Parents, we know you are tired, and breastfeeding sometimes doesn’t happen as easily as you hope. Coupled with sleepless nights and the struggle to make enough milk, it can seem like you’re sinking.
Thankfully, you can try a few activities and supplements to help sustain your milk supply and nourish your baby. However, before you start any supplement to address a low milk supply, it’s important to speak to your baby’s healthcare provider to ensure they approve it.
Follow along to learn how to determine if you’re making enough milk, and we’ll give you some ideas to help encourage your breast milk supply.
Am I Making Enough Milk?
Many new parents are afraid they won’t make or aren’t making adequate breastmilk for their babies. The truth is that most parents have enough breast milk production to support their breastfed baby. REF#2160
You might wonder if your baby needs more milk if:
- Your breasts don’t feel full
- Your baby only nurses for short periods at each breast
- There’s only a small amount of milk produced during your pumping sessions
These are normal concerns, but they are usually not signs you aren’t making enough milk. REF#2160 Your baby’s healthcare provider is the best person to help you understand whether or not your baby is getting enough milk. They determine this by making sure your baby is experiencing healthy weight gain from their birth weight. REF#2161
What Can Cause Less Milk Production?
Sometimes, health conditions or lifestyle choices might be to blame for less milk supply. Activities and conditions that may cause less milk production include:
- Smoking or drinking alcohol REF#2160
- Skipping feedings or not nursing frequently REF#2160
- Not getting enough sleep REF#2160
- Supplementing with formula REF#2160
- Having had breast surgery REF#2160
- Certain medications REF#2160
- Introducing solid foods before four months of age REF#2160
Whether or not you’re making enough, many parents want to encourage a healthier milk supply. Having extra breast milk is helpful, especially if other caregivers bottle-feed your baby with expressed milk.
Here, we’ll explain a few ways to encourage your milk supply, plump up your baby, and support that coveted freezer supply.
How Can You Support Breast Milk Production?
From latch to let-down and all the healthy milk flow in between, here are our top five ways to help support milk production.
1. Nurse Frequently
You’re tired and finally getting a little sleep, but your baby just woke up crying, and it seems like they just nursed only a few moments ago. Take a deep breath and remember your baby will one day sleep for a full night. Until then, it’s generally best to nurse whenever your baby wants.REF#2160
Nursing on demand can help stimulate your body to make more milk. Supplementing with infant formula or not nursing frequently can result in a lower milk supply, even though it may seem like you’re allowing your breasts to become fuller. REF#2162 Cluster feeding, or feedings seemingly back to back can also help support breastfeeding. REF#2160
More nursing sessions can also allow for more skin-to-skin contact, which can encourage a healthy let-down reflex and even help you form a closer bond with your baby. REF#2163
2. Try Pumping
Many parents find pumping with hospital-grade breast pumps much less desirable than nursing their cuddly newborn. However, pumping can help stimulate your breasts to make more milk. REF#2160
After every feeding, express the remainder of your milk from your breasts. This can help signal your breasts that it’s time to make more milk, thus increasing your supply. REF#2160 If you don’t have access to a breast pump, hand expression (a method of breast compression to help express your milk) can also work. If you need a breast pump, many insurance companies may also provide a breast pump free of charge to their customers. Ask your insurance provider for more information and availablity. There may also be gently used options available on secondary marketplaces, like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Just make sure you properly clean and sterilize the machine and get new tubing and parts first before use.
You may also benefit from power pumping, a breast pump method to mimic cluster feeds.REF#2164 A board-certified lactation consultant can help you learn how to properly create a power pumping schedule.
3. Talk to Your Lactation Consultant
Every breastfeeding parent needs support to help stay successful. Seeking out the help of a board-certified lactation consultant (sometimes known as a IBCLC, or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant®) can help you work through breastfeeding challenges, like establishing a healthy latch and understanding how to nurse. Eventually, they’ll also be able to guide you through weaning your baby.
If you don’t have access to a lactation consultant, try contacting your baby’s pediatrician, healthcare provider, or midwife. They may be able to help connect you with support or may even have a provider on staff that can help you with breastfeeding. Many birth centers or hospitals offer low-cost or free breastfeed classes as well.
4. Stay Hydrated
Nursing parents need about 16 cups of water per day. REF#2165 If you aren’t properly hydrated, it can become impossible for your body to make enough milk. The amount of water you drink is linked to the amount of milk you make, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle.
It’s also important to note that the water you need for making milk doesn’t necessarily need to come from your water bottle. It can also come in the form of other beverages and foods. A good way to make sure you’re drinking enough water? Have a big glass of water every time your baby feeds.REF#2165
If you are physically active, remember to drink more water to replenish any water loss from sweating. While taking a walk or doing light stretching can help support your mood (a much-needed help during postpartum), sweating can deplete the water available in your body to make milk.
5. Try an Herbal Supplement
Herbs have been used for centuries to support health and wellness, as well as to support new parents in their breastfeeding journey. Herbs that encourage the body’s natural milk production are called galactagogues. REF#2166 Galactagogues may be synthetic or natural. However, synthetic options require a prescription and a detailed discussion of possible side effects with your and your baby’s provider. REF#2166
Top Herbal Galactagogues for Milk Supply
It’s comforting to many breastfeeding parents to learn that encouraging your milk supply is possible and that there are natural, herbal solutions to help you in your efforts. Nature is ripe with plants that can support milk production, and using them can be a helpful tool in addressing your supply.
Fenugreek is an herb predominantly grown in India, China, and parts of the Middle East.
A meta-analysis of five studies followed breastfeeding parents as they took a Fenugreek supplement and breastfed their babies.REF#2167 The study concluded that taking Fenugreek was supportive of healthy breastfeeding and encouraged a healthy milk supply.REF#2167 You can find Fenugreek in our Lactation Support supplement.
2. Fennel Seed
You’ll find Fennel Seed growing in the Mediterranean region and other parts of the world where it is now cultivated for its medicinal use. Like Fenugreek, Fennel is also recognized as a galactagogue.REF#2166
In addition to its ability to support healthy breastfeeding, it’s also considered an herbal remedy for soothing the symptoms of infant colic, a condition that may cause your baby to feel gassy and cry. REF#2168 You can also find Fennel Seed in our Lactation Support supplement, as well as in our Tummy Tonic for upset tummies.
3. Red Raspberry
Red Raspberry Leaf is native to Europe and Asia but is also grown largely in the Northwestern United States. It’s recognized as a traditional galactagogue and is often consumed in the form of tea.REF#2166 We include red raspberry in our Lactation Support supplement to round out the formula so that you can encourage your milk production.
To use Lactation Support, take one capsule three times daily between meals. Bonus points for taking this supplement with a large glass of water to increase your hydration levels.
Supporting Healthy Breastfeeding Journeys
Don’t stress — your baby is probably getting plenty of nutritious breast milk. If you have concerns about your milk production, it’s always best to talk to your baby’s doctor to ensure they’re getting everything they need.
You can support the healthy production of breast milk by making a few lifestyle changes and supporting your body with holistic herbs.
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