Last Updated on February 9, 2023
Breastfeeding is beautiful, but not all mums have the same experience. Some find it very easy, and others struggle to produce enough milk for their baby. Suppose you are one of those mothers having difficulties with low milk supply. In that case, this article will help you figure out how to increase your breastmilk production naturally so that you can continue breastfeeding without any worries!
How Do You Know If You Have a Low Milk Supply?
After giving birth, increasing milk supply is one of the top things mums focus on to satisfy their breastfed babies. Those breastfeeding women may constantly worry if they have enough breast milk. However, do not stress before checking these signs of low milk production.
Your baby is not gaining weight
A newborn can lose up to seven percent of its birth weight during the first few days, but after that, it should be back on track with its milk intake. Suppose your baby has trouble gaining sufficient weight in a specific period even though you’ve increased the number of feedings a day. In that case, the high chance is that either your milk supply or milk quality is not enough to meet your baby’s demand.
Many breastfeeding mothers often wonder why some babies gain weight faster than others while all were born at the same weight. Not all breast milk is the same, and its calorie content may differ from one mom to another. Therefore, it could be possible that your baby requires more milk than others.
Your milk supply is less than 1 litre per day
If you’re breastfeeding and not producing more than one litre of milk per day, there may be signs that your milk supply is low. When women start breastfeeding, they may not produce much, especially with the first baby. However, after the first few weeks, the breast milk supply should reach that amount because your baby nurses more.
Your nursing session is too short or long
Some moms have a hard time getting their little ones to nurse. On the one hand, your baby is less interested in nursing sessions and falls asleep quickly while nursing. So you can only nurse for shorter periods than usual. On the other hand, your baby spends more than 20 minutes at a time getting enough milk. This behaviour change could be the possible signs of low milk supply.
Your baby prefers infant formula milk
Most babies like breastfeeding by nature, but if you find out your baby’s preference is for formula milk, it can be a sign that they are not getting enough breast milk because your supply is low. If it is this case, the reason your baby is not very interested in breast milk could be because it takes more effort to suck out the milk from the breast, or perhaps the breast milk doesn’t satisfy her like the bottle in both milk volume and quality.
Your baby is cranky or fussy
Have you ever noticed your baby is not satisfied after nursing and seems hungry again soon afterwards? This is a sign that you have less milk supply than you need. Sometimes, the baby gets very cranky and fussy at a certain time, especially before a nap or bedtime. Your baby’s feeding demands are not being met when her tummy is not full.
The number of wet nappies per day
One of the most distinct signs your milk supply is decreasing is if you notice your baby getting less than the normal amount of wet nappies. On average, a newborn baby must wet at least five nappies per day, and as many as six or seven. When the baby has no health issues like fever, constipation and others, it’s his natural instinct to consume more breast milk to grow, which would typically cause more dirty nappies. If wet and soiled nappies are less than average, it may be due to a low milk supply.
Why Does Your Milk Production Not Work Very Well?
While it is true that low milk supply can be caused by several factors, including hormonal imbalances, diet, resting physical issues with the mother, and breastfeeding technique, sometimes there is nothing wrong at all. Listed here are some of the most common recorded reasons:
Low-birth weight infants
When babies are born immature or at low-birth weight, they are not ready or do not have enough power to suckle efficiently. Their stomach is exceptionally tiny, and they can not take in too much breast milk in the early days. Your body only gets signals to produce milk when the baby breastfeeds. As a result, cluster feeding happens more often, and it is not easy for you to increase your breast milk supply.
Lack of glandular tissue
In this tissue, you can find a gland called the alveolus, which is responsible for milk production after pregnancy and childbirth. The process of glandular tissue involves breast nipple stimulation during lactation, which impacts the gland to produce or secrete adequate amounts of milk. Women who naturally suffer from inefficient glandular tissues are likely to produce less breast milk.
Taking prescription medication
Prescription medicines can sometimes affect the amount of breast milk you produce as possible side effects. The most common cases are the mothers who get C-section deliveries and sometimes take antibiotics, which can suppress breast milk production. The commonly used anti-depressants could also have a negative impact on breast milk production as they can cause problems with lactation.
In addition, women taking birth control pills should be careful as sometimes these medications will stop the ovaries from producing estrogen and progesterone, which is needed for the normal functioning of breasts’ glands. This means you won’t be able to make as much milk as you would like.
Previous breast surgery
Having breast surgery may cause you trouble in producing more milk. However, this does not mean you don’t have a healthy milk supply. You may have to work harder to ensure your baby’s needs are met, but it is possible.
One-sided breastfeeding or Non-sequential breast expression
One-sided breastfeeding is one of the reasons for low milk production. If you notice that your second breast produces less than half as much as the first, the high chance is that you have the habit of feeding your baby mostly with one breast. Gradually, your baby will prefer only one specific nipple during feedings, leaving out the other one being drained dry. The nipple becomes dominant and provides more comfort and satisfaction while nursing on them compared with their second counterpart. After a while, it would be difficult for you to continue breastfeeding both breasts together during one session.
Your baby’s feeding preferences
Sometimes this could happen in breastfeeding babies when they want to breastfeed constantly because their tummy doesn’t process food very well in early life. This leads to more frequent feeding, which takes away from your body’s time to make healthy amounts of breast milk.
