You know when your milk first comes in a few days after your baby is born? It’s the most engorging feeling that you wish would just go away. Too much milk is so uncomfortable and inconvenient at first. Waking up soaking wet because of too much abundance is never desirable.
But what about five or six months later when your baby starts having a big appetite and growth spurts that feed their hunger? Often around this time is when you may start feeling that your milk supply isn’t enough to satisfy them. What do you do?
But what about five or six months later when … your milk supply isn’t enough to satisfy them?
The easy answer is to supplement their bottles with formula. And you can certainly choose to do that. But it also increases the likelihood that your milk supply will go down. Do you want that? I’ve faced this issue with each of my boys and I’ve discovered a number of ways how to increase break milk supply.
How To Increase Breast Milk Supply
The key in increasing your milk supply is to empty your breasts fully and often. You will make more milk faster this way. If you just partially feed on one side and you’re not empty, your rate of production slows down. Then the more often this happens the gradually your body adjusts to not making as much.
One of the books I liked when learning all the ins and outs of breastfeeding is The Nursing Mother’s Companion. It takes you through every stage of feeding, tips and tricks of breast milk supply, and the many things you can do to keep your feeding habits optimal for your baby. But I’ve summarized the few things that work best.
Items You’ll Need For Increasing Breast Milk Supply
- A high quality, double-electric breast pump like Medela’s Pump In Style or Ameda’s Purely Yours.
- A single hand held breast pump for times when you’re on the go or your baby doesn’t nurse on both sides.
- Master self expression with Go Milk Yourself to catch even what your breast pump can’t.
- Extra breast milk freezer storage bags because you can never have enough.
- Herbs that help with milk stimulation: fenugreek, goat’s rue, blessed thistle, Earth Mama’s Milkmaid Tea.
- Educate all the circumstances around nursing with the Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding or The Nursing Mother’s Companion.
Pump After You’re Done Breastfeeding
This will drain the bulk of everything left in your breasts. You can often get an extra 1/2 ounce or more of milk this way. Because your baby won’t often fully drain both breasts equally, you can still acquire more to encourage faster production.
A double electric pump is a magnificent tool that every single mother should have. You can often get them for free from your insurance provider, just ask. But if not, I’ve used a few over the years that are my favorites. Ameda and Medela are the top two I’ve had a good experience with.
You really just have to try one to see which one you like the best. I like how the Ameda has the variable speed option and slots to set my bottles in. But I feel like the Medela has a stronger and more lasting power for suction.
Self-Express After Pumping
Learning how to self-express your milk by hand is an extremely valuable skill. I’ve done it plenty of times when I’m away from my breast pump and needed to relinquish some milk. Even after pumping, you can still get a few spoonfuls out manually. Catch every single drop.
Make sure to read through a tutorial on this so that you don’t damage the tissues in your breasts. I first thought that I understood how to do this. Is seems easy to just squeeze your breasts, right? Wrong. There is a method and proper way to do this so it’s not painful or difficult. I highly encourage you to learn how. Go Milk Yourself is a great place to start.
Pump One Side While Feeding
If your baby is only nursing on one side during a feeding, pump the other at the same time so it’s not wasted. This may be more often in the middle of the night or when your baby is smaller or not as hungry.
It can be annoying to set up an entire double electric breast pump for this. A single hand pump option like this one from Medela will work better. I’ve never used a single one done by hand, but I’ve heard from many women that they enjoy using them better in certain situations.
Pump Early In The Morning
You’re fullest in the morning because, hopefully, your baby hasn’t fed as often during the night. Capture all this milk as soon as you wake up as part of your morning routine. If you wake the same time as the baby, then, of course, feed the baby first. But it’s likely that you rise a few hours before the baby so you can get a better start on your day.
Pump Before Going To Sleep
If you know that your baby isn’t going to wake up for at least four more hours, drain your breasts again because you’ll still have enough for them when they’re hungry. If your baby’s schedule is such that they still wake up around your bed time, then you can just pump after feeding. But if they’re going to wake a few hours after you get in bed, it’s probably better to wait.
You have less milk in the evening and if your baby is a milk hog at night, you likely want to have more than enough milk so they’re not upset trying to go back to sleep. With my first little boy, he knew there were two breasts from day one. And he absolutely wanted both in the middle of the night or he’d cry something fierce. But my second boy was just fine feeding on one side in the night. So I would pump before going to bed no matter what because I knew he’d be alright.
Pump Every Two To Three Hours
During the day if you’re away from your baby at work or someplace else, put it on your calendar or phone reminders to slip away and pump regularly. This is likely a bit more often than your baby’s natural feeding schedule. But that’s okay because you want to empty your breasts more often so they’re stimulated to produce more.
You can get a variety of natural herbs and supplements that help to boost your supply. Take them regularly and if you don’t see an increase, take more. The volume of milk you make won’t explode overnight, but by 1/2 ounce or so during the first few days.
I just got fenugreek herbs from my local grocery store in the natural supplements section. It’s not disgusting at all; it actually smells like maple syrup. But you can also try goat’s rue and blessed thistle.
There are a number of products that even combine all these and more herbs you can take in different combinations that may or may not help. Herbal teas like Earth Mama’s Milkmaid Tea are very popular too, but I don’t drink tea and haven’t tried them.
Eat Oatmeal Everyday
This works for some ladies and is worth trying. Just add this to your breakfast menu. After my babies are born, I automatically have a bowl of oatmeal every morning along with my eggs for this very reason. Or if you’re making cookies, make them oatmeal raisin or oatmeal chocolate chip. You can find tons of lactation cookies recipes on Pinterest.
Drink More Water
The base ingredient of your breast milk is the water that you take in. Did you notice how you’re most thirsty lately? If you’re dehydrated, your body can’t produce enough milk efficiently. It will take from other systems in your body and you’ll just not function as well as you can. You’ll know that you have enough water when your urine color is a light yellow. If it’s any darker, you need to up your water intake.
To Sum Up
It’s likely that you won’t be able to do every single one of these things. Some may not be practical for your situation, and that’s fine. I think the top few options that you should do no matter what your situation are:
- pump after you’re done nursing
- pump in the morning
- take some herbs
- drink more water
These are your bare minimum options to increase your breast milk supply. It’s highly unlikely that just one option will increase you milk enough for you to notice a big difference. You need to incorporate multiple methods all together in order to see any benefit.
Expressing and pumping breast milk can be a super big pain, time-consuming, and frustrating process. Acquiring that free liquid gold can seem like the bane of your existence for a time. But the reward for your health and your baby’s growth and development is immense. I encourage you to always be getting every single drop as often as you can.
Remember that you don’t have to nurse your babies into toddlerhood to feel like a competent mother. Whatever you can do that’s working best for your family is perfect. I breastfed all my boys for about eight months before stopping. I wanted to nurse for at least one year, but that didn’t happen each time. But I’m glad I did what I did and that I learned what I have now taught you.
What do you love/hate about breastfeeding?
- Natural Baby Essentials
- How To Increase Breast Milk Supply In 48 Hours, Swaddles ‘N Bottles
- Increasing Low Milk Supply, Kelly Mom
- Breastfeeding: How To Increase Your Milk Supply, WebMd
- Avoid The Wet Shirt And Get Reusable Breast Pads On Me