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How to Increase Your Milk Supply: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Feb 28

Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey, but it almost always comes with its challenges, and low milk supply is one of the most common concerns for nursing mothers. I remember it being my primary concern as a new, nursing mama even though I know with hindsight that I had an oversupply of milk. Whilst that sounds like a nice 'problem,' to have, it is no fun when your breasts feel like hot, painful bowling balls in between feeds! Low supply is hardly any fun, either. However, before diving into solutions, it's crucial to determine if you genuinely have a low supply or if it is a perceived issue. Once that's established, there are several strategies you can employ to boost your milk production and ensure your baby gets the nourishment they need.


Here's a step-by-step guide on how to increase your milk supply effectively, supported by empirical evidence and references.


Note: I do not endorse any breastfeeding supplements, teas, cookies or pills, because to date there is no empirical data to suggest that they are effective.


Establish Whether You Truly Have a Low Supply


Before taking any steps to increase your milk supply (and inadvertently create an oversupply), it's essential to confirm whether you're indeed experiencing a low supply. Signs of low milk supply include: insufficient weight gain in your baby, inadequate wet or dirty diapers, and baby's dissatisfaction after feeding. Consulting a lactation consultant or a healthcare provider is the best way to assess the situation accurately (1).


Ensure Effective Latch or Correctly Sized Breast Pump Shield or Flange:


A proper latch is key to successful breastfeeding. Ensure your baby is latching onto the breast correctly, encompassing both the nipple and a significant portion of the areola. There should be more of the dark skin if your areola visible above your baby's top lip and less (or none) visible below their bottom lip. Your latch should be pain-free, your baby's cheeks should be and they should be swallowing at regular intervals as they nurse. Read more about how to get a good latch here.


For pumping mothers, using the correct breast pump shield or flange size is crucial for efficient milk extraction. Improper sizing can hinder milk flow and contribute to decreased supply (2).


Minimize Stress


Stress can negatively impact milk production. Find ways to reduce stress levels, whether it's through relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or simply engaging in activities that bring you joy. Surround yourself with supportive individuals who understand and encourage your breastfeeding journey (3). If you struggle to find a like-minded community of support in person, The Breastfeeding Mentor Instagram, Facebook & TikTok pages are a good place to start.


Ensure Sufficient Calories and Hydration


Maintaining a well-balanced diet is essential for breastfeeding mothers. Consume nutrient-rich foods that support lactation, including whole grains, plenty of protein, fruits, and vegetables. Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the day, but avoid overhydration, as excessive fluid intake can dilute your milk supply (4). You can read more about how to eat well whilst breastfeeding, here.


Get Enough Rest or Sleep by Practicing Safe Cosleeping


Rest is vital for milk production and overall well-being. Practice safe cosleeping arrangements that allow you to nurse your baby comfortably while maximizing restorative sleep for both you and your little one. Ensure your sleep environment is conducive to safe sleep practices to reduce the risk of accidents (5).


Nurse or Pump More Frequently


Increasing the frequency of breastfeeding or pumping sessions can signal your body to produce more milk. Take advantage of overnight feedings and cluster feeding periods to stimulate milk production. Nursing or pumping just before bedtime and first thing in the morning can help boost supply as hormone levels are typically higher during these times (6).


Nurse on Demand


Responding promptly to your baby's hunger cues and nursing on demand can help maintain and increase your milk supply. Allow your baby unrestricted access to the breast, offering frequent feedings throughout the day and night as needed (7).


Increasing your milk supply is achievable with dedication, patience, and the right strategies backed by empirical evidence. By following these steps, you can maximise your milk production to ensure that your baby receives the nourishment they need for healthy growth and development. Do not hesitate to seek support from local lactation professionals or healthcare providers if you encounter challenges along the way, remembering that most mothers need support at some point in their nursing journey. Above all else, trust your body, and cherish the special bond you share with your little one through breastfeeding.


In the event that you are not able to nurse or pump exclusively for your baby, I would like you to know that every drop of your milk contains millions of immune-boosting white blood cells. So for as long as you want to continue breastfeeding: exclusively, or alongside donor milk or formula, you should do just that.


With love,

Danielle

❤️


References:

1. Kent, J. C., Mitoulas, L. R., Cregan, M. D., Ramsay, D. T., Doherty, D. A., & Hartmann, P. E. (2006). Importance of vacuum for breastmilk expression. Breastfeeding Medicine, 1(4), 207-215.

2. Geddes, D. T., Sakalidis, V. S., Hepworth, A. R., McClellan, H. L., Kent, J. C., & Lai, C. T. (2012). Tongue movement and intra-oral vacuum of term infants during breastfeeding and feeding from an experimental teat that released milk under vacuum only. Early Human Development, 88(6), 443-449.

3. Mezzacappa, E. S., & Katkin, E. S. (2002). Breast-feeding is associated with reduced perceived stress and negative mood in mothers. Health Psychology, 21(2), 187–193.

4. Neville, M. C., & Morton, J. (2001). Physiology and endocrine changes underlying human lactogenesis II. Journal of Nutrition, 131(11), 3005S–3008S.

5. McKenna, J. J., & Gettler, L. T. (2016). There is no such thing as infant sleep, there is no such thing as breastfeeding, there is only breastsleeping. Acta Paediatrica, 105(1), 17-21.

6. Kent, J. C., Prime, D. K., & Garbin, C. P. (2012). Principles for maintaining or increasing breast milk production. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 41(1), 114-121.

7. Dewey, K. G., Nommsen-Rivers, L. A., Heinig, M. J., & Cohen, R. J. (2003). Risk factors for suboptimal infant breastfeeding behavior, delayed onset of lactation, and excess neonatal weight loss. Pediatrics, 112(3), 607-619.



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