Increasing Your Milk Supply

“Is my baby getting enough to eat?” As a Registered Nurse who provides breastfeeding resources, this has got to be one of the questions that I receive most frequently. Normally, I begin my answer with, “The vast majority of women make enough milk for their baby.” I also remind women of the many ways they can check to make sure their baby is eating enough, including counting diapers and watching their baby’s moods. I also like to remind moms that after a few weeks of breastfeeding, all women will see a decrease in the breasts fullness. This empty feeling is not a result of less milk but the body’s natural adaptation to the infant’s needs.  However, sometimes women still want to increase their milk supply for a variety of reasons.


Why Might a Mother Want to Increase Her Milk Supply?

A mother may feel the need to increase her milk supply for a variety of reasons including feeling like her baby just isn’t getting enough milk, but more likely because she is preparing to go back to work or is pumping for breast milk donations.


What Steps Should a Mother Take First to Increase Her Milk Supply?

The first step to ensuring adequate milk supply is making sure to drink plenty of water. Breastfeeding mothers should drink about eight to ten glasses of water a day. A great rule to follow is, “baby eats, mother drinks.” Each time the baby is ready to nurse, the mother should drink an eight-ounce glass of water. This will ensure that both mom and baby are getting what they need.


Try getting rid of the pacifier. While many parents find pacifier use is a great method of survival for them and a coping mechanism for their baby, there are some reasons to be careful about using a dummy. Pacifier use in the first two weeks after birth is associated with slower growth in the infant and more difficulty latching onto the breast. Since a woman’s milk supply is determined by the amount of time the infant sucks at her breast, less sucking on a true nipple increases the risk of a lowered milk supply.  If a mother finds that her breasts are often full while her baby is using a pacifier, she may need to remove the pacifier and nurse instead. This will keep her body in sync with the hormonal supply and demand system the body uses.


What Other Options Exist to Increase Milk Supply?

Spending a day or two in bed with the baby is one technique mothers can try when attempting to increase their milk supply or work on their baby’s latching technique. Mom should be encouraged to put on some loose-fitting clothing or go topless in a private space, allowing the baby to lay skin to skin with her. This time can be spent bonding with baby, practicing nursing technique and giving the baby plenty of time to nurse at the breast comfortably, spurring the body’s naturally hormonal regulation system. For stressed mothers, this time can be very relaxing and should be spent eating nourishing foods, drinking plenty of water, and doing simple activities like watching movies or reading a book.


Try herbal supplements Like fenugreek and Mother’s Milk Tea

Many women find a combination of the herbal supplement fenugreek and Mother’s Milk Tea offers them a safe way to increase their milk supply. To utilize this method drink Mother’s Milk Tea two to three times daily, with honey for a little extra sweetness. You can find this product online or at many organic food stores. Some larger chains, like Target, also sell this product. In addition to the tea, take two capsules of fenugreek three times daily. Fenugreek is also sweet smelling, giving your skin a light aromatic hint of maple syrup.


Are there medications to increase breast milk supply?

Medications which heighten levels of certain hormones like prolactin can boost a mother’s milk supply when a mother is attempting to relactate or nurse her adopted baby. They may also be used when a mother is hoping to maintain her milk supply and pump for a baby who is unable to nurse at the breast.


Metoclopramide or Reglan is often given a few times a day for four days to two weeks and then tapered off. The effectiveness of metoclopramide varies from person to person. While some women will experience a double in their milk supply, some women will have no change at all. Unfortunately, this medication may cause a drop in supply once discontinued.


As with all medications, metoclopramide does come with some caution. Women may experience anxiety, depression, headache, or diarrhea on this medication. Seizures have been reported in rare circumstances. Women should be encouraged to try non-prescriptive methods before the use of metoclopramide.


What if a mother is still concerned about her milk supply after trying these options?

If still concerned about her milk supply after trying the aforementioned options, mothers should be encouraged to see a lactation consultant to rule out easily solvable issues. Mothers should be comforted and reminded that while lacking a milk supply is rare, it does happen and to no fault of the mother. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to nourish an infant, but it’s not the only way. More important is that a woman’s infant receives lots of love from a confident mother.

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