Are you concerned if you are not producing enough milk for your baby? If yes, then you are not alone as nearly all breastfeeding moms have the same fear. The confusion arises because of their child’s uncomfortable behavior, making mothers feel uncertain about their supply.
Before jumping on how to increase milk supply, it is important to check if your supply is deficient. If your baby is well and gaining weight from breast milk alone, there is no problem with your milk supply. Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process. The more you feed, the more milk your body will produce.
Most moms can make plenty of milk for their little ones, but they still worry if they are producing enough. When your baby wants to nurse after an hour of eating, it is normal to worry if you are not giving enough milk.
If you truly have a low supply, know that various things can affect the production of milk. Understanding what causes your supply to go down can help you make a few changes in your regimen. Here are some of the common causes of low milk supply.
- Scheduled feedings. Mothers’ breasts produce milk continuously. The production rate depends on how full or empty they are. Your breasts produce more milk when they are almost empty, and the production slows down when they are almost full. When babies are infrequently fed on a three to four-hour schedule, breasts are full for extended periods, and this slows down milk production.
- Bottle preference. A baby sucks at the breast differently than on a dummy, pacifier or bottle. It is easier for infants to extract milk from bottles as it requires a different form of sucking than nursing. Giving a bottle may make your child prefer the faster flow or your baby may find it difficult to suck correctly at the breast.
- Less sucking time. The amount of time your child spends sucking at your breast is critical in maintaining and building your milk supply. If a baby gets more pleasing time sucking a dummy, this could mean reduced sucking time at the breast and lowers milk supply.
- Tongue tie. A baby’s tongue action affects her way of removing milk from the breast. If she cannot suck milk well, it may lower your production of milk over time.
- Supplementation. Supplementing your baby means that he eats less at breasts. The breasts respond by making less milk. If it is necessary to provide supplements, simply continue breastfeeding and pumping to increase milk production.
- Delaying feeds. Your baby will show signs when it is the right time to feed. When feeding cues are ignored, and a pacifier or dummy is given, your child may not feed well anymore. This also means your nursing sessions are reduced, and it can lower your milk supply.
- Use of nipple shields. Nipple shields are worn under the guidance of a lactation consultant. This tool can be useful in some cases, but the baby may get less milk especially if the shield is not used correctly. Because it interferes with the transfer of milk, it also affects the supply-demand cycle.
- Birth medications or jaundice. Jaundice is a common condition in babies that can make them sleepier that usual. In this case, you will need to pump your milk to maintain a good supply. Once your child has eliminated the medications from his system, he will start nursing properly, and you can stop pumping.
- Ending a feeding. It is important to wait for your baby end the session as discontinuing it on your own can interfere with the supply and demand cycle.
Other causes of low milk supply are:
- Insufficient glandular tissue. Some women may not have enough “milk-producing” ducts to meet the needs of their babies. Some steps to maximize milk production include taking a prescription medication and pumping. It is still important to continue breastfeeding even in small amounts to support your baby’s development.
- Endocrine or hormonal problems. Other health problems that can interfere with the milk supply are hypertension, diabetes, a low or high thyroid, polycystic ovary syndrome or hormonal problems. Visit a lactation consultant or breastfeeding clinic to know the best approach that will work with your health condition.
- Not getting enough rest. One of the factors that can interfere with breastfeeding is extreme tiredness or exhaustion. When you feel fatigue, you may also feel sleepy, dizzy and weak. As a new mother, it is natural that you will feel tired as you need to recover from childbirth, take care of your baby, make breast milk and feed your baby every two or three hours. It may not be easy with so many household chores waiting for you, but it is very important that you get enough rest to increase milk supply.
When you are breastfeeding, it is hard to determine the exact amount of milk your little one is receiving. The signs of a satisfied and growing baby can be seen in diapers, weight gain, and behavior. If your infant is not urinating or excreting enough, or if he is not gaining weight, she is not acquiring enough nourishment, and you will need to provide supplements. However, the behavior of your little one ‘s hard to measure. Here are the common signs that your baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Not Enough Wet And Dirty Diapers
For newborns, most doctors recommend counting the number of dirty and wet diapers per day to determine if your child is getting enough milk
- Parents can expect one wet diaper on the first day, increasing to more than six by the fourth day. To know how it feels to have an enough wet diaper, add three tablespoons (45mL) of water into a clean diaper. Your baby’s urine should be mild smelling and pale.
- Expect about 3 to 4 dirty diaper per day by the fourth day. Baby’s stools should be yellow and loose.
