Here at Sweet Graze, we commonly get asked about how to increase milk supply. According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), one of the most common reasons why mothers finish up breastfeeding much earlier than they had originally planned is because they feel that they don’t have enough milk for their baby.
In this article, we will talk about how to work out whether you do have low milk supply, and some ideas around how to increase milk supply if it is low.
How do I know if I will have enough milk when my baby is born?
Before we talk about how to increase milk supply, it is important to understand how breastfeeding works.
During your pregnancy, your breasts undergo a number of physiological changes that prepare them for milk production. When your baby is born, the hormones that are produced by the brain trigger an increase in the production of milk. Even if you have a premature baby, you will still have milk. There are a couple of key hormones that work to achieve the production of breastmilk. When your baby sucks at your nipple, the tiny nerves in the nipple are activated, which signal the release of these hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones are:
- prolactin, which activates the tissues in your breasts that produce the breastmilk
- oxytocin, which causes the ‘let-down’ (the breast to push out the milk).
The first milk that is produced is called colostrum; it is thick and usually a yellow colour. It is very nutrient dense, and it is packed with antibodies that help to protect your baby from getting sick. Newborn babies only require very small amounts of milk in the early days, so the amount of colostrum that your breasts produce is adequate to meet the needs of your baby.
How to increase milk supply? Is my baby getting enough breastmilk?
If you’re here wanting to find out how to increase milk supply, our first and best advice is get to know and work with your baby. The early weeks and months with your baby are really about getting to know each other and building your milk supply from there. Remember that breastfeeding works on an internal hormonal feedback loop, so the more your baby sucks at your breast, the more milk your breasts will produce. Feeding your baby ‘on demand’ (ie whenever they need it) is one simple way to ensure that your baby gets all the breastmilk that it needs to grow and develop healthily.
When you’re looking for signs to indicate whether your baby is getting enough breastmilk from you, here are a few things that you can look out for:
- Lots of wet nappies! Six very wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposable nappies in 24 hours. The urine should not smell and it should be very pale or clear. Very young babies will usually also have at least 3 very soft or runny poos each day for several weeks; older babies will have less. Strong-smelling, dark urine, or formed poos may suggest that your baby needs more milk, and in such cases we would recommend seeking medical advice.
- Alert and contented baby. Whilst it is very normal for babies to want to feed more frequently during fussy periods and cluster feeding times, generally, your baby will be contented and not want to feed constantly when they are receiving enough breastmilk. Yes, it is absolutely normal for babies to wake for night feeds, and no, not all babies sleep through the night from an early age (but some do!).
- Development. If you gently pinch your baby’s skin, it should spring back into place. Look for good skin colour and muscle tone. Some gain in weight, length and head circumference are also reasonable indicators that your baby is getting enough breastmilk.
How to increase milk supply – Demand and supply
When we get asked how to increase milk supply, our first answer is always this: more frequent feeding means more milk production! Before you can consider trying some of the other ways to increase your milk supply, consider that hormonal feedback loop we spoke about before. Allow your baby to feed on demand, allowing them to choose the length of the feed time. You can switch from one breast to the other if you notice that your baby’s sucking slows down, or you might prefer to let your baby drain one breast before switching to the other; there is no right or wrong here!
If you are trying to increase milk supply, it is also important to ensure that both breasts are completely emptied at the end of a feed. This might mean expressing after a breastfeed to make sure. Empty breasts trigger milk production.
Whilst your baby is feeding, you can also apply compression to your breast with your hand, to help the milk flow out of your breast more effectively. This will also encourage your baby to suck more effectively.
How to increase milk supply – Lactogenic foods
Lactogenic foods are those which are known to increase breast milk production. “I want to know how to increase milk supply, where do I find lactogenic foods?!” we hear you ask! At Sweet Graze, we’ve done the hard work for you. Over the years, we have developed a range of delicious, individually sealed (super convenient!) lactation cookies that are packed full of these lactogenic ingredients.
All of our cookies include:
- Premium rolled oats- a great source of beta-glucan fibre (to keep you feeling fuller for longer), a quality source of protein, and a number of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are important for milk production
- Brewer’s yeast– a super food that is rich in iron, vitamin B, key amino acids, and minerals, to support healthy milk production
- Flaxseed- one of the best plant-based sources of omega 3 fatty acids, but also contains phytoestrogens, which are plant hormones that are known to influence breast milk production.
How to increase milk supply – Drink lots of water
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You need to make sure that you are drinking enough water to keep your body hydrated and produce that liquid gold. Aim to drink 2L a day as the bare minimum.
There are a number of herbal teas on the market that may also compliment your water intake when you are wondering how to increase milk supply. These teas commonly include herbs such as fennel seeds, fenugreek and blessed thistle.
How to increase milk supply – Seek professional help
Seeking the advice of an IBCLC (certified lactation consultant) can be useful in helping you to make sure that your baby is latching onto your breast correctly, and that he or she doesn’t have any oral issues (such as a tongue or lip tie) that could be preventing efficient breastfeeding.
It is completely natural to wonder how to increase milk supply; most of us mums have wondered this at some point! Most mothers are able to produce plenty of milk to meet the needs of their growing baby. However, sometimes there are genuine low milk supply issues (for example, insufficient glandular tissue). In these cases, we would always recommend that you seek the advice of a medical professional.
The information regarding how to increase milk supply that is provided in the article above is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any health conditions, nor it is it intended as general medical advice. If you have tried some of our tips on how to increase milk supply but have not had the success that you hoped, we recommend that you seek the advice or your IBCLC or medical practitioner.