Not having enough milk is the number one fear of nursing mothers. Here is a smart guide on how to increase milk supply.
How can you increase the milk your body is producing? The ultimate secret in boosting your milk supply is to nurse as often as possible. Milk production is, like everything, a supply and demand thing. The more regularly you breastfeed, the more milk your body will produce.
Insufficient milk is one of the reasons why some moms stop breastfeeding early. But this is counterintuitive and is not how to increase milk supply.
Top Tips on How to Increase Milk Supply
Your milk supply depends on your baby’s needs. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. If you are worried about having an insufficient amount of milk for your baby, it is essential that you know how milk production works.
The key is to send a message to your breasts that they need to produce more milk. You can do this by seeing your breasts are emptied every after feeding.
Let’s dig deeper with these tips on how to increase your milk supply:
- Make sure that your baby is nursing correctly. You need to drain your breasts after every feeding, and your baby can do that if he/she is latching correctly. Talk to your doctor about proper latching when breastfeeding.
- Nurse regularly. The goal is to drain your breasts of milk as much as possible. You can do that as long as your baby is actively nursing. Nurse as much as possible. Do not attempt to remove your breast if you see your baby sleeping while nursing. Let your baby detach himself or herself from your nipple on their own.
Do not rely too much on textbook eating patterns. Offer your breasts as soon as you see signs from your baby wanting to nurse.
- Make sure you nurse both sides. Let the baby finish one side before switching to the other. You want to make sure to drain both of your breasts so that they are producing the same amount of milk.
If you don’t drain them adequately, your breasts will look odd and will have different sizes. If the baby is full after nursing only one side of your breasts, you can start pumping milk from the other.
- Avoid feeding bottles and pacifiers as much as possible. Doing this will disrupt your breasts’ milk production. Your body is gauging how much milk it should produce based on your baby’s sucking frequency. The more milk your baby guzzles, the more milk your body will supply; this is how your body interprets this process.
Of course, there will be times when you will be at work and in no position to offer a direct latch during feeding. Make sure that you pump your milk whenever necessary. It will send continuous signals to your body that it needs to produce milk.
- Use lactation enhancements. Some herbs are known to increase breast milk production. For example, you can mix fenugreek and alfalfa into tea, cookies, and smoothies. But before using these products, consult your doctor. You can also ask them to prescribe lactation supplements.
- Take care of yourself. This one goes without saying. Eat three meals daily and keep yourself hydrated at all times. Now and then, consume nutrient-rich snacks. Get as much rest as well when your baby is asleep. Pamper yourself from time to time. By caring for yourself, you're caring for your baby too.
Now that the general tips are out of the way, we can move on to talk about other things related to breastfeeding. Read on to know how to increase milk supply and learn the ins and outs of the whole process of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding During the First Six Weeks After Giving Birth
The first six weeks of breastfeeding will always be the hardest. It isn’t just your infant you’re worrying about. You also have to worry about sore nipples, blocked ducts, and various other complications. Plus, you’ll always ask yourself, “Is my baby getting enough nourishment?”. It’s a challenging time in the process.
But this window of time is critical in learning how to increase milk supply. Your body is only beginning to gauge how much milk it needs to produce. The reason why it’s a bit difficult at the start is that your body has little to no data on what your infant needs. That’s why you need to regularize you and your baby’s feeding behaviours.
It isn’t going to be painless, but it’s better to know what to expect. Here are some common challenges that mothers face during the first six weeks of breastfeeding:
The first time your breasts produce milk, you’ll notice that they’re becoming quite hard. They’ll feel painful to touch as well. This sensation will continue to occur whenever you’re supposed to breastfeed your baby. But don’t worry: this should stop at around the six-week mark.
Once your breasts begin to soften, it doesn’t mean your milk supply is decreasing. It’s a sign that your body has correctly gauged how much milk your baby needs.
Cluster Feeding Sessions
Cluster feeding sessions occur when your baby nurses about eight to twelve times in twenty-four hours. Sometimes it goes beyond twelve. It leaves you breastfeeding your infant from the late night up until the quiet hours of the morning.
It could go on for a while. Sometimes it goes way beyond the six-week mark. The best you can do during this period is to find a way to get comfy while doing it. Most cluster feeding sessions occur during the evening. Perhaps you could have an early dinner and then watch a movie while your baby nurses.
As time progresses, these sessions should occur less and less. It’s a matter of powering through it.
Long Breastfeeding Sessions
Newborns need to be breastfed not only for nourishment but also for comfort and security. Feeding time should become more and more spaced out as time passes. It is especially the case after the six-week mark. As your baby’s awareness grows, he/she will become less interested in sticking to you. He/She will start becoming more curious about the world around him/her.
Keep these in mind during your first six weeks. It’ll be tedious and even painful, but it will be worth it. It’s smooth sailing once your body grows accustomed to your schedule.