Not Gaining Weight
It is normal for babies to have a 5-7% weight loss during the first three to four days after birth. They should regain weight by ten to fourteen days. Around three to four weeks, your baby should have gained 4 to 7 ounces. After this, it is normal to gain 1 to 2 pounds per month. If your child is not gaining weight quickly enough, consult your health provider.
Very Long Or Short Nursing Sessions
This occurs when you cannot put your baby down even after a long nursing session. You may think that she is already asleep and when you try to put her down 20 minutes later, she will start to cry. This experience can be tough, but it is often a sign that your baby is not getting enough milk due to low milk production or ineffective suckling.
Breastfeeding sessions that are shorter than ten minutes are also an indication that the baby is not able to get enough milk. Consult your pediatrician right away and have her weight checked if your baby seems hungry after most feedings.
Firm Breasts After Feeding
The texture of your breasts can reflect whether your baby is properly draining breast milk. Typically, breasts are softened after a feeding. If your breasts are still firm after a nursing session, it is a sign that your baby is not getting enough milk. Gently massage your breasts before and after nursing to know what is normal for you.
You Experience Breast Engorgement
Hard and painful breasts may prevent your baby from getting milk correctly, discouraging both of you from having proper nursing sessions. Severe engorgement can be a sign that your breasts are not being drained properly after a feeding. This is considered a normal part of nursing, but if the pain becomes extreme and persistent, seek help from a lactation consultant.
You may need to take milk manually or with the use of a manual breast pump or an electric breast pump to relieve engorgement. Severe and unrelieved engorgement may result to lower milk supply.
Severe Pain Interferes Nursing Sessions
When your baby is not latching on correctly, you may experience severe nipple pain. Make sure that your child has a deep latch. If your baby is making clicking noises or has dimples on her cheeks while breastfeeding, it is a sign that she is not latched on properly. You can also try different positions to prevent further problems.
If there is a significant cracking of the nipples, nursing can be too painful. In this case, consult a lactation specialist or your physician immediately to have your nipple and breast check. She will check for an infection such as mastitis and will discuss with you how to solve these issues. You may need to start a nursing session on the side that is not too painful or use an electric breast pump
You Don’t Notice Let-Down Reflex
The letdown is the release of milk from your breasts. Letdown reflex occurs when baby’s sucking stimulates nerves in the breasts. It signals the release of oxytocin, a hormone that triggers tiny muscles around milk-producing cells to contract and squeeze milk into ducts. This usually takes a few seconds to a few minutes.
Letdown reflex makes sure that your baby is getting enough milk. Most moms describe it as a tingly or pins and needles sensation. This feeling is caused by milk going through the ducts of nipples.
Baby Sleeps Long After Feedings
In some cases, baby sleeps longer after a feeding, and this may be a sign that she is not getting enough milk. Some babies prefer to “shut down” or sleep rather than cry if they do not have enough food. If your child is breastfed and sleeps for periods of four hours without waking during the night, her consumption is not quite adequate.
[ Read: What To Do If Your Baby Falls Asleep While Breastfeeding? ]
Breastfeeding is important to keep your baby healthy. It carries all the essential nutrients in right proportions. Breast milk helps in protecting your child against sickness, allergies, diseases, and infections. It is advised that babies be breastfed for the first six months. It is encouraged to continue breastfeeding until at least one year and longer when possible.
If your baby is not getting enough breast milk due to low supply, she may be diagnosed with failure to gain weight. It is important to observe your baby’s growth chart as low breast milk can put your little one at a high risk of weak immune system, poor memory, malnutrition and other health problems.
While there are many breastfeeding techniques that you can do to increase your milk supply, it is best to consult your baby’s doctor if she is losing weight or not gaining weight at all.
Low milk supply can occur due to different factors. Because breast milk is a vital nutritional source for babies and infants, it is important to determine how to increase its supply. If you are not making enough milk for your baby, here are some ways to increase your production in a matter of days.
1. Nurse More Often
The best way to increase your milk supply is by nursing more often. The production of breast milk works on demand. Your body will create more milk the more your baby feeds. Make sure that your baby is nursing properly. If milk is not removed from breasts efficiently, your body will produce less milk. One of the factors that interfere with milk supply is giving supplement during a growth spurt. It may be difficult to devote enough time to nurse, but it is important for your baby and your milk supply.
You will need to remove more milk from your breasts frequently so you can increase your supply. If your baby has problems gaining weight, nurse at least 1.5 to two hours during the day and every three hours at night.
2. Always Check The Latch
To increase milk supply effectively, always ensure correct attachment. Your baby is latched on properly when her lips are flared open, her tongue sticks out over her gums, and your nipple and areola are in her mouth. Not because you do not feel any pain does not mean her latch is on properly.
