In this post, we walk you through how to increase your milk supply – the easy way. Learn how to identify if you have a low supply and easy tips to increase it.
Do you want to increase your milk supply with relative ease?
Then you’re in the right place.
Because today I will be sharing the BEST (and easiest) ways to increase your milk supply as well as how to tell if your supply is low and common recommendations that just don’t work.
I may not be an expert… but I have enough knowledge in my noggin’ to help out the new moms out there. Be sure to consult with a local lactation consultant for further help and guidance as I am not a medical professional.
access your milk supply first
Before I get to all the stuff about HOW you increase your milk supply…. it’s important to know if you have a low milk supply in the first place. Many women will get told for xyz reason they need to increase their milk supply by a pediatrician, family member, or friend.
But most of the time…. they have been given incorrect information.
This is a good time to mention I absolutely DO NOT recommend getting any breastfeeding advice from your pediatrician. On that note, I don’t even recommend you take the advice I’m giving you as THE end-all answer.
Neither me nor your baby’s doctor have had the training that a lactation consultant has. We both know very top level surface stuff (although I have breastfed two babies and done a hefty amount of medical research on the topic).
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS get breastfeeding advice from a breastfeeding PROFESSIONAL – aka your lactation consultant.
Now that I got that out of the way…. how do you know that you have a low milk supply?
First let’s discuss some poor indicators of milk supply and then I’ll share the TWO signs that you may indeed have a low milk supply after all.
poor indicators of low milk supply
Breasts feel softer than they used to: Sure – I understand this concern. I remember getting SUPER paranoid that my breasts softened up and weren’t crazy engorged. However… there is a reason for this happening and it’s not from low milk supply – it’s from it regulating.
Your body has to learn how much milk to keep stored. In the first 6 weeks, your body will store unnecessary amounts of milk until it learns how much you actually need.
Your breasts are no longer leaking: Your breasts may stop leaking when the muscles in your breasts begin to tighten and become accustomed to your breastfeeding routine.
My littlest baby (who is 6 months old at the time of writing this) had me leaking for MONTHS – there were lots of times that I wet through my shirt out in public!
But with my daughter… I leaked for the first weeks but didn’t after that. And she breastfeed without issues until my milk dried up due to pregnancy when she was nearly two years old. I can confidently say this is not reflective of your supply!
Your sweet babe is feeding around the clock: Here’s the thing… breastfeeding is a game of on demand. Just because your baby is going 20 minutes, 90 minutes, or in this case – feeding constantly…. DOES NOT mean your supply is in high or low supply.
Cluster feeding is 100000% normal and SHOULD BE encouraged. Follow your baby’s lead and don’t worry about it beautiful mama!
Babe feeds for very short amounts of time: As babe gets older, they learn how to breastfeed better as well as you. Plenty of babies will have only 5 or 10 minute feedings once they get older and learn to use their tongue and muscles really well.
Instead of focusing on how long they feed…. pay attention to if they’re satisfied or not.
You have very small breasts: Breastmilk comes from your milk glands and the size of your breast are NOT an indicator of that. Larger breasts are a collection of fat tissue – not milk gland size.
Babe is awake frequently throughout the night: The funny thing is…. MOST BABIES awake frequently. Sleep is developmental anyway and babies will generally wake at least every 2-3 hours to feed – it’s VERY normal.
Babe doesn’t ‘go down’ right after feeding: Here’s the thing… when you move a baby to their own space, it will trigger the moro startle reflex AND they will notice they no longer have skin to skin contact with you.
It’s 100000% normal for them to want to keep feeding – they want your closeness. This has literally nothing to do with your supply – NOTHING. They just want to be close to their mama!
Right after breastfeeding, your babe takes a bottle, too: When you give a baby a bottle, it will likely hit the roof of their mouth, that activates the sucking reflex – they will suck no matter what.
Breastfeeding does not trigger this, which is why your babe will stop when they’re full. With a bottle, babe will suck and eat even if they are full – resulting in being overfed. (PS: paced bottle feeding is ALWAYS a good idea – breast fed or not!)
