Are you worried you’re not producing enough breast milk for your baby?
If so, you’re in good company. Not being able to produce enough milk is a common concern among breastfeeding moms. But experts say only about five percent of women actually have a low breast milk supply. So in all likelihood, your body can produce enough milk. You just need to help it along a bit.
1. Empty your breasts
Milk production is commonly described as a "supply and demand" process. But really, it's "demand and supply." What I mean by this is that the first step to getting more milk out of your body is to make your body aware that it needs to produce more milk.
Nursing or pumping frequently is important because it sends a message to your body that you need more. For most breastfeeding moms, this means either nursing or pumping every two to three hours. But it’s not just about frequency; you also need empty your breasts more effectively.
Here's the bottom line: when our breasts are full we have slower milk production; when our breasts are empty we have faster milk production.
So how do we effectively empty our breasts?
Address latch issues
Sometimes, your baby can be latched and "nursing" but not actually drinking. This can be due to issues such as a shallow latch, a sleepy baby, or even an anatomical issue like a tongue tie. If your baby isn’t drinking, address the underlying cause. A certified lactation consultant can help you and your baby achieve a deeper latch, which in turn will help your baby drain your breasts better.
Use your hands
You can also help your baby drain your breasts by using a gentle breast massage or a breast compression to squeeze the colostrum or milk into your baby's mouth. This goes for the pump, too—it doesn’t always get every last drop. Try hand expressing for a few minutes after your pump stops extracting milk. Research shows when we use our hands while pumping, our milk production increases.
2. Step away from the app
Don't obsess over timing your feeds. Just because your app says you may be done feeding, it doesn't mean your baby is. Follow your baby's cues and allow him to nurse as long as he wants. When we cut our babies off because our apps say it’s time, we could be sabotaging our milk production.
3. Use both breasts
After your baby drains one breast, offer the second one—even if you think she’s done. Often with increased milk flow from the full side, the baby will become active again on the second side. If the baby drains the second side, go back to the first. If your baby can take it, feed her twice on each breast in a single session.
You don't need to go overboard here, but properly hydrating yourself is important. Drink enough to quench your thirst. Hydrate throughout the day, and make sure you have a glass of water nearby when you start to nurse or pump. Keep an eye on your urine—if it's very concentrated (dark yellow in color and/or has a strong odor), that’s a sign you need to hydrate.
5. Look into supplements
Many moms believe that making lactation cookies with oats, brewer's yeast, and flax seed meal can help boost your supply. The research isn't solid on this, but it can’t hurt Bonus: they’re delicious!
Additionally, some doctors and lactation consultants will recommend herbal supplements to help boost your supply. Anecdotally, many moms report success with taking herbal remedies like Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle. Again, the studies on this have had mixed results. And please remember that when considering a new herbal supplement or medication, you should check with your healthcare provider about any side effects, contraindications, or drug interactions.