You may also slip your clean pinky into her mouth to break the seal and use your nipple to open her mouth widely. Insert your breast gently up to areola. Repeat until her mouth opens up wide and you have a good latch to allow your baby drain your breasts entirely. If you are not sure about your latch, you can ask a lactation consultant.
3. Switch Sides During Each Feeding
Ensure that your baby nurses from both breasts every nursing session. When your child falls asleep before reaching the second breast, stop her for a few minutes into feeding and gently switch her to the other side. By doing this, you can keep her awake, and she can eat more.
Consider switching three or more times during each feeding or every time your baby falls asleep. Take this as a sign to switch sides. It will stimulate both breasts to make more milk, ensuring that your child can drain each breast. You may use each side at least two times per nursing. You can use breast compression so your baby can continue feeding longer.
You can also try to double feed. Take a break by burping baby to allow more room for milk. Place her back on for another nursing session at both breasts.
4. Pump After Or Between Nursing
If you do not have enough time to nurse your baby because of work, consider establishing a pumping routine to increase your milk supply. Even if you are at home, pumping between or after nursing helps in boosting your productivity. This is also helpful as you can always have milk available if you want to take a rest. Adding pumping sessions is also important if your baby is not nursing frequently enough. Your objective in pumping is to get more milk to increase your milk production.
To make sure that you are getting an optimum amount of milk from your breasts, keep pumping for two to five minutes after the last drops of your milk. At first, the amount of milk you extract will stay the same. Hopefully, you will notice an increase in output after a few days. Make sure that you get the most out of all pumping sessions. Whether you are at home or work, pump for 15 minutes every couple of hours. Pump also for 5 to 10 minutes after every nursing session.
5. Limit The Use Of Bottles And Pacifiers
By restricting the use of bottles and pacifiers, it ensures that all your baby’s sucking needs are met at your breasts. The time your baby spends sucking a bottle or pacifier is time lost on increasing and stimulating your milk production. These satisfy the oral stimulation of infants and reduce hunger, making them less likely to feed. It will be easy for her to switch from breast and pacifier without lowering your milk supply as your baby grows.
If possible, it is best to avoid formula as the less you breastfeed, the less milk your body will produce. In some cases, giving a baby formula all the time can make your child start refusing breasts.
However, you should supplement your baby with formula if your doctor recommends for medical reasons.
6. Relax And Drink Plenty Of Water
This may be easier said than done, especially when you have a newborn. However, loads of stress can affect your ability to make milk. Take some time to relax before breastfeeding or pumping. Nap when your baby takes naps. Keep things simple and eliminate unnecessary outdoor activities to increase your milk production. You can listen to soothing music, talk to your loved ones or browse some photo albums to boost happiness.
Breastfeeding is not an easy task, and your body may suffer if you do not drink enough. Consume plenty of water to increase your energy levels, focus, and concentration. Drink at least six glasses of fluids while you are lactating.
7. Watch Your Diet
If you are dieting, this could lower your milk supply. What you eat has an impact on the quantity and quality of milk your body makes. Make sure that you consume at least 1,800 calories a day. Here are some guidelines to remember about breast milk and diet:
- Consume excellent sources of calcium. These foods and beverages will help your baby’s bone development. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, certain fish (salmon and sardines), and leafy green vegetables.
- Add more fruits and vegetables in your diet. They are packed with essential vitamins, minerals as well as fiber.
- Opt for lean meat, low-fat dairy products, soy products like tofu, and skinless chicken breast.
- When it comes to boosting milk supply, many moms have found success by eating galactagogues like millet, barley, oatmeal and quinoa, and spices like turmeric, fennel, and ginger. You can also consume almonds, flaxseeds and sesame seeds to improve your production.
[ Read: What Not To Eat When Breastfeeding ]
8. Take A Nursing Vacation
Spend a day or two in bed with your little one and do nothing else but nurse whenever your baby wants to eat. Of course, you can still go to the bathroom and kitchen and finish small motherly tasks, but this vacation is just about you and your baby.
If you are struggling with supply, do not limit how much time your baby is on each breast. You’re your baby both breasts during each feeding. During these days, take advantage of nap nursing. Sleep with your baby, so you can both relax while your little one is nursing. This relaxing method will help in increasing milk production.
9. Apply Warm Compress
In some cases, women have low milk supply due to low blood circulation in the breasts. If this is the cause, you can apply a warm compress on your breast before nursing sessions. The warmth will improve blood supply and increase milk production.
