If you are a breastfeeding mom, especially if you are a pumping mom, you are worried about how to increase your breast milk supply. No matter what your reasons are for choosing to breastfeed, at some point in time the dreaded am-I-making-enough-milk thought will pass through your mind and then it will consume you. Trust me, I’ve been there.
The good news is there are things that you can do to increase your breast milk supply if you’re worried about it. The goal is to obviously have enough milk to feed your baby, but if you can get lucky and be able to make enough to freeze for a rainy day, then why wouldn’t you?
If you are directly nursing your baby, then as long as you are nursing as long and as often as your baby needs then you should have nothing to worry about. Only 15% of women have a true low supply. If you think that this is you, then please see your doctor about possible medications that you can take. Other than that, the following methods can help you as well, you’ll just have to replace the pumping options with nursing.
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How to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Pump More Often
Exclusive pumping is hard, don’t let anyone try to tell you that it isn’t, they’re lying to you. When you have to make a choice between sitting down to pump or doing pretty much anything else, you’re going to choose option B. This way of thinking though is, unfortunately, hurting your milk supply.
In the first 12 weeks after your baby is born, your milk supply is completely hormone based. Your body is trying to produce milk so you’re flooded with things like oxytocin and prolactin to help jump start the process. Milk production is also a very supply and demand based system. If you are not demanding the milk, then your body is not going to be supplying it.
For the first 12 weeks it is important to pump between 8 and 12 times a day to establish your supply. If you were directly nursing then this is how many times you would be feeding your baby. You should be pumping on your baby’s feeding schedule. This is the main thing that most pumpers tend to forget. You’re still trying to feed your baby. Your body doesn’t know that it is a pump instead of a baby. If you aren’t getting the milk out then there is no place to store more. Also the more often that you empty your breasts, the faster your body will produce it, which in turn will lead to more milk.
Make sure that you’re using a good quality pump. It can make ALL the difference in the world. I have a Medela Pump in Style Advance that I love. I have never had a single issue with it. Other great options are the Spectra S1 and the Spectra S2. I know women that swear by Spectra. I also really like the fact that the S1 has a rechargeable battery pack making it completely portable. Such a game changer!
Drink More Water!!
I’m sure that after 40 weeks of people telling you to drink plenty of water, the last thing in the world that you want to hear is that you have to keep drinking it, but you do. Breast milk is 88% water. If you aren’t drinking enough water, then you won’t be making much milk.
You should aim for at least 100 ounces of water a day. I typically fill up a gallon pitcher every day and put it close to where I’m working so that I can keep a visual track of how much water to have. I have also noticed that drinking enough water keeps me from getting clogs. I’m much more prone to them on days when I’ve been a little slack on my water, so that’s another incentive to drink more.
I love, love, love, LOVE my Hydroflask. I have multiple sizes and colors in my house from large 64oz growlers to smaller 24oz mugs. Hydroflask is AMAZING! Their products basically last forever (the only one I replaced was the one my husband left on an airplane), and they have great customer service.
They even have an EXTREMELY easy system for replacing lids if they happen to get damaged. The water temperature will also last for hours! My husband uses his big growler for hot tea, and it will stay warm all day for him. Definitely worth it!
There are a million and 1 supplements on the market out there claiming to increase breast milk supply. Some of them work, some of them don’t. The big thing is finding the supplements that work for YOU. I have tried just about everything, so here’s what I’ve found out.
If you aren’t already, start taking lecithin. It doesn’t increase your breast milk supply, but rather makes your milk less sticky so that you can empty faster.
This is not only useful because you’ll spend less time at the pump, but also because if you can empty more adequately, then you can in turn make more milk. Lecithin is also amazing at helping to relieve clogs to help keep them from turning into mastitis. I’ve been there. It sucks. Use the lecithin.
I normally take 2 in the morning and 2 at night. Not everyone needs that much, but I’ve had mastitis twice and I never want to risk having it again. I like the NOW Sunflower Lecithin. There are soy lecithin options as well, but too much soy upsets my stomach, but choose what works for you.
I’ve used moringa a lot during my pumping journey and it’s great. The best combination that I found is using it in conjunction with Goat’s Rue. I take 2 of the Organic India Moringa twice a day, and 2 of the Mother’s Select Organic Goat’s Rue 3 times a day. After about a week or 2, my daily average was up 5 ounces. That’s a win in my book!
