A baby nursing at a mother’s breast… is an undeniable affirmation of our rootedness in nature. ~ David Suzuki (Tweet this)
Breastfeeding is making a comeback. In many parts of the world it had disappeared for decades, but luckily more and more mothers around the world are understanding the benefits of breastfeeding, its value and paying more attention to their breast milk supply.
Although breastfeeding is natural, it does not come easy to all women. They need support, knowledge, and guidance.
Tips to increase your breast milk supply
The task of breastfeeding can be daunting for some new mothers, and it is not unusual for insecurities to arise about their ability to produce the precious liquid. The fear behind needing to increase your breast milk supply is a very common one, and it is present even in those mothers who have a smooth start and no indication of things changing.
The fact is that the production and increase of breast milk supply has a huge psychological component, and if a mother stresses too much it can affect it negatively.
Chances are in your favor if you relax and trust your body, but to put your mind at ease here are 10 ways you can help increase your breast milk supply in case you ever needed it.
1. Nurse as often as you can
Nature does not tend to waste, so your body will only produce as much milk as it feels is needed. Letting your baby nurse often will sends signals to your brain indicating that the demand is high, and your body will respond by producing more. Bringing the baby to your breast often, even if it is for just a few minutes at a time is one of the best and quickest ways of boosting your milk production.
Have in mind that a woman’s body is so amazing that it can produce milk to feed an infant in need even if you haven’t been pregnant! This was a technique used in the past by grandmothers, sisters or others to feed babies whose mothers were gravely ill or just were not around.
Even an adoptive mother can successfully start producing breast milk by letting the baby nurse several times a day for a few minutes before giving the bottle. So even if you have to complement with a bottle because of low supply, make sure you continue to nurse your baby. You can turn things around.
2. Pump in Between
Following the same idea of “Supply and Demand,” pumping after feedings and pumping when away from the baby can help not only increase the production but also maintain it in cases where you cannot nurse as often. Working moms that have to resume their jobs often find their supply decreasing (this is usually the reason).
When you pump make sure that the machine and all its parts are in good shape, loose or overused parts can decrease suction and decrease its efficacy. Use the highest intensity with which you still feel comfortable, and of most importance is for you to relax. Do not forget that the psychological component of breast-milk production is huge. Thinking of your baby or looking at pictures of him while you are pumping can help.
3. Drink tons of water
Dehydration can completely stop your milk production, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids. While you are breastfeeding you will need a bit extra for the production of milk,and therefore you will tend to feel thirstier than usual. Pay attention to your body and drink every time you feel as if you might need it.
Your body will try to pull water from wherever it is in order to feed your baby, so getting dehydrated can happen faster postpartum. Drink if you have a headache or you feel weak, this could be signs of not getting enough fluids. If you dislike drinking water, try flavoring it with a bit of lemon, mint leaves, or cucumber.
4. Make sure to use both breasts
If your baby is eating enough try nursing him from both breasts each time you feed (even if you just do a little bit towards the end just for stimulation). If for any reason you are not able to use both breasts on the same feeding, make sure that you alternate instead.
Not every baby will nurse for long each time, some will eat in shorter spurts more times a day, and so alternating the breast will ensure a more balanced production and avoid “uneven” shapes on your chest. After a while, keeping track of which breast was used last can get a bit fuzzy, especially when you are running on little sleep. So, a technique I find effective is to wear a bracelet as a marker of the side you are using.
5. Reduce the use of pacifiers and bottles
This is true especially during the first three months while breastfeeding is still establishing. Taking this step serves a double purpose, one is to ensure that the baby learns (and keeps) a proper latch, and the other to ensure that you bring the baby to the breast as often as possible.
6. Ask a lactation consultant
A lot of moms overlook the importance of doing this, but the experience of a lactation consultant can be of immense value. There are many instances in which an expert could shine a light over factors you have not considered or are unable to detect. For example, many babies are born with a lip tie or a tongue tie, this is literally a tiny piece of skin that ties the lip or tongue of the baby to his mouth a bit tighter than it should and it can affect the latch. In general, consulting with an expert is a good idea, and it is a resource that you can find in many hospitals and birth centers for free. There are also associations like “La Leche League” whose purpose is to educate and support the population on breastfeeding and its many benefits.
7. Make sure you are comfortable
When nursing it is important that you feel relaxed and comfortable in order to produce more breast-milk. Before you start make sure you have water and maybe even a snack at hand, sit down comfortably and ensure that your back has the proper support. Learn different types of positioning for you and the baby so that you have options. Learn about proper latching and make sure you always have it. And improper latch would not only affect that feeding, but it can also frustrate your baby and irritate your nipples making it much harder later. Another thing to have in mind is to wear a proper bra. Make sure that it is the right size, not too loose where you don’t have any support and not too tight were you feel constricted. Bras without wiring tend to be a better choice. Not wearing the proper bra could lead to irritation and clogged conduits and interfere with your nursing.
8. Eat well
This one goes hand-in-hand with drinking plenty of fluids. If you are healthy, your body will have an easier time producing the milk. There are also foods that are believed to help increase the milk production, some of them are: oatmeal, nuts, garlic, green papaya, carrots, sesame seeds, fennel, and ginger.
9. Be careful with medications and birth control
Before you go back on birth control or start taking any medication consult your doctor and make sure that it is safe for your baby and that it won’t affect your milk. Some birth control methods will affect your hormonal levels and this will affect your production directly. There are other options such as low hormone pills, natural, and barrier methods for birth control.
10. Consider encapsulating your placenta
The consumption of your placenta is an ancient practice and it is said to help not only with the production of the milk in the mother but also with the balance of the postpartum hormones decreasing the infamous “baby blues.” The encapsulation of the placenta is very well known in countries like China, and it is now starting to be more popular in America and Europe. It consists of drying the placenta, making it into a powder, mixing it with certain herbs and finally encapsulating it. You can find recipes online, but considering that you will be doing this right after having a baby you might want to have somebody else do it for you. Many doulas and midwives offer this service.
Remember that in most cases you will have to do nothing to ensure your breast milk supply. Your body already knows how to and it is capable of providing for your baby without any extra effort. Just keep yourself healthy and try to enjoy the process and your breast milk supply will take care of itself!