Before feeding, gently massage your breasts for five minutes. Dip a cloth in warm water and squeeze out excess water. Apply this to your breasts, gently pressing the breast against the chest. Massage for five to ten minutes, lean forward and start breastfeeding your baby.
10. Skin-To-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact during nursing sessions is not only a great bonding for baby and mom, but it also helps in releasing more hormones that produce and eject milk. You can undress your baby to her diaper and drape a blanket over her back to prevent colds. Remove your bra and use a shirt that can be easily unbuttoned on the front.
You can also try to use a sling so you can keep your baby close to you all the time, encouraging her to nurse more often. Babies tend to thrive having access to their mothers 24/7 and being able to breastfeed anytime is important for your baby and milk supply.
11. Avoid ill-Fitting Bra
Using a bra that is too tight or compresses the breasts can cause problems with the flow of milk. Ill-fitting bra or underwire bra may have the tendency to block a particular milk duct and result in plugged duct. This leads to a painful milk buildup in that area of the breast. It is best to stick with a soft nursing bra daily to prevent poor milk flow.
Nursing bras support milk-filled breasts without constricting them. They usually come with flaps that allow mothers to open the front of each bra cup so you can feed without having to remove the bra completely.
12. Visit A Lactation Consultant
If the above measures do not help in improving your milk supply, it is best to visit a lactation consultant to help you establish a good nursing relationship.
Breast milk is very important to the growth and development of newborns and infants. If you are struggling with your supply, your doctor may prescribe medications or lactation consultant will give you guidance on how to increase your breast milk. There are also certain foods that can help in increasing your supply.
Fenugreek seeds are known for increasing the supply of breast milk. It stimulates the milk-producing glands as well as mammary glands. To use fenugreek, soak one tablespoon of seeds in a cup of water and leave it on overnight. The next day, boil this water with fenugreek seeds for a few minutes. Strain and drink this tea every morning to improve your milk supply.
Another option is to take three fenugreek capsules three times a day during the first ten days. Reduce the quantity to two, three times a day for the next ten days. Then, just take one capsule three times daily for another ten days.
Another healthy addition to your diet so you can increase milk production is oatmeal. It is an excellent source of iron and lack of this essential mineral is one of the leading causes of low milk supply. It also contains fiber that aids your digestion.
Oatmeal is one of the women’s comfort foods and can help you reduce levels of stress and relax while having a delicious meal. Simply eat a bowl of oatmeal with milk for breakfast to help your body increase milk supply. You can also try having oat cookies if oatmeal does not sound appetizing.
Also called sahjan, the drumstick is a green vegetable that contains many essential nutrients that can stimulate the mammary glands. This food helps in opening up veins around the breast and promotes circulation, leading to an increased milk supply. Simply extract the juice from fresh drumsticks and consume half a glass of it daily for a month.
Another option is to boil a handful of drumstick leaves in a cup of water for a few minutes and add a pinch of salt. Drain and smear the leaves with ghee (clarified butter). Consume this twice a day to increase your production of breast milk.
Beetroot And Carrot
Both beetroot and carrots contain a high amount of beta-carotene, which can increase women’s milk supply. Beta-carotene is also beneficial for the development of babies, and these vegetables are packed with minerals and essential nutrients. In addition to complementing lactation, Vitamin A also improves the quality of breast milk.
Simply add two beetroots and two carrots in a juicer. Add honey or salt for taste. Drink this fresh and nutritious juice daily. You can also make carrot and beetroot soup or a salad and consume them daily to increase your milk supply.
Holy basil or basil leaves have been used in Ayurveda for helping lactating, and nursing mothers increase the quantity of their breast milk. It is a good source of iron, carotene, thiamine, and niacin, making it beneficial for both mother and her baby. This herb helps in calming the nerves of new mothers and in stimulating milk flow. It can also enhance your child’s immunity.
To reap all benefits of holy basil, add one cup of water in a pan and eight chopped basil leaves. Let it boil for a couple of minutes and reduce the heat to summer. Let it steep for 5 minutes more and strain. Add some honey for additional flavor and benefits. Drink this concoction twice a day to increase your milk production.
Fennel seeds are also beneficial when it comes to boosting the quantity of breast milk. It acts as a galactagogue, a substance that helps your body make milk. Another great thing about fennel seeds is that it aids digestions and prevents colic pain in newborns. To acquire its benefits, add one tablespoon of fennel seeds in a cup of hot water. Cover and let it steep for thirty minutes more. Strain and drink this tea two times a day.
Another option is to mix ½ cup each of fennel seeds, rock candy (misri) and cumin seeds in a bowl. Grind these ingredients to make a powder. Mix one teaspoon of this powder with a cup of milk and drink this solution thrice a day. Adding fennel seeds in your daily meal is also beneficial.
