I talk to new moms all the time about their breastfeeding experiences, and a fairly common complaint is that they are not producing enough milk. First let me start with how to tell if you are actually producing enough for your baby or not. Your baby’s output will be the best indicator of what is going in to your baby’s body. So check for pees and poos, and as long as those two things are happening on a regular basis daily, your baby is eating and drinking. Next, just pay attention to weight gain/loss. This does not mean weighing your baby 5 times a day before and after feeding, but just a simple weekly check is good. If your baby is gaining weight, you are making enough milk. And once your baby is consistently gaining weight, you don’t need to continue weighing weekly, unless indicated.
Remember that todays hunger/need to breastfeed is actually going to be tomorrows (or the next day) supply in most cases, so even though it may feel like baby is not satisfied and they want to eat all the time, that is okay. The constant nursing will increase your supply for the following day or day after. So I guess that brings me to the first way to increase your milk supply:
1. Breastfeed as much as possible
The physical action of having a baby on your breast will increase your supply. Remember that this takes time though, and can be somewhat frustrating, but it is definitely a tried and true method. This also means feeding on demand, unless there is not a strong demand, then every 1.5-2 hours for sure. A breast pump is helpful to use at the end of a feeding or between feedings, but don’t use it to replace a feeding (ie., pump and then bottle feed). A pump does not do the same thing as a baby on the breast, so you will likely not see the same effects from pumping, and you may feel a little discouraged if not much milk comes out. Some women just aren’t able to pump the same amount as while breastfeeding, this is normal. The reason you should use it afterwards is to drain your breast of all milk. It is also recommended to pump for a few more minutes after the last drop of milk. This tells your body to make more milk.
In the early stages of breastfeeding, your water intake is incredibly important. If you are dehydrated, your body will not make as much milk as it would when hydrated. Try to always have a bottle of water with you, and remember, if you feel thirsty, you are dehydrated.
3. Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle
Fenugreek alone can increase your milk supply, but taken in conjunction with Blessed Thistle, it works much faster and more effectively. This method of increasing milk production should prove successful within about 24 hours. You can purchase both of those herbs in pill form, or you can also find them in teas made specifically to increase milk supply. You can find dosage information on Jack Newman’s incredibly helpful breastfeeding website.
Other herbs that have been said to help include:
- goat’s rue
- raspberry leaf
- stinging nettle
- brewer’s yeast
The last herb listed there brings me to the next method of increasing breastmilk:
4. Sit back, relax, and have a beer
One of my favourite natural milk production aides is beer. In all honesty, I cannot give a personal account of it 100% working for me (more because I didn’t need to use it for that), but I have absolutely no issue trying. Something in the barley and the hops stimulates prolactin production and therefore can increase milk supply. That means the dark and hoppy beers will be the ones you want to try. Also, this is not a free pass to get shmammered right before nursing, but please don’t feel guilty for having one or two a day.
Another bonus to the beer method is resulting relaxation. Sometimes if a new mom is really stressed, it can affect milk production. So relaxing and having a beer can help with that side of the limited milk supply as well. WIN WIN
“Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.” ~ Dr. Jack Newman
Eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast has been reported to increase milk supply. Other ways to consume the milk boosting food is by eating oatmeal cookies. There are several recipes on the internet for oatmeal lactation cookies if you’re feeling inspired to bake, or you can purchase premade cookies even!
If you feel like you have tried everything to increase your milk supply but you would like more help, consider visiting a lactation consultant and giving a phone call to your local La Leche League leader. Those two resources can come up with more ideas and provide support throughout your entire breastfeed journey.