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How can I increase my milk supply when breastfeeding?

To increase milk supply...

• stay hydrated (keep a water bottle within reach while nursing)

• eat a balanced diet (about 500 calories more than you ate before pregnancy…yummy!)

• breastfeed regularly

• pump it up (pump an extra morning feed if you have time)

• get enough sleep (or as much as possible)

While there is not enough medical evidence to support the use of fenugreek capsules, Mother’s Milk Tea, barley, or oatmeal to increase milk supply, many moms swear that they really do work.
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If your milk supply is low, here are some suggestions on how to increase it:
1. Take care of yourself. Try to eat well and drink enough fluids.  You don't need to force fluids - if you are drinking enough to keep your urine clear, and you aren't constipated, then you're probably getting enough. Drink to thirst, usually 6-8 glasses a day. Your diet doesn't have to be perfect, but you do need to eat enough to keep yourself from being tired all the time. It is easy to get so overwhelmed with baby care that you forget to eat and drink enough. Don't try to diet while you are nursing, especially in the beginning while you are establishing your supply. You need a minimum of 1800 calories each day while you are lactating, and if you eat high quality foods and limit fats and sweets, you will usually lose weight more easily than a mother who is formula feeding, even without depriving yourself.  (See article on "Nutrition, Weight Loss & Exercise")
  1. Nurse frequently for as long as your baby will nurse. Try to get in a minimum of 8 feedings in 24 hours, and more if possible. 
  2. Offer both breasts at each feeding. Try "switch nursing". Watch your baby as he nurses. He will nurse vigorously for a few minutes, then start slowing down and swallowing less often.  He may continue this lazy sucking for a long time, then be too tired to take the other breast when you try to switch sides. Try switching him to the other breast as soon as his sucking slows down, even if it has only been a couple of minutes. Do the same thing on the other breast until you have offered each breast twice, then let him nurse as long as he wants to. This switch nursing will ensure that he receives more of the higher calorie hindmilk, while also ensuring that both breasts receive adequate stimulation.
  3. Try massaging the breast gently as you nurse. This can help the rich, higher calorie hindmilk let down more efficiently.
  4. Make sure that you are using proper breastfeeding techniques. Check your positioning to make sure that he is latching on properly. If the areola is not far enough back in his mouth, he may not be able to compress the milk sinuses effectively in order to release the milk.
  5. Avoid bottles (if possible) and pacifiers. You want your baby's sucking needs to be met at the breast.
Disclaimer:  I'm not a medical physician, if you have any questions, please notify your physician.
Jeanne Longbottom
Hospice Nursing

The best way to care for your baby is to care for your baby’s mother. Rest with your baby. Eat nutritious snacks and meals. Avoid empty calories. Drink to thirst; usually 6-8 glasses of fluids. If your urine is clear and you are not thirsty, you are getting enough fluids. It has been said that the average life expectancy of a woman is into the 70’s. If you spend 1-2 years nurturing your baby with breastfeeding you have invested less than 2% of your life. Try to enjoy that 2 %; put your feet up when you breastfeed. In the beginning that will help you rest and later it may be the only time your feet are up. Placing a warm pack on the breast and gentle massage toward the nipple can bring richer hind milk down.

Babies lose up to 10% of birth weight in the first week, then gain 4-7 oz. a week. Babies over 5 days have 6+ wet diapers/day. Still not sure of wet diapers? Put 3 tbl. water into disposable diaper then test the diaper’s look, weight and texture.  Place a piece of paper towel or a tissue on the baby under their diaper; they will look and feel wet. Newborns should have 2-5 stools in 24 hours; older babies may have stools days apart.

If the baby has a growth spurt breastfeeding is demanded even every hour for about 24-48 hours. This is the best way to increase milk supply. Breastfeed the baby as often and as long as you can comfortably; use both breasts each feed. When the baby slows suckling, take them off the breast, burp, and offer the second breast. Babies need both suckling and calories to thrive. Avoid artificial nipples including pacifiers and bottles. Supplement with a small medicine cup, dropper or spoon gives calories without suckling. Before supplementing talk to your lactation consultant, WIC nurse, pediatrician, or La Leche league volunteer.

If baby has a weak suck pumping the breast is indicated. If you will be pumping often, a hospital grade pump is a good investment. If you will be pumping a short time, rent a hospital grade pump. Milk can be hand expressed if your budget doesn’t allow for a commercial pump. Facilitate pumping with warm compresses, massage, skin-to-skin time with your infant and a comfortable environment. Pump breasts together with low suction, increase to comfort as milk starts to squirt into the pump.

Remember to use your help to allow time for learning breastfeeding.

To increase your milk, you need to empty your breasts often and completely. For a time, you may need to combine breastfeeding and pumping or, if your baby isn’t nursing, pump more often.

If your baby is nursing:
  • Breastfeed as often as your baby will take the breast (try for every two hours, or more often, during the day).
  • Pump both breasts after breastfeeding.
  • Don’t go longer than a five-hour stretch at night without breastfeeding or pumping.
If you are pumping:
  • Pump both breasts at the same time.
  • Pump after skin-to-skin time with your baby.
  • Pump and massage your breasts 8 to 10 times a day, for 15 to 30 minutes a session. Here’s how: Pump until the milk is no longer squirting out. Remove the flange from your breast and massage around your breast in a circle, moving gradually inward toward the nipple. Pump again. When the milk has stopped dripping, pump for two more minutes before stopping.
  • When pumping, turn up the suction pressure after letdown (after the milk starts spraying out). This will help empty your breast. But don’t turn it up so much that it’s painful.
  • Before and during pumping, place a heating pad or warm wet cloth on your shoulder, neck or chest.
  • Try power pumping every day to help boost your milk-making hormones. To power pump: pump 10 minutes, rest 10 minutes, pump 10 minutes, rest 10 minutes, etc., for one hour.
If pumping, you’ll need to use a hospital-grade pump. This type of pump has appropriate suction settings and can pump both breasts at the same time. Note: If you already have an electric pump, ask your lactation consultant whether you can use your pump. Your lactation consultant can recommend a pump to buy or rent. When you get the pump and the pump kit, have your lactation consultant check the fit of your breasts to the flanges. (The flanges are the plastic funnels. They come in the pump kit with the tubing that attaches to the pump.)
The best way to increase the amount of breast milk produced is to breastfeed or pump as frequently as possible. The direct nipple stimulation of the infant latching on stimulates the hormones that help produce breast milk. Another factor is that mothers should make sure they are eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fluids so that they do not become dehydrated.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.