Breastfeeding can make for a stressful experience for new moms, especially when there are concerns around their supply. Here’s what you need to know, and get the help you need.
Are you a breastfeeding mama that has experienced a sudden drop in your milk supply? Are you concerned that you are producing a lower volume of milk than normal?
Worries about not producing enough breast milk is a common concern among new mamas, and for good reason. Keeping up with breast milk production can feel overwhelming, and the thought of not producing enough milk for your baby can be worrisome.
Sometimes, milk production may fluctuate due to certain issues, such as:
- Returning to work
- Baby is nursing less (due to teething, sickness, etc)
- Change with medication or supplements
- Temporary separation from baby
- Baby has difficulty latching or sucking
- Baby is starting solids or receiving supplementation
If you are struggling with low milk supply, here are some ways to increase breast milk naturally at home.
1. NURSE MORE FREQUENTLY
Breastfeeding is a demand-and-supply cycle, which means that a woman’s body will make more milk when the demand is there. Emptying the breasts of milk more frequently signals the body to produce more to keep up with the demand.
When working to increase your milk supply, try to nurse your baby at least once every 2 hours. If your baby seems to be getting hungry, go ahead and feed your him/her, even if it seems earlier than you would normally feed them.
Allow your baby to nurse longer at the breast, as well as nurse on both sides during one feeding session. This will help your body to create more milk for your nursing baby. If possible, keep your baby close to you throughout the day and night to help stimulate breast milk production. You can do this by babywearing to help with breastfeeding, which can help you be more aware of your baby’s earliest feeding cues.
2. BREASTFEED EFFICIENTLY
In order to empty your breasts efficiently, your baby needs to be latched correctly to transfer breast milk. If your baby is not latched well on your breasts, this can make it harder to transfer milk out. Poor breast milk transfer will slow down the milk production cycle.
Remember, a correct latch at the breast should not be painful. If you are feeling pain while nursing, this could be a sign that your baby is not latched on well. You may also want to try switching positions while breastfeeding, as this often helps baby correct the latch.
Once at the breast, your baby’s lips should be flanged like a fish. Signs of a good milk transfer include a comfortable latch, circular movement of baby’s jaw, and audible swallowing from baby.
3. EAT AND DRINK TO SUPPORT BREASTFEEDING
Many breastfeeding mamas are quick to rush to lactation teas and supplements if there is concern about a low milk supply. While these things can be helpful, it is important to look at your overall diet first. Are you getting enough nourishing foods and eating frequently? Are you able to stay hydrated throughout the day?
There is no question that being a new mom is hard on so many levels. Your needs often go to the back burner while you’re taking care of your baby. However, if you are lacking adequate calories and nutrition, your milk supply will suffer. Simplify meals and snacks during postpartum by having easy and nourishing foods accessible.
Especially while trying to increase your milk supply, eat a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats more consistently, and don’t go longer than a few hours without eating. Drink water to thirst to prevent dehydration, and try keeping water with you, especially while you’re nursing. If you have a hard time staying hydrated, add some fresh, sliced fruit to your water bottle (like berries, oranges, lemons, etc) to create a more refreshing drink to sip on.
It is also important to avoid dieting or any erratic eating patterns while breastfeeding, as restricting overall calories or eliminating entire food groups can cause a significant drop in your milk supply. If you’re feeling pressured to lose weight postpartum or diet, take a step back to understand how this will affect your baby. Instead of dieting, focus on eating nourishing foods and moving your body in gentle ways that feel good to you.
4. TRY LACTOGENIC FOODS TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY
Once your eating patterns are in place, consider adding in foods that may naturally support milk supply, such as:
- Whole Grains, like Oats (Overnight oats are a great snack for a breastfeeding mama!)
- Red/Orange Root Vegetables, like Sweet Potatoes
- Fennel and Fenugreek Seeds
- Beans and Legumes
- Green, leafy Vegetables
- Seeds, including pumpkin, flaxseed, chia and hemp
Breastfeeding moms benefit from a nutrient-dense diet that includes a variety of healthy fats and antioxidant-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Adding in a variety of these types of foods can naturally help boost your milk supply.
Lactation cookies can also be an easy, wholesome way to combine several lactogenic ingredients that can help naturally increase breast milk supply, which typically include:
- Healthy Fats
- Complex Carbohydrates, such as whole grain rolled oats
- Protein from nuts and seeds
While lactation cookies cannot replace a healthy, balanced diet to support breastfeeding, they can give you a boost of nutrition and natural lactogenic foods that can optimize milk supply.
5. PUMPING TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY
Pumping with an electric breast pump can be a helpful way to increase milk production when breastfeeding. Pumping should not replace baby feeding at the breast but rather, is helpful in getting out any leftover milk after baby has nursed. For optimal breast milk production, it is helpful to make sure your breasts are fully emptied, and this is where pumping can come in handy.
Using a quality electric pump, pump both breasts for about 10-15 minutes after your baby has nursed. Massaging and compressing your breasts while pumping can also help you empty your breasts. Remember that emptying your breasts signal your body to make more milk, which is why pumping can temporarily be helpful for boosting milk supply.
And last but not least, remember it’s most important to get the help you need!
Take a deep breath, mama. Dealing with low milk supply while breastfeeding can add stress to your already busy life. Don’t forget to care for yourself and ask for the help you need. You don’t have to do this alone.
It can be helpful to determine if an underlying issue may be the cause of decreased milk supply. Once you can figure out the cause, you can better fix the issue at hand. This is where a Lactation Consultant can be helpful, where they’ve been trained to diagnose breastfeeding issues, such as low milk supply, a poor latch, and more, as well as partner with you to develop a feeding care plan for you and your baby.
Whether you decide to switch to formula or continue with breastfeeding, don’t forget that you are a good mama, no matter what. A low milk supply does not mean that you are failing or doing a poor job at caring for your sweet baby. Hang in there, get the help and support you need, and know that you’ll get through this…
One step at a time.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: IRINA MURZA
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, & mama of 5. With a virtual nutrition practice, Crystal helps overwhelmed mamas nurture a peaceful relationship with food & their bodies, end the battles at the dinner table and transform their kitchens to place of peace & joy. Learn more at Crystal Karges Nutrition.