8 Realistic Tips for Increasing Breast Milk Production


If you’re pregnant or a new parent, worrying is probably a standard part of your routine. There are so many perceived risks and “must-dos” that it seems impossible to be perfect at everything. (Spoiler: You don’t have to be!)

We worry about vaccination schedules and negative reactions. We worry about fevers, coughs, rashes, and first teeth. And when our babies are new to the world, we worry about breastfeeding.

Between engorgement, figuring out the latch, and adjusting to a demanding new nursing schedule, breastfeeding can be an intimidating experience. Many new parents also wonder, am I producing enough milk to nourish my baby?

While it’s a common concern, odds are good that your milk supply is just fine. Let your baby be your guide. Do they have alert and active periods? Are you changing wet and poopy diapers regularly? Is your baby gaining weight when you take them to the doctor?

Those are all signs that your baby is properly nourished.

As your little one grows, you’ll likely notice changes to your milk supply. You may no longer experience a feeling of fullness, or perhaps your baby only nurses for five minutes or so at a time. Changes like these are normal, and these fluctuations aren’t usually a sign of a decreased supply.

In fact, according to La Leche League International (LLLI), changes to your supply can be an indication that you and your baby are simply becoming more experienced and skilled at breastfeeding.

Your body has adjusted to your baby’s demands, and your baby is becoming a little expert in efficient milk removal.

As long as your baby is thriving, you shouldn’t worry about inadequate milk production. Here are eight tips to keep your milk supply steady as your baby grows.

If you’re able, it’s important to start breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery. Those early days can be crucial in building up an adequate milk supply long term.

It also helps establish that important skin-to-skin connection and make sure baby gets the super protective colostrum, or “first milk,” rich in antibodies and immunological components.

After the first hour, you’ll want to nurse 8 to 12 times per day in the first few days. When you start early, you’ll be more likely to breastfeed exclusively and for more months, according to the World Health OrganizationTrusted Source.

Producing breast milk is a supply-and-demand scenario. Your body produces your milk supply in response to your baby’s demand.

In the first few months, breastfeed as often and for as long as baby wants. The more your baby “tells” your body to make milk, the more milk you’ll make. Breastfeeding on demand is likely the fastest way to boost your supply.

In the first few months, you might notice that your baby is cluster feeding, or wanting to nurse very often in a set period of time. Every baby is different, but you’ll likely notice upticks in their need to feed often during growth spurts or going through various stages of development.

Increased demand will let your body know to produce more milk to keep up with your baby’s needs.

Some new babies need a little coaxing to nurse frequently. If your newborn seems extra sleepy or isn’t producing stool as often as they should (they should have three or four per day by 4 days old), try stimulating them with skin-to-skin contact and regular feedings to help establish your milk supply.

Frequently emptying your breasts (either from feeding or from feeding and following up with a pump), can signal your body to produce more milk. Emptying the breasts tells your body to keep on making more milk to fill them back up again.

Adding an evening or early morning breastfeeding or pumping session may help.

If you pump, you may also want to consider double pumping (pumping both breasts at the same time), as this can increase the milk you’re producing by 18 percentTrusted Source according to a 2012 study.

The act of “hands-on pumping” can also help produce more milk during a session. This involves lightly massaging to help increase the amount of breast milk you express. This video from Stanford Medicine gives a look at how it’s done.

It’s important to drink plenty of water while breastfeeding to keep yourself hydrated. You won’t impact your ability to produce milk if you don’t get enough fluids, but you will put yourself at risk of things like constipation and fatigue.

Follow these tips for getting the right amount of water to maintain hydration:

  • Drink to quench your thirst, and then drink a little more. Thirst isn’t the most reliable indication of how much water your body really needs.
  • Get in the habit of keeping a water bottle with you, and try to drink at least 8 ounces of water every time you nurse.

It’s easy to get caught up with other responsibilities. When you’re trying to establish or increase your milk supply, try to minimize distractions as much as possible.

The laundry and dishes can wait, so take the time to sit down and focus on feeding your baby regularly. This may mean that you have to lean on your partner or other trusted people in your life for help around the house or with other children if you have them.

If you’ve been Googling (we do it, too), you’ve probably seen mention of galactagogues. These are substances that are supposed to help increase milk production. Maybe you’ve heard of lactation cookies or lactation tea?

The known benefits of galactagogues are limited, but research has indicated that it can have a positive psychological effectTrusted Source and potentially increase milk productionTrusted Source.

Here are some examples of lactation-boosting herbs and foods:

  • alfalfa
  • anise
  • fennel
  • oatmeal
  • pumpkin

Adding healthy foods to your eating plan is a good idea, but before you dive into supplements, teas, or herbal remedies, check with your healthcare provider. Some of them can have side effects and negative outcomes.

A professional lactation consultant can help you pinpoint latch and suckling issues. Even if you think your baby is nursing effectively, the support of a local breastfeeding group can have a big impact in the early days of nursing.

Check the La Leche League website for a local group or ask your OB or midwife for a recommendation.

The Mayo Clinic warns that moderate to heavy drinking can decrease your milk supply. Nicotine can have the same effect, and secondhand smoke is harmful to your baby’s health.

Certain medications, particularly those containing pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in Sudafed), can also decrease your supply.

Check with your healthcare provider before taking any medication while breastfeeding.

Above all, try not to worry about your breast milk production. It’s very rare for women to produce an insufficient supply. According to the Mayo Clinic, most mothers actually produce one-third more breast milk than their babies drink.

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