Does your milk supply need a boost? Whatever the reason, here are 10 natural ways to increase breast milk supply easily, without the need for medications.
When I was pregnant and still buying nursing bras, I was under the impression that breastfeeding was going to be a beautiful, relaxing time for me and my baby. However, after the baby came, I began struggling with a low supply. The baby wasn’t peeing enough, he was constantly crying and to add to it all were the unnecessary reminders that my baby didn’t look ‘healthy’!
Low breast milk supply is a cause for concern for many new Moms across the world. However, experts are of the opinion that most of us actually have the ability to produce the milk our babies need – all we need is a little push to kick start the production. To understand this, we first need to take a quick look at how breast milk production happens in the human body.
How is breast milk produced?
The production of breast milk happens due to two main factors – hormones and a demand-supply cycle. Breast milk is produced early, even before the baby is born. This milk is called colostrum, and its production is kept under control by the pregnancy hormone progesterone.
However once the baby is born, progesterone decreases quickly, which means the restriction on milk production is lifted. The hormone prolactin increases, which further contributes to more milk production. This entire process takes about 1-3 days after the baby’s birth. Till then the baby feeds on colostrum, which is packed with antibodies that the newborn needs on arriving in this world.
Once the baby starts feeding frequently, the milk production settles into a demand-supply mode. As the breasts become empty, the body gets the signal that its time to produce more. More emptying = more production, which is the basic concept behind the advice of ‘feeding on demand’.
While this is the normal route, some Moms have have trouble maintaining this supply for a variety of reasons. While some can be the result of medical conditions and need professional evaluation, common breastfeeding problems can range from a wrong latch to a poor diet. These can be easily resolved with natural ways to increase breast milk supply, that don’t require medication.
10 Natural Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply
1. Get the latch right
The most basic tip is to get your baby’s latch right. A good latch will have the baby’s mouth cover almost all the areola, with the lower lip curled outwards. In this position, the baby is able to empty the breast properly. If the latch is not right, there will still be milk in the breasts after nursing, which means the glands don’t get the signal to produce more. If you’re still having trouble with the latch, consult a doctor – your baby may have a tongue tie.
2. Ensure proper drainage
For full power breast milk production, it is important for the breasts to be properly drained. One tip is to feed till one breast is empty, before moving to the other. If there’s still milk left after the baby has finished nursing, empty the rest with a breast pump, and use it in breast milk recipes. This will stimulate the ducts to produce more milk to make up for the deficit. Feeding frequently, about 8-10 times a day will help achieve this. You may need to wake up newborns and preemies at night to keep the drainage going on schedule.
3. Massage the breasts
Massaging the breasts can help a lot in increasing milk supply – more than 40%! This method is also referred to as breast compression, which includes gently squeezing and massaging the breasts while feeding the baby. This increases the flow of milk and promotes better emptying of the nursing breast, stimulating the glands to produce more milk.
4. Increase skin-to-skin contact
Many hospitals encourage mothers to have a skin-to-skin session with their newborns right after they’re born. The baby is placed on the mother’s bare chest, and this is said to promote breastfeeding. This kind of touch increases the hormones prolactin and oxytocin in the mother, which help in promoting milk production. This can also be done at home, where the mother and baby sit in a quiet room with each others skin touching. The mother and baby can be covered by a blanket if its cold. Baby wearing is also a good idea for skin to skin contact.
5. Ensure adequate calorie intake
Breastfeeding consumes calories, which is why it is important to maintain a proper supply of calories through healthy foods to ensure continuous milk production. A breastfeeding woman needs at least 1800 calories a day, ideally spaced over several small meals. If you’re trying to lose weight while breastfeeding, make sure it doesn’t affect your supply.
6. Choose milk-boosting foods
Certain foods are known to be galactagogues, or natural lactation boosters. These foods contain compounds that encourage the function of hormones in the body to produce more milk. Milk boosting foods include oats, fenugreek, alfalfa sprout, fennel seeds and many others. You can also try soaking whole brown rice in clean water overnight. The next morning, add jaggery, grated coconut to the mix and eat. Homemade lactation boosters and lactation cookies are also a great way to get the required calories and nutrients.
7. Try lactation tea
Lactation tea is a popular way for Moms to boost milk supply, especially since it doesn’t add unnecessary calories. You can make your own lactation tea at home. Mix together equal parts of fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, and dried chamomile and store in a glass jar. Add 1 tbsp of the mix to 2 cups boiling water and let it steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain and sip on throughout the day.
8. Avoid formula
When your milk supply slows down, it can be tempting to turn to formula, if only as a top up feed. However, this can backfire and derail your supply-boosting efforts. Your baby will be full from the formula which digests slower than breast milk, which means he may not be as interested in feeding from the breast. Since the demand is low, it also results in a low supply, naturally. Another thing to avoid are pacifiers, which may reduce the baby’s interest in sucking at the breast.
9. Take plenty of rest
Making milk is hard work! Along with eating well, it’s also important to take the time to rest and let the body recover from the ordeal of pregnancy and labor. Only then will it be able to perform all its functions perfectly, especially when it comes to making milk. It’s best to avoid over-exertion or starting a new fitness program while your milk supply is still getting established.
10. Don’t stress
Stress is one of the biggest reasons for breast milk supply to dry up and the effects can be seen almost instantaneously. So if you worry about low supply, your supply will further reduce and this will trigger a vicious cycle that can be hard to get out of. So don’t worry too much about the supply; just give it some time to get on track – with the steps above, you’ll get there in due time!