5 Ways To Increase Breastmilk Supply

5 Ways To Increase Breastmilk Supply

Have you worried you are not making enough milk for your baby or that your milk supply needs a boost? We are here to help with 5 ways to increase breastmilk supply.  

Every parent wants to do the very best they can for their children. A common concern among breastfeeding mothers is the worry that they will not provide the breastmilk that their little ones need. Most recent studies tell us that only about 1-5% of birthing parents will not be able to make milk. That means that the majority of parents will have no problems.  

That doesn’t mean that breastfeeding and milk production does not come with its own set of challenges. As breastfeeding parents ourselves, the Kiinde lactation team knows firsthand how easy it can be to compare ourselves to others. We all experience unique breastfeeding challenges, and breastfeeding is often more learned than “natural.” If you feel that you have a low supply, here are 5 ways to increase breastmilk supply.  

Do I have low milk supply?

Many of us have found ourselves thinking "is my supply low?" or "am I making enough milk?" The most important thing to determine is whether you really have a low milk supply or if the lack of supply is simply perceived. How can you tell the difference? If you are practicing responsive breastfeeding(also known as feeding on demand), your baby has an appropriate amount of wet and dirty diapers, your baby is happy and satisfied after feeding and is meeting milestones, there is a really good chance your milk supply is perfect for your baby and you do not have a low milk supply. It is completely normal to see some variation and regulation in milk supply as your baby grows. Seeing these changes is not always cause for concern.

Changes in breasts and breastmilk supply that are NOT necessarily an indication of low milk supply:

  • Expressing less milk when pumping
  • Cluster feeding
  • Changes in breasts (not leaking, lack of engorgement or fullness)
  • Baby willing to take a bottle after breastfeeding
  • Baby frustrated or distracted at the breast or during feeding.    

Most of the time, these changes alone are not a cause for worry. If you feel that your baby is dissatisfied, if breastfeeding is uncomfortable, or if your baby is not meeting the growth expectations, please reach out to your lactation professional for help and a plan.    

5 ways to increase breastmilk supply

  1. Remove Milk More Frequently.
Breast milk production is a hormonal process that is heavily reliant on “supply and demand.” This means that the more milk you remove, and the more frequently you remove milk, the more your body will be signaled to make milk.   Breast milk contains something called FIL(feedback inhibitor of lactation) which controls your milk production. When the breast is full, FIL will signal the body to make less milk. When the breast is empty, the body speeds up milk production with less FIL present.   This process helps us understand why breastmilk supply is decreased when we go long periods without removing milk. To prevent this, avoid skipping feedings and feed or pump responsively. Watch your baby's cues and listen to your body to know when it is time to feed or express milk.  
  1. Switch Nursing

Switch nursing is a great technique to help your baby keep their focus at the breast. It also ensures that both breasts are fully stimulated and that your baby has an additional opportunity to remove all of the milk that they need.   Switch nursing involves switching sides three or more times during each feeding. It can be helpful for sleepy or distracted babies and can help increase milk production. You may recognize that cluster feeding may often resemble a natural switch nursing process. 

If you are exclusively pumping, or pumping for the bulk of your milk expression, power pumping may yield similar results.  

  1. Breast Compressions and Hands On Pumping.

When milk supply is low, if baby is struggling to latch, or when other challenges are present, a little extra stimulation can go a long way. Starting each breastfeeding or pumping session with a gentle breast massage can help signal to your brain that it is time to feed baby and can help get the milk within the ducts flowing.   If needed, you can continue those gentle compression during the feed. This can be particularly helpful if your baby is struggling to latch, is frustrated with the variation in flow at the breast, or has trouble maintaining flow.       

When using a breast pump to express milk, Hands on Pumping techniques can increase your output significantly. This technique involves doing a gentle massage before pumping and incorporating breast compressions and hand expression into your pump session.  

  1. Rest and Relax

Your mental health matters! While we understand that the stressors of everyday life do not directly affect milk supply, we do know that they can affect the breastfeeding experience.  

Cortisol, the hormone that is produced when we are anxious, worried or stressed can make it difficult for prolactin (milk-making hormones) to get the let down process started. This can lead to both the breastfeeding parent and baby feeling frustrated, which can start a cycle of supplementing or other behaviors that do lead to a decrease in milk expression and therefore supply.  

Please do not forget to take care of yourself. Take a break when you need it, do something that makes you feel happy every day and talk to a therapist or medical professional if you feel you need some additional mental health support. Rest is equally important as it directly affects mental and physical health. As often as you can, rest with your baby and do the things you need to get sleep.  

  1. Don't Forget to Hydrate and Eat

Evidence-based research tells us that what we eat probably does not affect milk supply, or at least does not affect it in the same way for all breastfeeding parents. But eating is still very important!  

Producing breastmilk takes an additional 300-500 calories each day! Your body is essentially working overtime to make sure that your baby is fed. Please do not forget to feed yourself. Eat the things that you enjoy and do not restrict yourself. A well-rounded diet is better for the mother's overall health, but there are no specific foods you need to eat to make or maintain a milk supply. Your body will make ample nutritious milk for your baby.  

It is important to follow the CDC's guidelines regarding consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and seafood high in mercury. Also, watch your baby for any outward signs of discomfort in case of allergies. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as both hunger and dehydration can affect the milk supply.  

A helpful tip from our team: eat a snack and drink a glass of water each time you feed your baby or pump. This should ensure that you get at least 8 glasses of water each day. We encourage you to listen to your body: eat when you are hungry and drink to satisfy thirst.    

Practicing responsive breastfeeding, removing milk frequently and taking care of yourself are truly the best things you can do to increase breastmilk supply.  

If you notice a supply increase or decrease that is concerning to you or you have specific challenges you need help with, please reach out to your local lactation professional for a feeding assessment and a plan that empowers you to reach your feeding goals. 

Tips from the Kiinde Lactation Team: What is your favorite piece of Breastfeeding advice?

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