Brewer’s Yeast comes in powered or tablet form. I personally never noticed much difference when I took it, but I know some women that swear by it. The powder is great because you can just add it to your food, but be careful. It has a pretty strong taste that can overpower a lot of foods.
I’ve added the NOW Brewer’s Yeast to granola bars and cookies. It wasn’t as noticeable there and I think I really just wanted a good excuse to eat cookies. They’re for the baby!
If you want to avoid all of that then just go drink a beer. (Where did you think the yeast came from?) The best options are your richer darker beers such as stouts, ales, and porters. And yes the milk is fine to feed to your baby. No need to pump and dump. It would be more dangerous for you to try to take care of your baby while drinking than it would be to feed him your milk.
Fenugreek is a weird one. Some women have great results from it, but there are some that actually have a decrease in milk supply from it. I personally don’t take it, but I mention it because most lactation supplements have it as an ingredient and I want you to be informed.
If you take it and don’t notice an increase in 24-48 hours then stop taking it. If it will work for you, it will work quickly. Just a side note as well, fenugreek will make you smell like maple syrup. If you don’t smell like syrup then you aren’t taking enough. One of the best fenugreek based products on the market is Let There Be Milk. I know several women that absolutely swear by it.
Early on in my pumping journey I gave this stuff a try and I just want to warn you, it tastes god awful. The trick is to put it all the way in the back of your mouth and quickly wash it down with something. The taste doesn’t linger thankfully, but it’s weird at first. I just didn’t want you to be caught off guard.
Most lactation consultants will tell you that you shouldn’t pump longer than 20 minutes. This information is for nursing mothers, not exclusive pumpers. You should be aiming for a MINIMUM of 20 minutes plus an additional 5 minutes after your milk has stopped. Even if you aren’t getting any more milk out, or you’re just getting drops, this stimulation is telling your body that that amount of milk was not enough and that you need more.
Your body doesn’t want to do more work than it absolutely has to. So if it thinks that 2 ounces was enough because that’s all you pulled out, then that is all it is going to make. If you want more then you have to demand more. Supply and demand, remember?
You want to aim for multiple let downs. Your first one will have the majority of the milk, but your second or even third one will have all of the fatty hind milk that your little one really needs. You want to get all of that. Use the let down feature on your pump several times to help force multiple let downs.
Related: 10 Ways to Pump More Breast Milk
Try Power Pumping
Power pumping is when you pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, and pump for another 10 minutes. The whole thing will take you an hour. This is to mimic cluster feeding. Babies do this for several reasons, but mainly when they are going through a growth spurt. Doing this tells your body that you need more milk and you need it now.
Increases from power pumping typically show up after a couple of days. If you want faster results then you can try power pumping more times. I wouldn’t do more than 2 or 3 times a day though because your poor boobs will need a break. If the extra pumping starts making your nipples a bit sore. Try adding a little coconut oil to your flanges before pumping. Just a little bit will help keep the uncomfortable pulling to a minimum. The milk is also safe for baby, so no worries there.
Eat Foods to Increase supply
Ever wonder why you’re always starving? It’s because your body is burning a huge amount of calories every day making milk. Each ounce of milk takes 20 calories to produce. If you make 35 ounces a day, that is 700 calories that you’ve burned just sitting there!
I know that after having your baby you’re probably looking forward to dropping any baby weight that you have hanging around, but be smart about it. Dropping calories is going to decrease your milk supply before it will decrease your waist size.
I would suggest a low carb, high fat diet like Whole 30 to drop the extra weight. Either that or just wait until your supply is better established.
Until then, keep eating. Your baby needs the calories.
Foods that can really help with your supply include oats, flax seeds, and dark leafy greens. Foods with good healthy fats include avocado, coconut, and olives. Add these to your diet and see how your milk adjusts.
I know that worrying about your breast milk supply can be stressful, but you need to just relax. Stress is the number 1 way to hurt your milk supply. So take a deep breath and try to get some extra sleep tonight. You’ll be amazed how well your supply does when you are relaxed and you’ve actually gotten some rest.
Do you think you’re having low breast milk supply issues? Have you found ways to raise it? Let me know!
Until next time!
- Eight Things Ruining Your Milk Supply and How to Stop Them
- Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
- Ten Tips to Survive Exclusive Pumping
- How to Survive the Bad Days of Exclusive Pumping