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Breastfeeding and breast milk supply is incredibly finicky. All it takes is one day of not drinking enough water or a stressful week and your supply can start to decrease. I exclusively pumped for the first two months of my son’s life due to his stay in NICU. After that, I breastfed until he was 15 months old, I would have liked to have fed him longer but health issues meant that I lost my supply for good.
During the 15 months I lost and regained my supply more times than I can count. So, I thought I’d share with you what worked for me when I needed to boost my supply. Here are my top 10 ways to increase your milk supply.
1 – Drink More Water
The simplest, most basic and by far the fastest way to increase your supply is to ensure you are well hydrated. On a normal day we are told to drink 8 glasses of water (or 2 litres). When breastfeeding this needs to increase to account for the additional workload your body is under. I always found the easiest way to keep track of my fluid intake was to carry a water bottle around with me – everywhere. I knew it held 700mls and therefore I knew how many times I had to empty it to ensure I was drinking enough water.
2 – Nurse, Nurse, Nurse. (Or Pump, Pump, Pump).
Breastfeeding is supply and demand. Forget any nursing schedule your overpriced ‘how to be a good mum’ guide books have told you about – keeping a nursing schedule is a sure fire way to limit or decrease your supply (unless you’re incredibly lucky to have a baby that nurses perfectly and a large supply in the first place).
My lactation consultant scolded me so much when I started talking schedules with her – I had no idea!! If you’re finding your supply dropping, nurse as much as you can and as much as bub will take. Your little one won’t overfeed – they will simply refuse. The more you can stimulate your ‘let down’ reflex, the more your body will realise it needs to make more milk and your supply will increase.
3 – Skin to skin with your baby.
It’s okay to just stop and spend time with your baby. The house chores can wait and your friends and family will understand. Spend a day in bed with your gorgeous little one, spend as much time skin to skin as you can. Try to relax and just be with your baby. This will help stimulate the hormones that tell your body to produce more milk. During this time nurse as much as you physically can and enjoy the cuddles.
4 – Eat Foods That Increase Your Supply.
There are certain foods, called galactagogues, that you can integrate into your daily meals that can help increase your supply. I can’t honestly say whether or not each one of these will single-handedly work however there is research to suggest they do so why not give it a go.
The first one (that I know helped me) is oats. Once I started eating oats for breakfast each morning I saw an increase in my supply and friends of mine claim this to be true too. Other’s that are popular include brewers yeast (often used in conjunction with oats in a lactation cookie recipe), flax seed (ground as the body cannot digest the whole ones) as well as a good array of vegetables.
5 – Stop Supplementing Feeds with Formula.
This comes under the banner of ‘supply and demand’. If you are replacing feeds with formula you aren’t letting your body know that it needs to produce more milk. Before adding formula in as a supplement speak to a lactation consultant or your GP to help determine if you need to be supplementing or if they can assist in increasing your milk supply.
6 – Power Pumping
During the first few months when I wasn’t able to breastfeed Alexander or have much skin to skin contact, I used this method to increase my supply.
Pump for 20 minutes.
Rest for 10 minutes.
Pump for 10 minutes.
Rest for 10 minutes.
Pump for 10 minutes.
This means you’ll have pumped for 40 minutes out of an hour. If you have a double pump then this works brilliantly and you can spend the whole time double pumping. If you have a one sided pump then you should divide your time between each side to ensure both sides have the same amount of pump time.
If you do this once a day you should start to see results within around 48 hours. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results that soon though, it can take some women a week or longer to see an increase.
7 – Check Your Food Intake.
In the early days I made a big mistake of not eating for a day. I was busy, stressed and running around all over the place and I simply skipped my meals. I paid for it big time. Almost overnight my supply disappeared. When breastfeeding we burn on average an additional 500 calories a day. That’s equivalent to a hard-core hour session at the gym. Every day.
You need to account for this in the food you eat. I used the ‘My Fitness Pal’ app to track my intake of food and to make sure I was consuming enough good calories – that is from food that has nutritional benefit. For myself personally, I was aiming for around 2200 calories a day – however this was based on my height, weight, age, fitness level and level of activity. Speak to your GP to help determine the number of (good) calories a day you should be aiming for.
8 – Supplements.
There are a lot of herbs and supplements that proclaim to help however the one that worked for me every time was Fenugreek. The first time I used this my supply went from virtually non-existent to fully fledged back to where it originally was in just 3 days. I was amazed. I only used this when my supply was low and it helped every time.
9 – See a Lactation Consultant.
An LC will be able to help you to determine if your little one’s latch isn’t quite right as well as being able to provide valuable guidance. The best option is to see an LC sooner rather than later as it will be easier to help increase your supply in the early days.
10 – Medication.
If all else fails there are several ‘safe’ medications that your doctor can recommend that will help you to increase your milk supply. I used these medications off and on towards the end of my breastfeeding experience and they certainly do help. They do work best though if you are doing all of the above well, especially looking after your fluid and dietary intake. That’s the foundation that these medications work on to help increase your supply.
Please remember, this is intended as a guide only and is based on my experience, my research and what has worked for me. There are so many avenues for help if you find your supply is decreasing and I encourage you to seek assistance from either a lactation consultant or your GP as soon as you can.
What methods have you used to increase your milk supply? Have you found some ways work better than others? Please share your experiences below.
**Photo Credit – Matilda Beezley Photography**