5 Ways to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
Updated June 2020
What to know and what to do when it comes to boosting your milk supply
As a new mom, it’s natural to worry about your little one. One common concern we hear all the time is the feeling that your baby isn’t feeding enough. Thankfully, there are ways to tell when and why your baby may not be getting enough milk. There are also things you can do to boost milk production and combat low milk supply from tried-and-true home remedies—no, not all of them are myths—to strategic choices made the moment your baby is born. And remember, breast milk production fluctuation is totally normal, so don’t worry too much about the ups and downs. Here’s what to look out for and what you can do to increase your breast milk supply.
Establish a healthy milk supply from hour one
Once your baby arrives, your lactation relationship truly begins. The delivery of the placenta drops your body’s progesterone level, and over the next few days, pregnancy hormones decrease so that lactation hormones can take over. For most moms, these first few weeks are the most critical in establishing a healthy milk supply throughout the entire breastfeeding journey.
To get started on the right note, try to pump or nurse within the first hour of delivery. You can even add this goal into your breastfeeding plan so everyone in your care team can help make it happen. Starting so soon after birth will stimulate the gradual transition from colostrum to ounces of milk. It’s important that your baby gets this nutrient-dense first round of breast milk to help build their immune system and gut functionality. Then, three to five days after delivery, you’ll move out of the colostrum phase and start producing more milk. Even if this shift feels small at first, the great news is that your newborn’s tiny tummy can only hold about as much as you are producing.
Watch for baby’s hunger cues
Trust us, your baby will tell you when they’re hungry! During those first few days, your baby may seem to sleep half the day away—enjoy it while you can, mom—and show no active interest in feeding. Or, maybe your newborn wants to nurse nonstop. Both options and anything in between are completely normal. The best thing you can do is keep your baby close to you, skin to skin, on your chest and watch out for adorable early hunger cues such as mouth movements and sudden alertness indicating he or she is ready to nurse. Don’t wait for your newborn to cry to express hunger. This very late hunger cue will make it exceedingly difficult to obtain a successful latch and have a breastfeeding session.
Be one with your baby
Here’s an easy one: In the early days, don’t leave your baby’s side! Just as you and your baby have been a unit for the past 40 weeks or so, remaining a unit now will maximize your lactation success. Rest and recover with your newborn. The frequency of nursing—or pumping if you cannot or choose not to nurse—matters a lot in the first few weeks. Having your baby constantly at your breast allows access to colostrum and sets your breasts up for making milk long term.
It’s all about supply and demand
You’ve probably heard it before, but get ready to hear it again: the economic model of “supply and demand” applies to breast milk production as well. We know that the lactating breast is never totally empty, but after a nursing or pumping session, milk production will be at its highest. This means that when your breast feels the most empty, your body sends signals to get the refilling process on the go. On the other hand, when milk is left in your breast, your body sends protective signals to slow production. That’s why breastfeeding your baby more frequently or adding in another pumping session is a great way to increase breast milk supply.
Set your nursing and pumping schedule in place early on
The first two weeks of your baby’s life set the tone for your whole lactation relationship. When a mother does not develop a full milk supply, the reason can often be traced back to an event during the first two weeks of the infant’s life such as the separation of mother and infant or a half-day of no nursing or pumping. That’s why it’s important to aim for frequency, comfort and effective milk removal in the first two weeks postpartum.
If this does happen, though, for whatever reason, there are ways to overcome a low milk supply. A great first step to try is increasing the frequency or efficacy of your nursing and/or pumping. If you need help finding a powerful breast pump to make this happen, contact us here at The Lactation Network. We can help you find one that will work for you.
Another fantastic way to increase your breast milk supply and improve your breastfeeding sessions is to set up an individualized assessment with a lactation consultant.
Keep in mind, mom, that it’s not all or nothing. Even babies who receive only some of their mother’s own milk have better health outcomes than those who receive none. For moms unable to meet 100% of your newborn’s nutritional needs, know that the amount you are giving your baby is making positive differences to last a lifetime.
Don’t forget to set yourself up for delivery-day success! Get an insurance-covered breast pump through us to help you out in the first hour after your baby’s arrival.