Are you one of the millions of breastfeeding moms who are concerned about your milk supply? Do you NEED to increase your supply quickly? Or maintain your supply while you're working? Are you trying to nurse and pump? If so you are in the right place, on today's episode of apothecary wisdom, we will help you boost your supply so you can make a bunch of thick, rich breastmilk that satisfies your baby and stocks your freezer!
Milk supply is possibly the most uncertain, concerning part of feeding our babies. We can't see how much they are drinking, and what we don't know can be worrisome. However, sometimes the concerns about low breastmilk supply are simply that, concerns. Or they are someone else's unfounded worry being put on you. Of course, there are times that our supply is low, and they need to be addressed right away.
Rest assured it's totally okay and sometimes necessary, to reach out for support. When you are concerned about your supply and need to increase your breastmilk, having expert guidance is essential. La Leche League leaders, and lactation consultants, are amazing people who will fully support you to nurse your baby.
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Checking Your Breastmilk Supply
Before working to increase supply, it's important to know for sure whether it is necessary. See our video about low milk supply before you start to increase your supply. BECAUSE, if you try to increase a normal breastmilk supply beyond what baby needs, you will risk engorgement clogged milk ducts and mastitis. Clogged milk ducts and mastitis are common problems in the early days of breastfeeding, especially when you pump and nurse while your milk is coming in.
The best indicator of breastmilk supply is your baby. Is she relaxing and becoming contended as she nurses? Is she getting at least 6 wet diapers a day now that your milk is in? Is she pooping 3-5 quarter size bowel movements? What colour are they? Are they mustard yellow or greenish? Is she growing well and gaining at a proper pace? A baby who isn't getting enough milk will show it!
7 Simple Ways to Increase Breastmilk Supply Quickly
There are many ways to increase breastmilk supply quickly, and you may only need one or a few of them, depending on your situation and needs. As you work to increase your breastmilk supply, try to avoid over-stimulating your breast causing an overproduction.
1- Drink More Water!
Without adequate hydration, your body's fluids – including milk – begin to lessen. And, unfortunately, it can be difficult to keep up with fluid and nutrient intake when nursing a new little one. Make a conscious effort to drink at least a gallon of clear liquids each day. If you've been dehydrated or under-hydrated, that boost of hydration could increase your breastmilk supply quickly. Add a nutrient-dense lactation tea for an even better boost.
2- Perfect the Latch
The baby's latch helps regulate your supply. If you aren't stimulating the breast thoroughly with a good latch, you could see supply issues. Make sure the baby's lips are flanged and mouth wide open – the nipple and most of the areola should be in the baby's mouth without either of their lips sucked in and over their gums.
3- Respond to Feeding Cues
A sure way to drop supply is to feed your baby on a schedule rather on cue. No two babies are alike, and more frequent feedings are often the baby's way of telling your breasts to make more milk for a growth spurt or other need. Ignoring feeding cues –like a tongue working, open mouth, head turning toward the breast, lips smacking – ignores a hungry baby who is trying to make more milk for himself. Scheduled feeding can lead to a sharp drop in supply, particularly if you are skipping feedings or spacing them out at night.
If you have been nursing less frequently and see a drop in supply, start by putting baby to the breast as soon as you suspect hunger or interest, as often as baby indicates.
4- Get Skin to Skin
Sometimes, your baby will lose interest in the breast, especially when bottles have been the alternative during a period of low supply. That's okay. Spending some time skin to skin can help baby regain interest, and it can also trigger your own prolactin and oxytocin hormones for milk production. Get in bed with your baby and spend some cuddle time together. With only a diaper on your baby, lay him on your naked chest and just relax there for a while.
5- Super Switch Nursing
An effective way to quickly increase your breastmilk supply is to practice "super switch" nursing. To do this, nurse on one side for about 3-5 minutes, shortly after a letdown, switch to the other side. Nurse for 3-5 minutes, trigger another letdown and switch again by going back to the first breast for 3-5 minutes. Switch one last time. Now if your baby wants more, you can stay on one breast to nurse them down and get the hindmilk. This has the effect of pumping after feeding while letting the baby get the milk she needs.
6- Power Pumping
"Power pumping" can help to stimulate supply, but remember that it is not as strong as baby's latch and does not produce as much milk as your baby can get with a good latch. Some women who have successfully breastfed multiple babies are never able to pump much milk at all! To hear my story about how I could not pump. Watch the video How Failing at Breastfeeding Was the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.
To supercharge your milk supply with power pumping, try cluster pumping, instead of a regular nursing/pumping session. Sit down with your baby and your pump, and nurse and pump every half-hour for several hours. Some moms find it helpful to do a 2-3 day long power pump every couple of weeks to "super charge" their milk supply.
