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11 Proven Methods to Increase Milk Production (Overcome Low Milk Supply FOR GOOD!)
The following is a guest post from Jane Rudenko, a breastfeeding blogger at triptomotherhood.com. Enjoy!
How can I produce more breastmilk? If you’ve never asked yourself this, then you probably haven’t breastfed! Why? Because one of the most common breastfeeding problems new moms struggle with is low milk supply. I’ve been there, too. God only knows how much I worried that my milk would just vanish. I had at least two valid (or so I thought) reasons for that. First, my mother was unable to establish her own milk supply and gave up after 1.5 months of breastfeeding, switching me to formula. Second, my baby was constantly crying and had trouble sleeping – especially in the daytime.
I now understand that the only thing that could actually have had a negative impact on my milk supply was how stressed I was over this problem! Stress produces a specific lactation-unfriendly hormone called adrenaline.
What is so bad about it?
To understand this, let’s turn to some basics of physiology. (I promise to be brief!) 🙂
The secret is in hormones. (da-h!) Specifically, prolactin and oxytocin. The first one stimulates milk production (when the baby starts sucking the nipple) and the latter is in charge of delivering milk through the milk ducts into the baby’s mouth by constricting breast muscles.
It means that the baby can feed on mother’s milk only if her body produces oxytocin. This is an emotional hormone. It is produced when you are relaxed or making love or watching your baby sucking your breast (I could go on, but I think you get the point). There wouldn’t even be an issue if oxytocin had no other hormone blocking its production. Which is, guess what?
Right. The adrenaline.
What do you get as a result?
There’s milk but there’s no way out for it, since oxytocin is blocked by adrenaline.
The baby doesn’t get milk. He’s hungry and crying. Hence where you get the wrong idea that you have a problem with milk supply. But that’s really not the case.
You have to get adrenaline out of your system. Otherwise there’s a big chance you’ll end up with other nursing issues, from blocked milk ducts to lactation suppression.
Like we mamas don’t have enough trouble already, right?
Here’s how you can identify if low milk supply is actually your problem:.
HOW TO IDENTIFY LOW MILK SUPPLY?
It is important to mention that women notice some misleading symptoms and think they have low milk supply, when that really isn’t the case.
A couple of examples? The lack of sensation of let-down or a small amount of pumped milk.
Check out my full list covering in-depth information for misleading factors that women refer to low milk supply.
There’s really only one reliable method for identifying lack of supply – if your baby doesn’t gain enough weight or loses weight while exclusively breastfeeding.
According to the World Health Organization, the minimum weight gain for a breastfed baby is 500-600 grams a month (applies to newborns up to 3 month old babies).
If you don’t have a scale at home, try the wet diaper test «wet diaper test».
Now that you’ve either done the wet diaper test or noticed reassuring figures on the scale, you can be reassured that your baby is getting enough breastmilk.
If you still feel like boosting your supply, try these proven methods!.
11 PROVEN METHODS TO INCREASE BREAST MILK PRODUCTION
- Nurse frequently. Rotate your breasts while nursing. Breastfeed even if you feel that your breasts are empty. Make skin-to skin-contact while nursing. Not only does it help with mama-baby bonding, it also aids in releasing more hormones for milk production.
- Don’t follow a schedule. Breastfeed on demand. Take a nursing vacation and stay in bed nursing all day long. Ask somebody to take care of the chores for the weekend and focus only on breastfeeding.
Don’t use any nursing or nipple substitutes, like formula, bottles, pacifiers, solid foods, etc. You don’t want any competition for your breast milk supply.
- Take time for yourself. Rest and relax, get more sleep, take a hot bath, listen to music, get a massage (preferably from the hands of your loving husband). Do anything that helps you to relax and feel better. I have to say that sleep is crucial here. It decreases stress levels.
- Feed during the night. Aim to nurse between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. – the time when prolactin is at its highest level and breastfeeding will help to produce more milk. If your baby doesn’t wake up at night (which is rare for newborns, but let’s suppose you are one of the 0.5% of lucky women who sleep most of the night), try pumping. Even if all you get is several drops of breast milk, it is still useful and helps to stimulate the release of prolactin.
- Check that the latch is right. When the baby is not latching very well, there’s a high chance your milk supply will diminish because your baby is not able to suck enough breast milk out of the nipple. If you are unsure about your little one’s latch, seek out a lactation consultant to make sure there are no issues
If these tips aren’t enough, check out my tips to improve your nutrition and improve your supply:
Foods to increase breast milk supply
- Eat more calories. Shoot for an additional 400-600 calories to your usual diet.
- Drink more hot fluids
- Supplement your diet with lactation-friendly foods like oatmeal, coconut oil, chia seeds, salmon, almonds – these will all boost your milk supply
- Don’t ever skip a meal. No food = no calories = no fuel to produce milk. Try eating 3 big meals a day and have 2-3 healthy snacks. Choose only healthy foods.
What else is there to try for boosting milk supply?
Support your lactation with supplements.
There are quite a few over-the-counter breastfeeding supplements to choose from, yet Fenugreek for low milk supply is considered most popular.
This herb is generally recognized as safe by U.S. Food and Drug Administration, if used in moderation. Although the opinions of women taking this herb to increase milk supply vary and the evidence is not clear, I personally believe that when it comes to boosting up some milk, almost anything is worth a try.
Make sure to check with your lactation consultant or doctor before using fenugreek or any supplement to make sure you are taking the right dosage and to learn about any possible side effects.
Fenugreek supplements comes in various forms: capsules, powder, or tea.
Keep in mind that there is a tremendously low percentage of women who are not able to breastfeed at all. So low in fact that there is almost no chance you’re one of them! So try to relax and use all those tips listed above to lead yourself to a well-established lactation.
Have you tried any of these tips? Do you have any other ideas for struggling breastfeeding mamas to try? Start a discussion in the comments!
Jane Rudenko is a breastfeeding blogger at triptomotherhood.com. She writes her articles exclusively about breastfeeding relying on her own experience and acquired knowledge. She intends to make this blog the biggest in-depth resource for breastfeeding mothers. Jane lives in Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan, Russia – you can google where it is! :)). She is an English teacher but considers her vocation is helping women through her articles.