Bottle gourd is also considered as one of the best foods that can increase breast milk production. It is high in nutrition and water content, keeping nursing mothers hydrated. In addition to its assistance in increasing milk quantity, this summer vegetable is also easy to digest, aids lactation and helps in normalizing blood sugar levels.
You can take bottle gourd in the form of stir fries, curries, kheer, halwa, vegetable filling, and more. You can also make a sweet pudding out of it.
Garlic is also an excellent galactagogue as it contains chemicals that help in stimulating lactation. Nursing mothers who consume garlic tend to feed for longer periods of time as babies like the taste of breast milk.
To use, grate three garlic cloves and boil them in a cup of water. Once the quantity of water is reduced to one-fourths, add a cup of milk and bring it to boil. Mix ½ teaspoon of honey and strain. Drink this delicious tea every morning to increase milk supply. Another option is to stir fry some garlic cloves and consume it with steamed rice.
Poppy seeds or khuskhus helps mothers relax entirely during lactation. It contains sedative properties that can assist the body to calm down and relax your mind while nursing. You can add this in your diet by roasting some poppy seeds and add them to porridges and puddings. Another option is to make a paste and include this ingredient in curries.
- Take caution when taking poppy seeds and only eat in a minimum quantity. Do not go overboard consuming it.
Cinnamon is also one of the best foods that can help mothers increase milk supply. When nursing mothers include cinnamon in their diet, it adds flavor to their breast milk and babies tend to like it. This ingredient also helps in preventing early conception and delays menstruation after childbirth.
To increase milk supply, add a pinch of cinnamon powder in a cup of warm milk. Add ½ teaspoon of honey and stir well. Drink this daily before going to bed.
This summer fruit has been used as a galactagogue in Asian countries for thousands of years. When you are lactating, make it a habit of eating unripe papaya to increase your breast milk supply. It also works as a natural sedative, allowing mothers to calm down and relax. After boiling sliced papaya, you may add them to your salads. You can also eat raw papaya with cereal, yogurt, soups, and noodles.
Cumin seeds are also believed to promote breast milk production. They are an excellent source of iron that gives new mothers strength to fulfill motherly duties. Also, these seeds aid digestion and provide relief from bloating, acidity and constipation. Simply combine one teaspoon of cumin powder with a teaspoon of sugar. Add this in a glass of warm milk and drink it before going to bed.
Alternatively, you can mix two teaspoons of cumin seeds in a ½ cup of water. Bring it to boil for a few minutes. Strain and add ½ cup of milk. You can also mix in some honey for additional flavor and health benefits. Stir it well and drink this concoction once a day to increase your milk supply.
Sweet potato can also help in increasing milk supply as it contains energy-producing carbohydrate that the body needs to combat fatigue. A major source of potassium, it also contains B-complex, vitamin C, and magnesium that can relax your muscles. You can include sweet potato in your daily meals by making some baked goods, make it as a smoothie or pudding for dessert.
You may have heard of the numerous health benefits of brown rice. Include this in your daily meal, especially if you want to increase your milk supply. It contains ingredients that can help you deal with delivery sleep patterns. Brown rice also helps in increasing appetite so you can consume more nutritious foods.
Brown rice stimulates the release of hormones to improve milk generation. It also gives nursing mothers extra energy. Simply cook enough brown rice and eat it with green leafy vegetables.
Oils And Healthy Fats
Do not avoid oils and healthy fats in your diet as they are an essential part of lactation. They help in absorbing vitamins and minerals from other foods and in balancing the supply of healthy fat to your little one. Opt for rice bran oil, olive oil or any heart healthy oil.
Eating nutritious foods, including healthy fats, is essential to provide both mother and baby with the best sustenance. Certain fats benefit your baby more, such as omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts, sardines, salmon, tuna, flax seeds, soybeans, etc.) and omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils and seeds).
As a breastfeeding mom, you want to make sure that your baby is getting enough milk. Breast milk contains all the essential vitamins and nutrients your little one needs in the first few months of life. Also, it is also rich in disease-fighting substances that shield your baby from various illnesses. Many factors can affect low milk supply, such as your diet, scheduled feedings, and tongue-tied. Fortunately, there are methods that you can do to increase your milk supply.
Follow a nutritious diet and keep your body hydrated by drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Breastfeed your baby frequently as this is a supply and demand process. Use a breast pump for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours to increase your milk supply. During the breastfeeding period, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Limit or avoid the consumption of caffeine as these have adverse effects on breast milk.
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