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When I had my first born, I was not only completely underprepared for breastfeeding, I struggled to produce enough milk for her at first.
It was heart-wrenching for me to watch as her pediatrician told us at her 3 day check up that she had lost more than 10% of her birth weight and was basically starving. I was trying so hard to make it work!
As a brand new Mom, I wanted so badly to succeed at breastfeeding and I bawled my eyes out as my hungry newborn baby ravenously consumed a formula sample in the doctor’s office.
Fortunately, it wasn’t the end of our breastfeeding journey and my pediatrician completely encouraged us to continue with a rigorous pumping, feeding and supplementing plan.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the reason we were off to such a rough start was that I had a partially retained placenta, which had been preventing my milk from coming in to that point. While that’s another story for another day, after an emergency D&C procedure that night my milk started coming in the next morning.
But we had gotten off to a rough start!
We were still struggling to latch. I was struggling with exhaustion, low iron, and energy after high blood loss, and continued to struggle to produce the volume of milk I wanted to for a little while.
I knew there were natural ways to increase my milk supply, and after researching and implementing the following strategies I was able to not only increase my milk supply, but was able to produce enough to continue exclusively breastfeeding and pump enough on the side to build a freezer stash for daycare. Hooray!W
Here are my top 5 tips for naturally increasing your milk supply!
1. Increase Milk Removal
First and foremost, you have to understand that the foundation of milk supply is based on supply and demand. To make more milk, you have to take more milk out. When milk collects in your breasts, milk production begins to delay. Keeping the ladies empty is the BEST way to stimulate milk production.
Nursing A LOT is really the best thing you can do for you and your baby here, but we’re going to dive a little deeper.
For me, hand expression is my absolute FAVORITE way to keep my breasts emptied between feedings if I’m trying to increase my milk supply. I was glued to my breast pump until I watched this video and was inspired to learn how to hand express. And yes, you can save the milk!
I like to hand express right into my Medela bottles with the flange connected to the top as a funnel and stick it right into the fridge when I’m done.
There is nothing wrong with pumping. It is effective and I do it. But pumping also takes more time and there is more to clean than quickly expressing a few ounces of milk with your hand, say after you jump out of the shower. If you are just looking for a quick milk supply boost and not necessarily needing to pump a full feeding, I highly recommend learning how to hand express.
The Haaka breast pump is another great alternative to hand expression that can you help you increase your milk supply. It’s made of silicone, comfortable, and can also be used as a milk saver to help grab and save that leaky milk from letdowns. It’s easy to use, portable and affordable. I pretty much love it, and you can get it for less than $15 on Amazon!
You will want to aim for 8-12 nursing and/or pumping sessions total in a day to increase your milk supply. Just by adding a few extra nursing, pumping, or hand expression sessions throughout the day you will begin to see a difference!
2. Use Breast Compressions
Similar to the action of hand expression, breast massage and compression while nursing and pumping helps by both stimulating milk production and assisting to fully drain the breast.
If you are pumping and are not using breast compressions you are missing out on some easy extra ounces. To do this while pumping you will need a good hands-free pumping bra. This is my personal favorite as it can be worn like a regular bra and it’s super comfortable.
Watch this video for a more in-depth tutorial of breast compression while nursing to increase milk supply.
3. Eat Galactagogues
Galactagogues are foods, beverages, and herbs that are known to promote lactation. Some of the most well-known herbal galactagogues are fenugreek, milk thistle, and fennel. My favorite way to consume these herbs is by drinking this Mother’s Milk Tea, but you can also find supplements available as well.
Brewer’s yeast is another nutritional supplement safe for breastfeeding mothers that is considered helpful for increasing milk supply. It can be added to baked goods or smoothies for a quick nutritional boost. I like Oat Mama all-natural brewer’s yeast.
Getting good rest and eating a nutritious diet cannot be overlooked in the importance of developing and maintaining a healthy milk supply either. Though obvious, it’s not as easy as it sounds when you have a new baby!
Do your best to take care of yourself, get lots of rest, and eat well. Ask for help if needed. Reach out to friends and loved ones and see if they would consider doing a MealTrain for you. It’s that important!
Finally, some of the top foods known to support the production of breastmilk are oats, barley, spinach, garlic, papaya and dried apricots. Adding these nutritious foods to your diet can help you increase your milk supply!
4. Power Pump
The idea behind power pumping is to replicate cluster feeding by rapidly emptying the breasts. This can signal your body into producing more milk.
While research shows the best way to boost supply is by having your baby nurse at the breast more often, it’s just not always possible. Power pumping is a good alternative.
To power pump, find an hour in the day that you can pump uninterrupted. Start by pumping for twenty minutes, then rest for ten minutes. Pump again for ten minutes, followed by ten more minutes of rest. Finally, pump for ten more minutes. That’s it!
Most women see an increase in milk supply and the best results from power pumping 2-3 days in a row. While not my favorite method, power pumping can be pretty effective and can be done whenever you feel your supply needs a little kick-start.
A word of caution from my own experience:
I know it can be difficult when you are under pressure to build up a freezer stash for your baby, say if you are preparing to go back to work. But while power pumping can be a great way to increase your milk supply, it’s not necessarily designed to be a tool for boosting your freezer stash.
Meaning, if you feel your baby isn’t getting a full feeding when they nurse following a power pumping session, I would recommend being prepared to offer them the extra milk in a bottle to make sure they are getting enough.
I know it can feel counterproductive and like a big bummer to pump and then give the milk immediately to your child, but you will still get the benefit of your body being signaled to produce more! And baby will be fed, full, and happy – which is always the goal.
I’d suggest being aware of this and observing closely whenever you are doing any extra pumping out of your normal routine just to be on the safe side.
Don’t get discouraged! If you are following these tips, you are well on your way to increasing your milk supply. I am confident you can do it!
5. Stay Hydrated
Lastly, one of the most simple yet overlooked ways of boosting your milk supply is to ensure you are staying hydrated!
Water is definitely important, but the main thing is to make sure you are getting enough fluids consistently throughout the day.
If you are tired of drinking water or feel like you are forcing it, trying fruit juice, tea, milk, eating a bowl of broth-based soup, eating more whole fruits and veggies, or drinking an electrolyte boosted beverage such as Gatorade will also get your body the fluid it needs!
While it is true that paying attention to your body’s cues is the key to drinking enough throughout the day, I have noticed that busy or nursing mama’s are more prone to ignore their thirst if water is not available nearby.
And that is a problem!
Avoid falling into the trap of realizing how parched you are until it is too late by keeping a couple of good-quality water bottles filled and available to you throughout the day in your home or at work, especially where you sit to pump or nurse.
I find that I tend to drink more water and enjoy it more when I’m drinking from a straw, thus, this bottle is my go-to when nursing.
I recommend finding a few favorite decaffeinated beverages to stock up on, a favorite cup or bottle or straw or whatever it is that makes you happy, and get to drinking! This is the first and simplest way to increase your milk supply, and you can start right now!
Increasing milk removal, using breast compressions, eating galactagogues, power pumping, and hydrating up are my top 5 tips for increasing your milk supply quickly. Implement one or all of these strategies to increase your milk supply naturally. Pin the checklist above to help you remember these steps!
Always remember that breastfeeding your baby, in whatever capacity you are able to, is a gift to your baby. If like me, you had a rough start or are struggling to increase your milk supply, I hope that these tips are as helpful to you as they’ve been for me.
You’ve got this, mama!