Increasing Breast Milk Supply

Breast Milk SupplyYou only have to talk to mothers for a while to see that most people think that producing enough breast milk is a feat not able to be accomplished by many. This is far from the truth. It is estimated that just 0.01% of women are unable to produce milk to feed their babies. Most women who believe that they had unfixable supply issues just didn’t have the right information or support.

There are a few situations in which you may need to take extra care to ensure your milk supply is plentiful. Some women who supplement breastfeeding with formula in the early days will change their minds later, and want to go back to exclusive breastfeeding. Some babies will have a slow start to breastfeeding for various reasons, and so the mothers need to make extra effort to keep their supply going until the baby starts to nurse regularly and effectively. If the baby is very premature, this will have an effect on breastfeeding and the mother will certainly have to take steps to get her milk supply up and running.

The following tips are suitable for anybody looking to increase or sustain their milk supply.

Nurse Often and Without Restraint
Nothing beats a baby’s suck to stimulate milk production. If you think you may be having supply issues, don’t try to feed to a routine or withhold feeds at all; feed on demand, and offer your baby to nurse in between the times in which they would normally feed. Let them suckle for comfort, too, even if they have already emptied the breasts; this will tell your breasts to make more milk. You cannot nurse your baby too much! If your baby doesn’t feed often at night, it’s definitely worth waking them for a few extra nursing sessions; however inconvenient and exhausting it may be, it’s one of the most effective ways to get the milk flowing again. Levels of prolactin (the hormone responsible for milk production) are higher during the night-time hours. Consider bed-sharing if you are not already doing so, so your baby has unfettered access to the breast during the night. Breast compressions during feeds can also stimulate the breasts to make more milk.

Pump In Between Feeds
Any time you get the opportunity, pump your milk. If you have a premature baby in the neonatal unit, this will be necessary to get your milk flowing. If you are unable to breastfeed your baby, pump at regular intervals. Every 2-3 hours is the recommended time, and any extra pumping sessions you can manage will be beneficial too. It is worth investing in a hospital-grade electric pump, or you may be able to hire one from your maternity unit or neonatal unit.

Skin-to-Skin Contact
As often as possible, have skin-to-skin cuddle time with your baby. Strip them down to their nappy, and strip your top half, and enjoy having some lovely naked snuggle time. If your baby is very tiny, you can even pop them inside your top, a la Kangaroo Care. Allow them access to the breast, but don’t feel pressured to get them to feed if they don’t want to; amazingly, just that contact with them will encourage your body to produce milk. This tip is especially helpful with babies who are reluctant to latch on; just taking the pressure away can be just the ticket to relaxing you both enough to let it happen.

Use Available Medications
There are several medications, herbal and otherwise, that are traditionally used to increase milk supply. Domperidone is one, and this must be prescribed by a doctor. It will usually be prescribed to mothers with premature babies or to mothers who are otherwise separated from their babies for extended periods of time. However, if you are having supply issues, your doctor will likely be willing to prescribe it. One of the best herbal remedies available is Fenugreek; it is highly powerful and has been known to cause significant increase in milk supply after just 24-72 hours of use. Most women are able to take Fenugreek until their supply is bountiful, and then cease use altogether. Purchase your Fenugreek from a reputable herbal supplement shop; the dosage for the capsules is usually 580-610mg. Take 2-4 capsules, 3 times per day and you should soon see an improvement! It is considered very safe to use, however it must not be used during pregnancy, as it has been known to cause uterine contractions. Of course, it goes without saying to consult your doctor before taking any new supplement or medication, especially if you are a nursing mother!

Battling low milk supply can be really disheartening at times; but rest assured that your toils will be worth it. That buzz you get from knowing your baby is exclusively breastfed will be all the more sweet if you have come through adversity to get there. I know one fantastic lady who had her baby at 31 weeks due to pre-eclampsia; she had practically no supply whatsoever as her body just hadn’t had the chance to properly prepare for nursing. She and her gorgeous son worked so hard to get things going and now, at almost age one, he has been exclusively breastfed for quite a number of months. Anything is possible if you want it enough, and if you have the right information and support.

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2 Responses to Increasing Breast Milk Supply

  1. Roxy Eastland says:

    A very good, straight forward article. Would you consider changing the last sentence to “Anything is possible if you have the right information and support”? I know several women in similar situations that gave up trying because they were told it wasn’t possible to breast feed their preemie and I think it would be quite distressing for a mother like that to read that it was because she “didn’t want it enough”. I love the picture of breast feeding in a sling, by the way.

  2. Imogen says:

    Hi! Thanks so much for commenting.

    You make a very good point, having the right information and support is vital to establishing the breastfeeding relationship, and to enabling it to continue. I will edit the last sentence as you suggested, but I do stand by my point that you do have to want it enough to get through the tough times. A woman must really want to succeed at breastfeeding to be able to take the initiative to seek that information and support that is so vital.

    I only say this because I know of several women personally that stopped breastfeeding early on, saying that they didn’t have enough support. However, in our town we have two wonderful breastfeeding support groups, a fantastic maternity unit with trained staff happy to assist, and more than several women (myself included) who are trained as breastfeeding supporters. The support was there, these women knew where to find it but still somehow expected it to rock up at their doors when they needed it without actually asking for it.

    Not only this, but one of these women came to the breastfeeding group once to ask about her low supply issues. When she was advised that her dummy usage, feed scheduling and topping-up with formula was what was negatively affecting her supply, she didn’t come back, and later stopped breastfeeding – and now tells everyone that she didn’t have enough support. She had plenty of support and info; she just didn’t like the info that she received.

    I think that in the case of some ladies, they are looking for a reason to stop breastfeeding. And that’s fine! If somebody wants to stop that is their business and not for anybody else to judge.

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