Not only is having a baby stressful, trying to keep your breast milk supply up in the midst of the stress is also hard. We spent some time with Emily Sylvester, MS, RD, LDN, IBCLC, to get some tips to increase your breast milk supply. Watch our live interview at the end of this article.
The most important thing is knowing how breast milk is made. It's simple science. Empty breasts make more milk. If baby is transferring milk and you're feeding as much as you can, your body will be triggered to make more milk. What interferes with this is latching issues, putting baby on a schedule, not feeding as much or having pumping issues. These are the buckets we use to look at to decide if there is a concern. If you decide you need to make more milk, there are a few patterns we can look at to work on milk supply.
- The first thing we look at is if you are pumping or feeding at the breast. First, we need to make sure you're feeding whenever the baby is showing hunger cues. Making sure the latch is good. Increasing the amount of times you're initiating a letdown. If there is anything interfering with these things, get help and seek advice. As far as pumping goes, you don't have to pump to feed the baby. It's definitely a tool we can use to increase milk supply, but you don't have to use it. If you're choosing to pump or if you are an exclusive pumper, make sure you pump more often. Whenever the baby is feeding and it's not on you, you should be pumping. That bottle is in place of you draining your breast. The best way to think is "bottle out, boobs out". Especially early on in the first few days, the pediatrician is worried about weight gain so formula is given. If this is the case, be sure to pump to ensure a good breastfeeding foundation is built. Not that the bottle or formula is bad, but be sure to empty the breasts as well.
- Another tip to increase your breast milk supply is to throw an extra pump session in after nursing. It doesn't matter how much is coming out, you are increasing the amount of letdowns. You can also pump while feeding. If baby is feeding on one side, you can pump on the other side. It's almost like telling your brain that you're feeding twins. The football hold is a good position to try so baby isn't kicking the pump. A Haakaa is a good tool for this as it extracts milk. Just be aware that you can create over supply with this.
- You can check your pump equipment if you're worried about your breast milk supply. Make sure the flanges fit correctly, the tubes are okay and make sure it's not malfunctioning. Each mom has to find the pump that works for them. We recommend a double electric pump.
- Another tip is to maintain a healthy diet. This does improve the quality of your breast milk and helps keep your supply up. In addition, you can use galactatagogues, lactation cookies and teas as a part of your overall diet regimen. An important thing to note here is that your breastfeeding foundation needs to be established before you rely on supplements.
- Lastly, stress can greatly affect your breast milk supply. It's crucial that you don't compare yourself to others. If you're pumping and you see that you're not making as much, stop and thing about how you're feeling. What's going on around you? What can you have with you to make it less stressful? If there are areas in your life that are stressful, talk to someone about it. Photos of the baby or things that smell like the baby can help you produce more breast milk. You can even cover your flanges while you pump so you aren't worried about how much milk is coming out.
To the mom who is at her wit's end and is feeling like her supply is not high enough: Seek help from an IBCLC. Surround yourself with people who are supportive. Sometimes what is in your mind is not actually what the baby needs for healthy growth so consult someone who specializes in baby's growth. Breastfeeding is never all or nothing. It depends on how your body works, how your baby feeds and the people around you and how they support you. This all comes together to create your journey. Just remember that every journey is different.
Emily Sylvester, MS, RD, LDN, IBCLC, is a dietitian and has been working in pediatrics for over ten years. She is also a IBCLC and founded Nurture Talk as a one-stop-shop for any baby feeding information, which is the first platform of it's kind. You can get on demand support when you need it. You can find her on social media on @nurturetalk.