Pumping results in very little milk: As odd as it may seem…. pumping and breastfeeding are VERY different. I actually don’t respond well to a pump AT ALL despite having more than enough milk for both my babies up to this point.
It doesn’t signal the milk ejection reflex the same way, valves may not fit properly, no letdown happens, as well as a variety of other factors. The amount you pump is NOT a good indicator.
You’re better off weighing baby before and after feedings to see how much milk they got. (Even then – that’s not the best way to indicate a low supply, either.) To learn more, read this article regarding how much you can expect to pump.
Letdowns aren’t noticeable: I’ll be honest… I had no idea what a letdown even was when I first breastfed. The reason being that I didn’t feel one happen. But I still breastfed her until she was almost two years old! I definitely feel it with my littest babe, though LOL.
Some women feel this sensation and others don’t…. sometimes it even fades. I rarely feel this anymore – thank goodness as it was painful for me! It has no indication over supply.
I highly suggest also checking out the Supply worries archives from KellyMom.
signs you might have low milk supply
Your babe is not gaining or even losing weight: I run by the rule that if they are gaining SOMETHING – there’s no reason to worry. Well… I say that now anyway haha! I didn’t use to – I very much so used to freak out if they didn’t gain as much as I thought they should.
But honestly… as long as they are growing – there’s no reason to worry. However… if they are rapidly losing or staying put and not gaining – you might want to look to see why. It could be a sign that they aren’t getting enough milk in order to help them grow.
There is not enough diaper output: The other indicator is diaper output – aka the number of wet and dirty diapers they have each day. If they aren’t getting enough milk… they won’t have waste.
It’s important to note, though, that breastfed babies go much longer between bowel movements that formula fed babies. If you aren’t sure how much diaper output to expect…. a good rule of thumb is at least 6 wet diapers and 3 dirty diapers per day by day 4, for a newborn.
If they aren’t at least doing that, it is a reason for concern but be sure to look at proper weight gain as well.
Now that you know IF YOU DO INDEED have a low milk supply… let’s discuss how to increase your milk supply. If you made it to this point and are thinking “I definitely have a low supply” – I’m SO SORRY. There is nothing worse than feeling like you aren’t doing enough… even if you are.
The remainder of this post will go over methods to help increase your milk supply. There are things that are garbage and then a couple others that are 1 – easier and 2 – far less stressful.
things to try and avoid while increasing milk supply
Now it’s time for me to be honest – alot of the “suggestions” for increasing milk supply are 100% ABSOLUTE GARBAGE. They don’t work, are a quick short term fix (and I use that word loosely), and are stressful as can be.
Let’s go over these and allow me to explain WHY they are garbage.
supplementing with formula (if at all possible)
Oh the famous advice of supplementing with formula… sigh. While I do acknowledge that some women have actual issues that require supplementing – this is one that should be avoided AT ALL COSTS. Like you respond with “Absolutely not, let’s try everything else FIRST.” (Then once you exhaust all options, you can consider it.)
Supplementing with formula creates a vicious cycle and is likely a reason for why so many women stop breastfeeding before they would like.
First – they “top up” and will become overfull, which will stretch the stomach. This then causes them to skip the next session of breastfeeding because they either are still full, sleeping longer, etc.
What happens when you skip a session? You become fuller and aren’t being emptied, so your body takes that as an indicator to SLOW DOWN SUPPLY.
Not good for someone who is already having supply issues now is it? NOT. AT. ALL.
You will continue to feel like you are having low supply so you will “top up” AGAIN and then the cycle continues. You DO NOT want to get stuck in that trap if you can avoid it. Try everything else first – then resort to supplementing if needed.
taking supplements, herbs, etc in order to boost your supply
The thing is…. supplements, drinks, cookies, herbs, etc are a garbage method to boost your supply. They may work as a “boost” but unless you tackle the root of the problem – you have to CONTINUOUSLY take them in order to keep your supply up.
They are in fact, a bandaid to the problem of needed to increase your milk supply.
Think of it like medications – they are simply treating the symptoms, and not the overall problem. The same goes for these types of things. While they do work – they aren’t tackling the bigger picture and other things should be used instead or in addition to.
pumping milk before your supply is established
Pumping can be great – AMAZING actually… but only if done correctly. I do go more over this later in this post, but you DO NOT want to do this too early.
First off – your supply isn’t even established yet. It makes literally ZERO sense to be pumping before your supply is established when the reason for doing so is because you are concerned about milk supply.
Your body doesn’t even know what’s going on yet!! Give it some time to figure this whole breastfeeding thing out first.
Pumping too much too early can lead to oversupply. If you pump a bunch early on while your body is still trying to regulate the supply…. it will think you need MASSIVE amounts of milk and you can end up with an unhealthy oversupply problem.
And trust me – battling engorgement is not fun. You want to avoid that if you can.
So what DO YOU DO? I’m glad you asked….
quality ways of increasing milk supply
We’ve talked about how to determine if you have low supply as well as what NOT to do to increase your milk supply…. but what the heck do you do to help? The simple answer: nurse as much as freaking possible.
Respond to them when they’re hungry, cluster feed, feed on demand, all that. But when that doesn’t work… there are two other things you can do.
analyze your current breastfeeding relationship.
It’s good to check and make sure there are no other issues happening that are then leading to low supply issues. Analyze and problem solve these things FIRST. Supply also has a lot to do with stress and hormones so make sure those are in check as well as the things I am about to mention.
Is babe latching correctly? If babe doesn’t have a healthy wide latch, they may not be getting enough milk out, and that has NOTHING to do with your supply. But this can affect your supply since it’s a supply and demand process.
Babe doesn’t get much out, breasts don’t empty, your body thinks it’s overproducing, and makes less. So make sure there are no latch issues! This can occur due to tongue ties, so check for that as well.
Do you have a good position? Some babies are sooooo picky lol – my own babies included. Try all sorts of positions and make sure they are eating well. I’ll be writing a post on this soon as well.
Are there any reasons to suspect nipple confusion? If you do end up supplementing, avoid giving it with a bottle as it can cause nipple confusion. Use a cup or syringe instead. Also avoid the use of pacifiers and nipple shields if you can help it.
Nipple shields also limit how much milk is being taken from the breast and can have an effect on low milk supply.
Or maybe something else entirely? This is not an exhaustive list so make sure to check for anything else or even talk to a lactation consultant too.
schedule a nurse-in with your babe
Nurse-ins are VERY beneficial as it gives you and babe time to focus on breastfeeding. Get some snuggly pillows and get your Netflix binge on. Stay in bed with babe for 24-48 hours and let them nurse as much as they want with skin-to-skin contact.
The important part here is that there is skin-to-skin contact and frequent nursing happening.
If you can, have someone else take care of chores, running around other kids, even cooking meals. Focus on that baby and increasing your milk supply!!
power pump when you can
Another thing that you can do is POWER PUMP. Taking an hour a day to do this will train your body to produce more. Power pumping looks something like this:
- Pump for 20 minutes
- REST for 10 minutes
- Pump for 15 minutes
- REST for 5 minutes
- Pump for 10 minutes
Doing this will have a large benefit as it trains your body to produce more! Don’t be worried about not having enough left for babe – your baby sucking will signal to produce more. For best results, start power pumping right after a morning nursing session.
If you want to increase your milk supply, I highly suggest focusing on nursing as much as you can. Schedule some time to have a nurse-in with your babe and power pump if you can.
Other methods may be harder, more frustrating, and oftentimes useless.
In case you skipped to the bottom of this post…. (like I often do) be 100% certain you ACTUALLY have a low supply before utilizing these methods. True indicators are absence of weight gain and insufficient diaper output – all others are NOT reasons for concern.