If you’re looking to increase your breast milk supply fast there are loads of things you can do to make a difference.
The most important thing is to not panic. Many women may have an issue with supply at some point and it can be solved in just a few days with a bit of action on your part.
A low breast milk supply does not signal the end of breastfeeding, so please do not worry!
Before we get into the tips for increasing breast milk supply, it’s worth going through a few things babies may do to make you think there’s a supply issue when there actually isn’t one:
- Baby is fussy and wants to feed for hours in the evening. This is really common and is known as cluster feeding. Babies often do this in the first six to eight weeks and when they are going through growth spurts.
- Baby feeds constantly. Breast milk. Is digested quicker than formula milk. For this reason breastfed babies may feed every two hours all day in the early weeks.
- Boobs feel softer than usual. This could just be a sign that your breast milk supply has adjusted to suit your baby’s needs.
- You get no milk when you pump. Some people really struggle to get going with the pump and some don’t get the hang of it at all. This doesn’t mean your baby isn’t getting milk from you when feeding.
Before worrying about whether your breast milk supply is an issue, check through these signs to see if your baby is not getting enough milk. It could be you don’t have anything to worry about.
What can cause low breast milk supply
Low milk supply can be caused by several factors, so have a think about whether any of these could be impacting on you:
- Use of dummies.
- Supplementing with formula.
- Incorrect latch. If your nipples are flat, white and very painful after and during feeding then it could be that your baby’s latch is not quite right. Go to a lactation expert – you should be able to find a local breastfeeding drop-in service where you can see someone for free – or call a breastfeeding helpline.
- Letting baby sleep through feeds. Skipping feeds might feel great for sleep, but if it’s causing issues with your supply you may want to re-examine your day and night routine to ensure your baby is getting enough feeds in.
- Tongue tie. Babies with tongue tie cannot latch on properly. Signs of a tongue tied can be that your baby feeds on and off and on again constantly, poor weight gain, a clicking sign as they feed and difficulty attaching them to the breast. A simple procedure at a hospital can solve this issue. See a midwife to get this diagnosed.
- Incomplete feeds. If your baby is distracted and finishing a feed to early, or you are being interrupted, this can cause an issue with your supply. The breast needs to be fully emptied to signal to your body to make more. Your baby also needs to access the full feed to get all of the benefits of breastmilk. The fattier, creamier hind milk comes towards the end of the feed.
The first thing to do if you think you have a low milk supply is to chat to your doctor or midwife. Make sure your baby is gaining weight and otherwise healthy and getting enough calories. Then you can follow an action plan to get your supply back on track.
If you do want to boost your breast milk supply then read on for some handy and practical tips!
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1. Stay hydrated
You need to drink a pint of water at every single feed. Try to have a glass or bottle of water on the go with you at all times.
It’s such a huge part of breastfeeding and when you’re exhausted from the trials of motherhood it can be really easy to forget to drink enough water.
Make time to have a drink as often as you can, it’s so important for you and your baby. Being hydrated will help your body to produce more milk.
2. Eat a good diet
It’s so important for your baby’s health that you get a balanced diet. What you eat is reflected in the quality of your breast milk.
But it’s also important to look after your body with decent nutrition to keep your energy levels up.
Foods that can help to boost production of breast milk include:
- Green papaya
- Fenugreek seeds
- Brown rice
- Sweet potato
Try to find recipes that include these ingredients for your daily diet.
3. Lots of skin to skin contact
The hormone oxytocin helps your body to produce breast milk. This hormone is stimulated by close contact with your baby.
So strip both of you off as often as possible and get in plenty of cuddles.
4. Lactation cookies
We’ve already touched on diet and foods that can boost breast milk supply. Why not have some fun and make your own lactation cookies.
Here’s a naughtier recipe featuring chocolate and M&Ms:
And here’s a slightly less indulgent recipe that won’t leave you with the guilts after snacking on them.
You can also order lactation cookies online, if you don’t have time to bake (which is totally understandable!).
5. Try power pumping
Even if your boobs are not responding well to the breast pump at first, if you keep using it you will find this improves with time.
I absolutely loved my breast pump and found that it was key at getting my supply off the ground.
The key thing to do is get a decent pump, and if you’re really looking to save time then get a double pump so that you can halve your pumping time. This is the best breast pump out there in my opinion.
Try pumping after every single feed. Pump for around 20 minutes, then rest for 10 minutes, then pump for 10 minutes. You might feel like a cow for a while but this can really help, plus you may find your build up a bit of a breast milk stash in your freezer which is a bonus.
6. Lactation smoothie
Who doesn’t love a smoothie!? Try adding some breast milk friendly ingredients to it in order to get your milk supply back on track.
This strawberry and banana lactation smoothie recipe looks delicious:
7. Ditch your feeding routine
If you are on a feeding routine then ditch it and just put your baby to the breast at every opportunity.
Allow your baby to suckle and feed at every opportunity and whenever you think they may want to. Don’t wait until the start to cry, look for hunger signs which you can read up on over on this post about how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.
It can feel relentless, especially if your baby is just a few weeks old and you are still exhausted from giving birth and the lack of sleep.
To counteract the exhaustion of this you can try:
- Not planning to go out at all.
- Breastfeeding when lying down to stay comfy and rested.
- Get help with the baby whenever you can and nap when the baby naps.
8. Ditch dummies and bottles
You may be relying on that evening bottle to give you a break. The dummy can be a lifesaver if your baby has been crying non-stop.
However any time your baby wants to suckle, you need to put them to your breast. A bottle can become a part of your regular routine, but if it’s hitting your supply then either pump while your baby has the bottle or wait a few more weeks until your milk supply is well established.
9. Hand express some milk when in the shower
Warm water and relaxation in the shower plus a bit of breast massage can help your hand express some milk.
The more milk that is extracted from the breast, the more you will produce. Try feeding your baby immediately after a warm, relaxing shower as you may find yourself more relaxed and feeding a little easier.
Being tense during breastfeeding can have a knock-on effect on your letdown. Try to focus on your baby and relax as much as you can.
If you are having issues with pain or discomfort, make sure you have adequate back and arm support so that you aren’t straining your muscles.
Creating a breastfeeding station where you can get comfy can really help.
If it’s an issue with nipple pain, check your latch. Your baby should open their mouth wide before you latch them on and their head and spine should be in a straight line, however you’re holding them.
Your baby needs to tip their head back so that your nipple goes past the hard roof of their mouth and goes to the back of their mouth against the soft palate. This will protect you from pain and means they will feed more efficiently.
11. Get lots of sleep
This might feel like it’s an impossible task but you need to try and think creatively, and most importantly you need to ask for help.
Get someone else to take the baby out for a walk between feeds so that you can get a proper nap.
If your breast milk supply is low, then you won’t want to skip night feeds as this is when your milk producing hormone levels are at their highest.
Adapt your daily routine so that you are factoring in lots of rest for yourself rather than dashing around doing chores, seeing friends and a million other things.
If you are struggling to get to sleep at night, try taking a warm bath and then using a pillow spray – they can really work wonders to get you nodding off faster.
12. Take a boob vacation
Pull up the drawbridge and stay at home for a few days with nothing to do but feed, feed, feed.
Get in bed, get some box sets on and just focus on feeding for the next two or three days.
13. Remember to switch sides
Nobody wants lopsided boobs. Remind yourself to switch sides once your baby has drained one boob, so that your supply remains good in both breasts.
Try a bracelet or hairband on your wrist to remind you which side your baby last fed from.
If you need more breastfeeding tips check out these posts: