I think my milk supply is low - how can I increase it?
First, it's important to assess if you're truly dealing with a low milk supply. Sometimes mothers can perceive normal breastfeeding patterns and/or baby behaviour as an inadequate milk supply. If you determine that you really do have a low supply, consult with a lactation consultant to determine the “why” behind it so that you can get to work fixing the problem and prevent it from occurring again.
In most cases, it is just a matter of getting reassurance from a lactation consultant or health care professional that your milk supply is fine. But there are cases where the need to increase milk production is necessary. If baby isn’t gaining weight quick enough or is losing weight, an increase in milk supply is crucial to baby’s health and wellbeing.
If you are one of those mums who need to increase your supply, take heart! It is easier than you think!
Here are some of methods commonly used to increase milk supply:
- Nurse frequently. The key is to remove more milk from the breast and to do this frequently, so that less milk accumulates in the breast between feedings. Plan to nurse at least every 1 1/2 to 2 hours during the day and at least every three hours at night even if you must awaken your baby. Time your feedings from the beginning of one to the beginning of another.
- Offer both breasts at each feeding. Allow baby to stay at the first breast as long as he is actively sucking and swallowing. Offer the second breast when baby slows down or stops. "Finish the first breast first," is a good general rule. (This technique gives baby lots of the fatty "hindmilk.")
- Allow your baby to end the feeding. He may do this by falling asleep and detaching from the breast after about 10 to 30 minutes of active sucking and swallowing.
- Although nursing is preferable, if the baby cannot nurse directly at the breast, use a high quality electric pump instead. Using a double pump has been shown to increase prolactin levels. Prolactin is the hormone which stimulates milk production. Pump for 10-15 minutes per session. Longer sessions have not been proven to be any more beneficial at increasing supply.
- Along with nursing, you may want to add a pumping session or two sometime during your day. You also may want to add a few extra minutes (5-10) of pumping after the baby has finished nursing.
- Allow the baby to meet all of his sucking needs at the breast. Avoid any bottles or dummies/pacifiers during this time. Your baby's need to suck ensures that he spends adequate time at the breast to stimulate your supply.
- Pay attention to your own need for relaxation, proper diet and enough fluids.
- Consider natural herbs, such as Fenugreek or Blessed Thistle. Some women have found that these herbs can help in increasing supply. Please ask your doctor first before adding any herb to your diet.
- Rest as much as you can. You would be surprised how much this can help! Consider taking the baby to bed with you during this time period. The rest will benefit you and the close skin-to-skin contact may encourage your baby to nurse more often.
Don’t give up! There are ways to increase your milk supply or even bring back a supply that has completely dried up. Remember that your body grew your baby, and there is no better food than what your body custom-produces for your child. With a little effort and determination, you can overcome this breastfeeding obstacle and continue to give your baby the food that Mother Nature intended!