Ask the IBCLC: 5 Tips for Restoring Your Breast Milk Supply
After months of successful breastfeeding, your milk supply suddenly drops with little explanation. Our resident IBCLC, Katie McGee, outlines what to do next
Beginning a breastfeeding relationship with your little one is an exciting time—but it can also be overwhelming and confusing when things don’t go exactly as you hope. If you had a successful start to your breastfeeding journey, but are now experiencing a few bumps, don’t panic. There’s a natural balancing out of your milk supply that occurs after your little one’s first few months of life, and some fluctuations are normal. Our resident IBCLC, Katie McGree, explains how you can get back on track.
1. Ask Questions
If you’re concerned about your milk supply, track your baby’s growth over the coming weeks. During the first month, babies will be back up to birth weight by about 2 weeks of age and continue to gain about four to seven ounces per week or one to two pounds a month for the first six months of life. If your breastfeeding baby is growing well, it’s a strong sign that the baby is getting the nutrition needed.
If you’re stumped as to what’s causing a slowdown in your milk production, ask yourself the following questions:
- What else has changed?
- Has anything recently been disrupted in your routine that may have prompted this decrease in your milk supply?
- Did you start a new medication?
- Did the baby start sleeping longer at night?
- Did you recently return to work?
- Are your emptying your breasts less frequently?
- Did you introduce formula or a pacifier?
- Might you be pregnant?
If things don’t improve quickly on their own, try increasing the frequency and length of your nursing sessions. It’s the stimulation and emptying of your breasts that sends a strong signal for milk production, so nurse early and often.
2. Don’t Be Too Distracted by Diet
Sure, cookies, teas and herbs with claims to increase your milk supply sound appealing. But the only surefire way to maintain and increase your milk supply is through regular breastfeeding. Your diet has little impact on supply and milk volume. It’s a great idea to drink water throughout your day, but incorporating more nursing and pumping sessions can increase your supply more effectively than dietary or hydration changes.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
We know, this is often easier said than done. You may not be able to catch the recommended seven to eight hours, but it’s still important to sneak in a few hours of good sleep every night. Chronic sleep deprivation can work against the hormones that make milk, so rest when you can. Resist the urge to accomplish household tasks that can wait, and opt to lay down and close your eyes when the baby sleeps during the day.
4. Adjust Your Pumping Sessions
If you’re already pumping or nursing every two to three hours and at least once overnight, increasing the minutes of pumping (not to exceed 30 min per session) and the pressure, may be helpful in helping you regain the supply you once had. It’s OK if you don’t see milk coming out during the last portion of these sessions. Pumping after your milk stops actively flowing sends signals to your body to increase supply. If you’re low on time, pump both breasts at a time. Not only is this a huge time-saver, it usually yields more milk.
5. Check That Your Pump Is Working Properly
You’re putting a lot of time and effort into your pumping sessions, so make the most of them! A poorly functioning pump with decreased suction and power can negatively impact your supply. If you have any concerns about the function of your pump and its impact on your supply, contact the team at The Lactation Network. We’d be happy to find a pump that works for you.
It’s also important to make sure you’re using a breast shield that properly fits. This takes some skill, so if you are not sure, request a pumping assessment during a 90-minute in-home visit with an IBCLC from The Lactation Network. We know that breastfeeding doesn’t always come easy, and we’d love to provide some tips and tricks for your breastfeeding journey.