How To Increase Your Breast Milk Production?
Take a breastfeeding class
Join a breastfeeding class; you can learn about the breastfeeding process and common challenges and get guidance from a lactation specialist or other professional specialising in breast milk production. You will also be able to meet with other mothers that have been through similar experiences, which is very helpful in building support systems for yourself.
Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby
Most lactation consultants will advise you to feed your baby immediately or about an hour after giving birth, with skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby. When you place your baby directly on top of your naked chest, hormones called prolactin and oxytocin are stimulated. They are the ones helping your milk ducts release good milk supply and promote optimum breastfeeding. You can keep doing this as long as you are comfortable with your baby’s weight.
Do simultaneous breast expression
For mothers who need to be away from their babies for a long period, pumping or expressing breastmilk is highly recommended as this will keep your supply running even without breastfeeding sessions with your baby.
When doing this, try to use a breast pump and your own hands to stimulate your breast. While pumping the first breast, express the other one. You can express milk before your baby awakens in the morning. You can schedule a pumping time after work or during lunch break to get more expressed milk for each session.
If you have limited hand expression access while using a pump, choose dual-breast pumps instead so both hands are free while pumping one breast. The expressed milk could be preserved in the freezer for later use, or in case you later produce less milk, or you can even donate it to mothers who do not have enough breast milk for their babies.
Increase pumping sessions
If you have a sleepy baby, your milk supply will drop because milk production is primarily triggered by efficient milk removal. You can increase breast milk with a breast pump and use the power pumping technique to remove milk at least once every two hours.
The best time for you to do it is when your baby is asleep. Milk supply increases if you follow the following steps:
- Do breast pumping or hand expression for 15 minutes
- Then rest without milk removal for 30 mins
- Repeat these steps at least three times throughout your waking hours. While doing this method, it’s also vital that you drink lots of water.
It is recommended that you also feed your baby between power pumping sessions to stimulate milk production and maintain it at the high end of the normal range, especially if your baby is younger than six months old.
Relax and rest
Try to sleep during the day when your baby sleeps and at night when they sleep. Get at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep a day if it is possible for you. Make sure that there is enough darkness while sleeping to release melatonin, which helps with milk production.
If your baby is awake at night and demands breastfeeding, try different nursing positions where you can have more release from pressure on your breasts, such as lying down. You may realise this way will help better than sitting or reclining back against something like a pillow. As long as you put your breast correctly in the baby’s mouth, you can let the baby feed himself while you can get some shut-eye.
Have a healthy diet
Never forget to drink plenty of fluids (water, fruit juice and herbal tea) to stay hydrated and ensure your diet is healthy (full of protein, calcium and vitamins). You can try to add on these food below to produce more milk:
- Brewer’s yeast: Ideally, every nursing mum should consume at least 1-2 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast per day. It provides an abundance of B-complex vitamins which help to increase milk production. It also contains a significant amount of the mineral chromium, which is important for lactation and effective against premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as depression, irritability and mood swings. Moreover, it has been used for centuries because they boost immune system function so you can stay healthy all year round.
- Wheat germ: If the above yeast does not appeal to your taste buds, try consuming wheat germ instead. One tablespoon daily will do just fine too. Wheatgerm is a good source of protein and essential fatty acids, which are necessary if you want to boost your milk supply. It is also a great natural energy booster, containing B vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium.
- Lactation cookies: You can also try lactation cookies to boost your breast milk supply. These healthy and tasty treats contain brewer’s yeast, brewer’s yeast extracts, oat bran, wheat germ, flaxseeds and molasses, which are all great sources of B vitamins that help to generate more breast milk.
- Fenugreek tea: This is an excellent herbal tonic used for centuries if mothers want to have more milk. It contains phytoestrogens and lignans (phytochemicals), which help improve your prolactin levels by stimulating estrogen receptors in mammary tissue. It should be consumed in the first few weeks since it takes time for these phytochemicals to accumulate in the body.
All of these above are excellent sources of nutrition for nursing mums to increase your milk supply. Remember that you have the right to ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is anything in these products that might harm breastfeeding babies since they are usually more sensitive than adults.
Use a hands-free pumping bra
As a nursing mother, you should wear comfortable bras that are easy to use during feedings. The hands-free type is an excellent suggestion to boost your milk production because you can do other things while feeding or exclusively pumping. As a bonus, it also allows easy access to massaging and stimulation which help boost lactation even more.
Visit your lactation consultant
If you have made lots of efforts to boost your milk supply but still do not have enough milk for your little one, it is high time to see a lactation consultant. They will help you with your existing routine and give practical tips on having more milk in the shortest time possible and even disease control.
After all, every baby has needs regarding breastfeeding, and what works for one may not work for another. In the early days, one has enough milk from their mother, but others need extra milk. Being stressed and losing weight would not help to increase your milk supply. Instead of giving up on breastfeeding or resorting to formula feeding (which can have its health implications), try to work on it; your breast milk could be naturally increased with enough sustenance for your little one. Start with a healthy lifestyle and keep making an effort.
Sources and References
Sophie is a former primary school teacher and passionate about parenting. She enjoys writing, reading, cooking, and making memories with her family.