Apart from these potential challenges, there’s another thing worthy of note. Using bottles or dummies when breastfeeding during the first few weeks is a big no for mothers. They might cause nipple or teat confusion for your baby, in which he/she has a difficult time sucking from a bottle.
If your partner is aching to have their turn feeding the baby, assure them that they’ll be allowed after the six-week mark. But while your body still hasn’t gotten into the rhythm, stick to breastfeeding. Once your milk supply stabilizes, you can begin experimenting with other methods.
Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding
Remember the past nine months of pregnancy where you made a big fuss about what foods to avoid? Well, this is round two. Be wary of certain foods because they could affect the composition of your breast milk. In turn, this may negatively impact your baby.
Here are some foods that you should stay away from:
Yes, we know that you’re hardly getting any sleep. Yes, we know it’s tough for you to stay awake. But, as much as possible minimize your intake of caffeine.
Tea and coffee can wait. Ingesting them will cause the caffeine to work its way into your breast milk. And your baby’s body doesn’t process caffeine as quickly and efficiently as your body. If you’re aching to have a cup of joe, at least wait until after your baby is sound asleep.
Some babies may be born allergic to dairy. They might be unable to calm down after being breastfed, have some form of skin problem, or develop sleep issues. These can be very discomforting for your baby.
In order to see if your infant is allergic to dairy products, you, yourself, have to avoid eating anything with milk for a few weeks. If your baby begins to improve after you eliminate milk from your diet, they most likely have a dairy allergy. Consult your doctor on how to proceed.
This one should go without saying, but you could still use a reminder. Ingested alcohol can find its way into your breast milk and will affect your child negatively. Given this, it’s best to avoid drinking altogether.
However, if you must have a drink or two of alcohol, do it long before you need to breastfeed your infant. Alcohol takes about one to two to metabolize. It doesn’t stay in your breast milk for long. Once you’re sober, you can nurse your baby again.
Some fish are high in mercury, which is harmful to your child when ingested through breast milk. While you don’t need to avoid fish entirely, you have to choose what kinds of fish you’re going to eat. Some have more mercury than others.
Chocolate is a source of caffeine. It usually doesn’t have as much caffeine as tea or coffee, so you don’t have to eliminate it from your diet completely. Nonetheless, limit your consumption of it.
For some mothers, eating chocolate may turn their breast milk into a laxative for their babies. If you’ve eaten a bit too many bars of chocolate, keep an eye on your infant’s behaviour. Give special attention to their diapers. A fussy baby with watery excrement is a sign that you have to cut back on the chocolate. Better yet, maybe you ought to eliminate it from your diet completely.
Does your family have a history of being allergic to peanuts?
If the answer is yes, avoid eating peanuts until your baby is over with his/her breastfeeding phase. Peanuts and tree nuts have allergenic elements that can find their way into your breast milk.
If you’ve already consumed peanuts and have a history, keep a close eye on your infant. Wheezing, rashes or hives could be signs that they have an allergic reaction.
Parsley and Peppermint
Parsley is a garnish in different dishes. Peppermint is refreshing when steeped in tea. However, it’s best to avoid these herbs as they may cause a decrease in your milk supply.
Small quantities shouldn’t interfere with your milk production too severely. But it’s still better to be safe than sorry. Your infant needs all the nourishment he/she can get. Having too much breast milk is better than not having enough.
The case with wheat is similar to that of dairy products. Some babies are born with gluten intolerance. It may result in bloody stools and general discomfort for your infant.
Much like with dairy allergies, the best way to solve the issue is to eliminate wheat from your diet completely.
This food is a bit different from the others on the list. The elements of garlic can get into your milk as well. And if your baby doesn’t like the smell of breast milk with garlic, they might not breastfeed at all. Garlic may be a nice addition to a well-cooked dish, but babies haven’t matured enough to appreciate its taste.
If you notice that they’re hesitant to breastfeed or they refuse to latch onto your teat, that might be a sign of this. Try to remove garlic from your diet and then breastfeeding again.
It’s recommendable that mothers avoid citrus fruits altogether while their baby is breastfeeding because your baby’s gastrointestinal tract is still underdeveloped. Some compounds of citrus friends can irritate this part of your baby’s body and cause them discomfort. It may lead to spitting up milk and saliva, fussiness, and even diaper rashes.
Instead of having oranges or lemons, get your dose of Vitamin C from pineapples or mangos instead.
Here you have only a short list of the foods that you might want to avoid. Parsley and peppermint, as well as citrus fruits, seem to be the foods that you should avoid entirely. The others on the list, like caffeine and garlic, can be consumed, but not too much.
There are also the foods that your baby may be allergic to like dairy products, peanuts, and wheat. What you can do with these is refrain from eating them at the beginning of your breastfeeding phase and then reintroduce them slowly.