Be careful to not cause nipple confusion when using bottles. The shape of the nipple of a bottle is very different than your bodies shape. Bottles are easier to get milk out of than breast are. So, bottles can make our babies lazy nursers with a poor latch. Be vigilant about baby's latch when at the breast, especially when you are offering both breast and bottle.
7- Galactagogues- Herbs to Increase Your Milk Supply
Of course, there are herbs to support your body to make more milk. Galactagogues are (milk-producing) herbs and foods to help naturally increase your breastmilk supply quickly. These can range from daily support teas like Nursing Nectar Breastfeeding Tea to more potent and powerful herbal supplement like Let There Be Milk!
Herbs are an empowering piece of the puzzle because you may feel proactive in your health care. Yet, it is essential to have realistic expectations of the herbs, and even more important is for you to understand the dynamics of the normal ebb and flow of breast milk supply. It is not realistic to expect to take a few doses of Let There Be Milk! and it will all be better.
To get the best results from Let There Be Milk!
Let There Be Milk! Is carefully crafted to ensure maximum results for our nursing moms. The concentrated formula for your tincture does have a strong taste, but there are a few ways that you can take your tincture enjoyably!
One way is to have a small glass with an ounce or two of water, tea, or juice. Add 1 full dropper (1 ml or 20 drops) of your tincture to your glass and drink it down with one or two swallows.
Another way, (this is what I do) is to take a drink of a pleasant tasting drink and hold some of the liquid under your tongue, drop the tincture under your tongue into the liquid, hold it as long as you can so that it can absorb sublingually. After you swallow it down, you can chase it with a nice cleansing drink or two.
What you DO NOT want to do is to just drop the herbs directly under your tongue or on the back of your throat. The alcohol in the tincture can burn your tissues and may interfere with your enjoyment of taking the herbs, and you might not take it as regularly as you should to get the maximum benefit if it's hard for you to swallow.
Please do not take LTBM! on an empty stomach. Take it with food and water.
Everyone responds differently to herbs so generally speaking, most people taking 20 drops 3-5 times daily see results as soon as 3-5 days and then see an even bigger increase about 10-12 days.
- Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus) - Blessed Thistle improves digestion, you are also increasing your absorption, which leads to an increase in milk supply.
- Goats Rue (Galega officinalis) - Goats Rue has been known to increase milk supply in nursing women, and is also a tonic for the liver. This herb should be avoided during pregnancy.
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) - Fenugreek is the star of our Let There Be Milk! tinctures and capsules, as well as a key ingredient in our Nursing Nectar Tea. Fenugreek is probably the most well known and trusted herb for supporting lactation. It is very multifaceted and has been enjoyed for centuries, regularly centring around women's health. To learn more about fenugreek watch that video.
- Marshmallow Root (Althaea) - Marshmallow root also serves as a galactagogue, known for stimulating thick, rich hindmilk production, as well as aiding with digestion in a nursing mother.
Breastmilk Comes in Stages
You have foremilk that pours and sprays out of your breast. Foremilk is watery and hydrates your baby. Then you have hindmilk. Hindmilk is thicker and comes out in drops. Hindmilk has a high-fat content. It helps the baby gain weight and have yellow bowel movements.
Image credit: Shari Criso, RN, CNM
Be warned! The most likely thing that will happen from super switch nursing and taking Galactagogues is that your milk supply will increase! You will make more milk, and have a more forceful letdown.
Remember that if your baby gets fussy, it's probably not so much from the herbs bothering their stomach, but rather from gorging themselves on the milk! The milk is coming out so fast that they can't help it; they just keep nursing! So, if they are fussy, gassy, and have green bowel movements, it is not because the herbs are bad, it's because they worked and now you have to make sure your baby is getting enough hindmilk!
Herbal Lactation Smoothie
This delicious smoothie is a meal by its self. It's packed with calcium, iron, protein, antioxidants and fibre and will nourish and support you while you nourish and support your baby! Drink a smoothie every day to maintain your milk supply.
When Nothing Else is Working
There are times when you tried everything, and nothing seems to work, in severe breastfeeding circumstances, and the supply is simply not coming up, and the situation is dire, a supplemental nursing system (SNS) can deliver supplemental milk to the baby while still on the breast.
There are also prescription measures such as domperidone that a qualified lactation consultant may help you with if you reach that point. However, most supply issues can be quickly resolved with some self-care, rest, nutritive/galactagogue support, and a good latch.
I sincerely hope that this post helps you increase your breastmilk supply so you can keep feeding your baby, stocking your freezer, and feeling good about life!
I'll see you in the next post!
Hug your sweet baby and remember to let your love and your milk flow!