When my infant started daycare and I returned to work, my breastmilk supply decreased. Pumping twice during the day I was producing 8 ounces, but my infant was chugging 6 ounces every 2 hours. My 200+ precious stash of frozen breast milk dipped below 100 very quickly. I knew that if I did not figure out a way to increase my milk supply naturally and quickly, I would be shopping for baby formula in about a month’s time. LISTEN, there is nothing wrong with baby formula. I personally was not ready to transition to formula and I wanted to continue to provide all the benefits of breastmilk for my eczema-prone infant. Here are a few solutions that helped me when my milk supply was low.
6 Tips to Increase Milk Supply
1 – Pump more Frequently
Your body’s production of the hormone prolactin, our milk hormone, is like a learned machine. The more you use it, the more it produces, but the less you use it, the less it produces. Therefore, we need to encourage prolactin. The main trigger is nipple stimulation. This is mimicked with the ‘let-down’ feature of your breast pump. It basically imitates how your baby stimulates your nipples, leading to prolactin production and milk. Because prolactin is like a learned machine, we need to increase the frequency of pumping. Oftentimes, I encourage pumping for 10 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.
Support on How to Choose the Right Breast Pump for You? Refer to Selecting the Right Breastpump for your Lifestyle
2 – Increase Hydration
An average adult should drink 1/3 to 1/2 your body weight in WATER. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, it is recommended that you drink between 50 to 75 ounces of water daily. This recommendation also holds true for breastfeeding mamas. Approximately 88% of breast milk is water. The remaining 22% is fat, proteins, and other constituents. Although drinking more than the daily recommended amount of water to boost breast milk is controversial, make sure that you are meeting the basic recommendations.
3 – Ensure Adequate Dietary Calories
In general, a lactating female requires 500 additional calories daily. This is roughly equivalent to eating an extra meal daily. Personally, I focus on consuming hearty snacks like nuts and seeds, fruit, vegetables, hummus, whole grain crackers, and lentil chips, between meals to increase my calorie consumption. Every time you breastfeed, you use 200-500 calories. I am not encouraging you to count calories and become obsessed, but your diet needs to be supportive of breastfeeding.
4 – Warm Compress
Warmth often helps increase milk flow. You can pump after a warm shower/bath or apply a warm compress directly to the breast. There are many warm compress options that can mold to the breast shape; heat pack, heating pad, and breast/nipple warmers. My favorite warm compress was rice and a pinch of raw lavender herbs in a small sachet. This is not only helpful for lactation, but it can help unclog blocked milk ducts that potentially lead to mastitis.
Other supportive tools to promote lactation are massagers, for my favorite lactation massager and a discount code, refer to ‘FAVORITES & FREEBIES’ on the website.
5 – Stress ManagemenT
Stress can lead to a decrease in milk supply. It is essential to incorporate into your daily routine meditation or relaxation time. This will look different for each person; exercising, meditating, writing, reading, singing, arts and crafts, bathing, etc… are a few options. For me, it was puzzles, exercising, and praying, which allowed me to enter into a state of calm. Because I was pumping at work, I closed my door, took 3 clearing deep breaths, turned on music, and looked at photos of my baby, prior to pumping. This allowed my mind to escape from reality and my body to calm in preparation for milk production.
6 – Herbal Supplements
There are many herbs that can support lactation; fenugreek, hops, goat’s rue, and several others. These herbs can be found in lactation cookies, teas, and supplements. Please consult with your healthcare professional or lactation consultant.
Above are many options to consider to help increase your milk supply. Do not forget to use your local lactation consultant (the United States or International) for additional recommendations. Many times, your lactation consultant fees can be covered by your health insurance plan. If for any reason, your milk supply is not able to meet the demands of your baby despite your best attempts at increasing it, simply supplement with formula! Search for a good quality supplemental formula and mix it with your breast milk or use only the formula if your supply dries out.