I guess it makes sense though, because there are some other foods that can increase your supply.
Keep in mind that most of these foods need to be consumed in large quantities in order to negatively affect your supply.
- Peppermint and spearmint
- Sage and oregano
- Beer or other alcoholic beverages- Wait, what? I thought that the occasional beer was supposed to help boost your supply! This is so interesting. Some of the ingredients in beer help to increase supply, but the alcohol itself may cause it to decrease. Read more about whether beer is good for your supply or not. Non-alcoholic beer high in hops and barley is probably your best bet if you want to go this route.
- Green tea
- Cough drops with menthol
How To Increase Breast Milk Production
Okay, so have you been avoiding everything above? If not, start there for sure. If you have, then great. Let’s talk about what you can now do to increase your milk supply fast.
- Nurse frequently. Oh, I’ve already said this one? That’s because it’s so important when you need to know how to build your milk supply! This is probably the number one way to increase your supply.
- Offer both sides. This is so tricky, because you also want to make sure that your baby is getting to the fatty hind milk. Waiting until baby seems to be finished with the first side before switching should help.
- Stay hydrated. Getting a really cute breastfeeding water bottle for your breastfeeding station will help you to remember to stay hydrated for sure.
- Make sure that you are eating enough. Breastfeeding moms need to consume 2,000 calories a day! Just make sure that what you are consuming are nutrient-dense breastfeeding superfoods that will help you lose the baby weight.
- Focus on your baby! Set your phone down, turn off the TV and take your baby in. The smell of her and the feel of her baby soft skin can help encourage your body to do what it’s supposed to be doing.
- Use skin-to skin. There are many benefits for your baby when you are skin-to-skin, but this close contact can also help signal your body to produce more milk.
- Keep your baby awake. I know from experience that this is probably one of the most difficult ways to increase milk supply. Do whatever it takes to keep your baby awake for a full feeding. Sing, talk, tickle, undress, switch frequently from side to side, burp frequently, change her diaper, etc.
- Use breast compressions. Breast compressions act as more stimulation, which will definitely help send those important signals to your body! They will also help you to avoid clogged milk ducts and even worse, infections like mastitis.
- Take a supplement (more on this below).
- Eat foods that increase lactation (more on this below).
Foods To Increase Milk Supply
I love that there are actual foods to boost milk supply. I mean, a breastfeeding mama is hungry pretty much 24/7, so it’s not like it’s going to be hard to add these in to your diet. Try to fit one or more of these foods into each meal.
- Fenugreek seeds
- Brown rice
- Sweet potato
- Brewer’s yeast
- Lactation cookie mix
There are also many different supplements and vitamins to increase milk supply that you can take to help if nothing else is working. Oh, and a lot of other bloggers recommend Let There Be Milk, but I’m not going to do that to you. That stuff tastes horrific. Let’s check out some more appealing options.
- Mommy Knows Best Fenugreek Supplement– Fenugreek and breastfeeding are pretty synonymous. This supplement is Fenugreek in pill form that will help you increase your breast milk and smell like maple syrup. No, seriously, your milk will smell like maple syrup. I love this supplement because it is one of the more inexpensive options.
- Nursing Tea- I love Pink Stork Liquid Gold Lactation Tea for so many reasons. First of all, it contains 7 organic herbs including galactagogues, which are proven by science in increase milk production. The herbs in this tea also help soothe your baby’s tummy, which is especially helpful in gassy or colicky babies. It also tastes yummy and the company’s customer service is awesome.
- UpSpring Milkflow Chocolate Drink Mix– If you want to stay away from taking more pills, this is another great option for you. This drink mix contains fenugreek and blessed thistle, and mixed with milk tastes really delicious.
Pumping To Increase Milk Supply
I saved the least desirable option for last, but let’s be honest, pumping is definitely going to signal your body to make more milk.
Depending upon the severity of your breastmilk supply issues, you can choose to pump as much or as little as necessary.
- One option is to pump after every feeding. This technique should cause your body to produce more milk for each feeding.
- If your baby sleeps long stretches at night, you might want to add a pumping session in the middle of the night. I know you would LOVE to do that, right?
- If you would only like to add in one pumping session per day, the ideal time would be in the morning. That is when your supply is naturally at its highest.
- And if you’re really desperate to get your milk supply up fast, you might want to try “power pumping”. This is a great tutorial on “power pumping”.
Good luck, and I hope this guide helps you to get your supply up so that you can reach your breastfeeding goals!