Breastfeeding is a beautiful bond between a mom and her baby and the perfect source of nourishment for the baby. Your breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby could need and it changes as the baby grows and their needs change. It is truly amazing how your body adjusts to your baby’s needs. But maybe the reality of breastfeeding is not as blissful as the images you had in your mind before your baby arrived. The beginning can be fraught with sore nipples, engorged breasts, and worries of not producing enough milk. The concern of not producing enough milk is probably one that all mothers face at some point in their breastfeeding journey. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help increase breast milk supply.
Breast milk is produced on a supply and demand process – you either use it or you lose it. The more demand there is, the more milk that will be produced. So the more often your baby eats, the more milk you will produce.
“But my baby seems to always be attached to the breast, so why is my milk supply low”, you may be wondering? Milk production is also dependent on the breast being emptied, so if your baby is not effectively emptying the breast due to poor latch or sleepiness, it could affect your milk production. A lactation consultant is a good place to start if you are concerned about your baby’s latch.
To understand better how to increase milk supply, it is important to understand how milk is made in the first place.
Where Is My Milk From?
A woman’s body is incredible. It is able to grow another human being and then provide that tiny human being with all its nourishment after it is born. The body knows just how much milk to make and the type of milk the baby needs at what stage.
Your body is already preparing its milk supply from when you are pregnant. During pregnancy and the first few days after giving birth, various hormones are controlling your milk production. The breasts are already producing colostrum during pregnancy, from around 20 weeks, but high levels of progesterone which are present during pregnancy will keep the breasts from leaking it. After birth, these high levels of progesterone drop and this, together with high levels of prolactin, stimulates the production of milk. This process can take a few days after birth, which is why you typically feel your milk coming in around day 3 postpartum.
The body then switches from this hormonally-controlled milk production to the maintenance stage which is driven by what happens at the breast. The emptying of the breast is what will be the main control for the breast to produce milk. This is typically dependent on how often the baby wants to feed and how effectively baby can empty the breast. The fuller your breasts are, the less milk you will produce, while the emptier your breasts are, the more milk you will produce.
Research has also shown that the emptier the breast is, the fattier the milk will be which will be more satisfying for baby. Current research shows that supply is the highest in the morning and drops throughout the day, while the fattiness of the milk increases throughout the day.
Another factor that has an effect on milk production is the storage capacity of the breasts. This has nothing to do with breast size, though it does vary from woman to woman. No matter if you have a large or small storage capacity, you can still produce enough milk for your baby. Moms with a smaller capacity may just be feeding their baby more often.
How To Produce More Breast Milk
As seen above, the main ways to increase milk supply is to empty the breasts and do this often. Two ways to do this are:
- Nurse your baby and nurse often. Nursing on demand is the best way to do this. Putting your baby on an eating schedule, especially at the beginning, can have a negative effect on your milk supply. At each feeding, offer both breasts. Let baby finish from the first side and then switch to the second side. You can do this two to three times in one nursing session, which is a good idea for those particularly sleepy babies.
- Use a breast pump. To increase your supply, pump after each feed to make sure your breasts are emptied fully so that the breasts can be stimulated to make more milk. You can also pump between feeds which signals the breasts to produce more milk. If you happen to skip feeds (because you are supplementing with a bottle/formula), pump when you would normally feed to keep up your supply. If your breasts get the signal that less milk is needed because it is not being used, less milk will be produced.
There are also some other ways to increase milk supply which can be done on top of feeding your baby and making sure to fully empty your breasts as much as possible.
While you may not increase your milk supply by drinking a lot of water, not drinking enough can cause your supply to drop. It can also lead to dehydration for you as your body is faced with the extra demand of feeding a baby. Make sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, more if you feel thirsty. A good tip is to keep a bottle of water where you usually feed your baby and drink every time you nurse.
Take Care Of Yourself
Your body is working hard to provide for your baby so make sure to take the time you need to rest and keep your energy up. Sleep when the baby sleeps, let cleaning tasks slide, hire help if possible. Make sure you eat healthy meals and snacks for yourself. When you sit down to nurse, make sure you have everything with you that you may need – snacks, water, phone, pillow – and that you are sitting comfortably. Then watch your favorite TV show, read a book or just enjoy watching your baby.
You’re tired and you feel like you have a baby constantly attached to you, but don’t let that make your healthy eating habits slide. Also, the healthier you eat, the better you’ll feel as your body keeps up with the extra demands of feeding another human. Include lots of whole foods in your diet and avoid processed food and sugar as much as possible. There are also some good foods to include which can help increase milk supply. These include:
- Fenugreek seeds
- Whole grains
- Brewer’s yeast
- Malt beer
Take Galactogogues Supplements
Galactogogues are supplements for increasing breast milk. You’ve probably heard of Fenugreek as one option and there are also other herbs which you can use to brew your own lactation tea, but one supplement taking the breastfeeding (and health) world by storm is Moringa. Moringa is a tree native to Africa and Asia and has been used for centuries for its many health benefits. It is packed with different essential nutrients including iron, calcium, protein, vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants which has made it such an important tree in these areas where malnourishment is rife. It also offers excellent support to breastfeeding moms who need the extra nourishment. The high amount of iron found in Moringa is perfect for dealing with fatigue. Moringa has been used traditionally to help moms increase milk supply, and science backs up these Galactogogues effects showing that it can help increase milk supply by 100%.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience for a mom, but the most important thing is that your baby gets fed, no matter how. When looking for ways to increase milk supply, don’t let it take away from your enjoyment of your baby. Make sure you’re getting everything you need for your health, both mental and physical, and just remember you are doing the best you can. Be proud! Happy mom, happy baby.