For example, you can start eating dairy products to test if your baby is allergic. If you don’t notice any complications, move on to reintroducing peanuts. Do this until you’ve exhausted the foods that may cause allergic reactions in your infant.
Natural Lactation Supplements
We’ve talked about the foods you have to avoid. Now, let’s talk about foods that can help you produce more breast milk. These foods don’t just help with your milk production. They also come with health benefits that aid a breastfeeding mother.
Here are some foods that could increase your production of milk:
Water is said to increase your total milk volume. Plus, it’s important to keep hydrated as you lose fluids while you breastfeed your baby.
Beet Leaves and Spinach Leaves
Aside from increasing your milk production, beet and spinach leaves contain iron, calcium, and folic acid. They’re healthy for both you and your baby. Additionally, these are a big help to recuperating anemic mothers.
Dill leaves are not only known to boost a mother’s milk supply, but they’re also high in fibre content and vitamin K which help replenish the blood lost during delivery.
Apricots boost lactation and are rich in fibre and calcium. When dried, they produce chemicals that can balance out the hormone levels in your body. You especially need this during and after pregnancy when hormonal imbalances frequently take place.
Apart from increasing milk quantity, bottle gourds have a high water content which can keep you hydrated.
Carrots promote lactation due to its high levels of Vitamin A. This vitamin also improves the quality of your breast milk.
Garlic has chemical compounds that are known to help with lactation and increase your milk supply. Nonetheless, as mentioned in the previous section, some babies may be put off from breastfeeding because of garlic. Given this, your best bet is to limit your consumption of garlic, especially if you notice that your baby doesn’t like it.
Asparagus has a lot of Vitamin A, which promotes lactation. It’s also packed with Vitamin K and fibre.
Almonds are rich in Omega-3, which prompts lactation-boosting hormones to produce more breast milk. It’s also rich in Vitamin E.
Brown rice is known to enhance breast milk production. It also has hormone stimulants that boost lactation.
Salmon packs essential fatty acids (EFA) and omega-3. These are both highly nutritious and known to boost lactation hormones. As mentioned in the previous section, mothers ought to cut down on the consumption of fish due to mercury content. Salmon, however, has far less mercury than most fish. It means it’s safe to eat. Just remember to do so in moderation.
Other foods that are said to increase milk production are the following: fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and oatmeal.
All the foods listed above are known to increase a mother’s milk supply. However, not all of them have a basis in scientific studies. Given this, it’s best for you to consume these foods in moderation. Note any side effects that affect you or your baby. And always make sure to consult your doctor about these things.
What NOT To Do While Breastfeeding
While eating certain foods can either decrease or increase your milk supply, specific actions can have the same effect. Mothers may be doing it unintentionally, without knowing that it’s affecting their levels of milk production. To avoid this, you should know what actions may negatively impact your lactation.
Here are a few things that you shouldn’t do while breastfeeding:
Do not take birth control pills.
While the breastfeeding phase is known to reduce a mother’s chances of conception, it isn’t a guarantee. Some mothers opt to take birth control pills. However, this can, to some extent, affect lactation. It may lessen your milk supply considerably. As such, it might be better to use another form of contraception during the breastfeeding phase.
Do not consume over-the-counter medications.
From pregnancy up until the breastfeeding period, you have low immunity. It makes you more prone to sickness. You might decide to take over-the-counter medicines for cough and/or colds. But this might make breastfeeding difficult as some drugs can suppress your milk ducts. It makes it more difficult for your little one to drink breast milk. Before taking any over-the-counter medications, make sure to consult your doctor.
Do not breastfeed based on a set schedule.
It’s recommendable that you breastfeed your baby ten to twelve times a day during the first few weeks to ensure that your body produces enough milk during the coming months. Don’t rely on a schedule that you set yourself. Usually, when your baby is hungry, they need to be fed ASAP.
Do not give let your baby use pacifiers too much.
It was stated earlier in the article that babies shouldn’t be bottle- or dummy-fed before the six-week mark because it could lead to teat or nipple confusion. The same is the reason why it’s not recommendable that you allow your baby to suck on pacifiers too much.
Do not ignore your health.
We know. You’re excited now that you can finally hold your baby in your arms. But never forget to take care of yourself when you can. Not maintaining your health may lead to a decrease in your breast milk production. That would be bad for your baby.
When should I begin breastfeeding? Mothers are encouraged to start breastfeeding as early as an hour after the baby’s birth. Newborn babies placed on their mother’s chests will automatically look for the breast. Even if the baby doesn’t suck out any milk from the mother’s teat, it’s good practice.
How long does it take to nurse my baby? It depends on a lot of factors like the mother’s milk supply, milk flow, the current disposition of the baby, and others. It varies from mother to mother. Generally, the older the baby is, the more efficient they are. Thus, the less time they take.