It’s only natural to be concerned with how your baby is getting on, especially if this is your first time. That’s the sign that you’re a great parent.
A lot of moms have an idea about how breastfeeding is going to go, and sometimes, reality doesn’t quite match up with those expectations. Being concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk is only natural, and you might worry about how to increase breast milk. First off, try and relax. We’re here to answer any questions you might have and take that weight off your mind.
As always, if you’re genuinely concerned, the best thing to do is always talk to a medical professional. We can offer advice, but nothing beats a face to face meeting.
Are you sure you’ve got a low milk supply?
The first big question you need to ask is whether you’ve actually got a low milk supply.
There’s a lot of things that don’t automatically mean you’ve got a low milk supply, including:
- The size or feel of your breasts, for example, if they get softer after a little while that can be a sign that your body has adjusted to your milk supply needs.
- The frequency of feeding, for example, frequent nursing can make you feel like the baby isn’t getting enough milk, but that’s not normally true. Maybe they’re just hungry or going through a growth spurt.
- The behavior of baby, like a sudden increase in nursing. Again, growth spurts come and go, and obviously, when you’re growing up so fast you need a whole lot of energy to get yourself going.
- Baby being fussy or nursing more at particular times. Your baby probably has a fussy time, and they might be hungrier in the evening. After all, they’re a tiny little person, and we all have our ups and downs. I can’t get through the mid-day slump without tea and a biscuit, and I bet you have your moments too, just like a baby!
- The amount you pump. The amount that you pump has little to no indication on your actual milk supply, so don’t worry. Baby is far more efficient than any pump could ever be, not to mention how much you express depends a whole lot on you, the method you’re using, and even the type of pump you have!
- The feeling of let-down not being strong or defined. All our bodies are different, and some women have a slow or steady let-down sensation.
The best general rule to use is that if your baby is gaining weight at a healthy rate, you’ve got enough milk supply.
I think I have a low milk supply, what do I do?
If you still think you have a low milk supply, what can you do?
Well, first off, you should always see your pediatrician. It’s possible that your milk supply is fine, but there’s an underlying reason why your baby is losing weight.
If it does turn out that you have a low milk supply, you should be put in contact with a lactation specialist or breastfeeding counselor, who can tell you precisely what you need to do to fix the problem.
But in the meantime, there’s a lot you can do from home too.
How to increase breast milk supply from your home
One of the big things to realize if you’re learning how to increase breast milk production is to understand just how your body works so you can do the right things.
It’s almost a contradiction. Your body produces more milk when you actually take more out.
It’s backward, but simple when you think about the why. Your body knows what the baby needs. So if you’re using loads of milk, it’s going to think that you need more because you’ve obviously got a healthy, bouncy bonny baby who needs feeding up. If you’re hardly using any, then it’s not going to produce loads that just sits in your breast going to waste.
So step one is to start expressing more milk. You can do this in several ways:
- Check that baby is nursing properly. Sometimes, it can be as simple as making sure you’re both positioned correctly and baby is latching on.
- Nurse often. Remember, a newborn can need feeding every two hours, so it’s fine to step up your feeding schedule.
- Take a few days off just to spend time as a pair. You could probably both do with the break anyway, so take a couple of days where you just spend time together, doing nothing but relaxing, eating and nursing.
- Offer both sides when you nurse. As soon as the baby is finished on the first side, switch over and see if they carry on.
- Use ‘switch nursing’ methods. As soon as a baby loses interest at one breast, whether through falling asleep, comfort sucking or something else, switch sides. Make sure you switch to each breast at least twice per session.
- Avoid anything that baby can suck on that’s not you. This includes pacifiers and bottles.
- Make sure you’re looking after you. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, with a natural and varied diet. Make sure you’re getting enough fluids, and try to relax. If your body isn’t healthy you’re not going to be able to produce what you need for baby.
- Add a breast pump to your daily routine. Getting your body used to express is key to increasing milk flow. So adding a pumping session to empty more milk from the breast and get your body used to produce more could be a big help.
Foods to build up your breast milk supply
As we mentioned earlier, one of the biggest things that contribute to a healthy supply of milk is a varied and healthy diet. But on top of that there are certain foods that can actually give you a bigger boost, like:
Cheap, inexpensive and easy to make, oatmeal might be a little bit boring, but it’s a staple for a reason. Packed full of fiber to keep you bouncing with energy, they’re also great for increasing lactation.
The great thing about oatmeal is it goes with anything, and you can add pretty much anything to it. Fruit, honey, cinnamon, even brown sugar or other cereals. Go wild.
Spinach is stuffed with iron, as we all learned from Saturday morning cartoons. That means it’s great for your milk supply, and because spinach goes with anything, you can have it daily.
Love it or hate it, garlic is fantastic for increasing your milk supply, on top of its myriad other health benefits.
More of a supplement, brewer’s yeast is awesome for one big reason. You can have it with anything. Put it in a smoothie. Add it to your oatmeal. It even comes in pill form if you can’t stomach the real stuff.
A herbal supplement that’s been used for years, fenugreek works, and it works fast. Like, within one or two days fast. Normally, people make a tea with it, so take 5 and have a nice, refreshing cup of tea that’s also going to stimulate milk production. Win-win!
Things to remember
- You might not have low milk flow. It’s baby’s weight that matters, but if you’re concerned, always see a healthcare professional
- If you do have low milk flow, you want to remove more milk, so your body learns to keep producing more
- Diet can help, but you should be looking at the routines you and baby have first
Like a lot of things mother related, breastfeeding and how to increase breast milk can seem daunting, and then you do it and realize it actually comes so naturally, and you don’t even know why you worried so much.
We always love hearing from our readers. If you’ve got a story or any tips for other mothers who might be struggling a little, let us know in the comments. It might be just the help another mom like you needs!