How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
The female body is amazing. Growing and birthing a baby is humbling, hard, gratifying, amazing, and oh-so-many more adjectives. And many women say the experience changes the way they think about their body for the better. Even after pregnancy and birth, the wonder of it all continues as your body produces milk to nourish your child. But just because biology is on your side, it doesn’t mean the process of producing breastmilk is easy. Ahead, we’ll cover some of the ways you can learn to increase breastmilk supply to feed and nourish your baby and how to be successful at breastfeeding.
How Breast Milk Production Works
Besides missing your period, one of the early signs that you’re pregnant is having tender, fuller breasts. That’s because your body starts preparing for milk production well before it’s time to give birth. Breast milk production comes down to the three Bs: your breasts, your brain, and your baby.
- Your breasts Milk production occurs within the alveoli (grape-like clusters of cells within the breast). Once the milk is made, it is squeezed out through the alveoli into the milk ducts, which carry the milk through the breast.
- Your brain Baby’s suckle sends a message to your brain to signal the release of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin causes the alveoli to begin making milk. Oxytocin causes muscles around the alveoli to squeeze milk out through the milk ducts.
- Your baby A baby’s role in the production is suckling and removing milk from your breast. The more milk your baby drinks, the more milk your body will make.
Causes of Low Milk Supply
You will want your doctor, your child’s pediatrician, or a lactation consultant to diagnose low supply. On the rollercoaster ride of breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that most moms make plenty of milk, but some do have a low milk supply. If you suspect your supply might not be enough for your child, here are a few of the common causes.
- Limiting your baby's breastfeeding sessions. (Feeding on demand, approximately 8-12 times every 24 hours in the first few weeks, helps you make a good milk supply.
- Swapping in infant formula
- Introducing solids before baby is 4-6 months old
- Taking certain medicines, like birth control, or if you have hepatitis B or C, herpes, or diabetes
- Not getting enough sleep
- Drinking alcohol or smoking
- Prior breast surgery
Signs Your Baby Isn’t Getting Enough Breast Milk
Because you can’t see how much milk your baby is taking at each feeding it can create a feeling of worry that your breastmilk supply is low. Here are some common signs to look for in your little one, especially in the first few months.
- Newborns sleep a lot but babies who aren’t getting enough milk will have low energy, and will sleep 4 or more hours at a time.
- Falling asleep shortly after beginning to feed or taking longer than 30-40 minutes per feed.
- A poor latch can prevent baby from getting enough milk. If baby’s latch is painful or feels shallow, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant.
- Failure to regain their birth weight by 10 to 14 days old or if weight gain is slower than expected. Consider talking to your child’s pediatrician about their growth chart.
- By four days old baby should have 3-4 stools per day.
7 Ways To Produce More Breast Milk
- Feed your baby from your breast. Avoid bottles and pacifiers in the early weeks.
- Offer your baby both breasts. Find your preferred breastfeeding position and allow baby to feed on one side before switching to the other.
- Ensure your baby is latching well. A good latch is a comfortable latch.
- Feed your baby when they’re hungry. Remember milk production is all about supply and demand—especially in the fourth trimester.
- Pump or express between nursing sessions. Stick to a feeding schedule even if you’re apart from baby.
- Empty your breasts at each feeding. An empty breast will send signals to your brain to produce more milk. Consider hand expressing or pumping once baby is done to draw out all the milk.
- Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet. Mom guilt is real but don’t be afraid to ask for help.
When to Speak to Your Doctor
If you think you have low supply or your baby isn’t getting enough milk, consider creating a breastfeeding log to record sessions, bottles, bowel movements, and urine output. This will help to give your doctor a holistic view of your breastfeeding journey. Most pediatricians allow for free weight check visits so you can accurately chart baby’s weight and growth. Speak to your doctor at each visit about concerns on your feeding journey.
Remember, breastfeeding is hard and however you choose to feed your child is the right decision for you. No matter if your baby takes a bottle or breast, gas is common. If you suspect that your infant has some stubborn gas that won’t resolve through burping alone, reach for Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops to help it along. They work to gently break gas bubbles down so your baby can naturally release them by burping or tooting. They’re safe for even the newest of newborns, and can be given at every feeding, up to 12 times a day.
Now that you know more about how to increase breast milk supply, consider these tips for calming a crying baby.