Nothing can be more disheartening for a nursing mom than realizing that you aren’t producing enough milk for your baby. Whether you are a brand-new mom or have been nursing a few months, there are ways to increase your milk supply, so you can continue providing nutritious breast milk for your little one.
How to Know if Your Milk Supply is Truly Low
If your baby wants to eat more often than usual, seems fussy at the breast or you aren’t pumping out as much as you used to, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t producing enough milk. Babies go on growth spurts where they want to eat more often than usual (this is called “cluster feeding”). Because pumping doesn’t remove as much milk from your breasts as your baby can, the amount of milk you pump isn’t necessarily a way to determine how much milk your body is making.
The best way to determine if your baby is still getting enough milk is to check their diapers. He or she should have between five and six wet diapers a day that contains urine that is pale and mild-smelling. Your little one should also continually gain weight at their well-checks.
Possible Reasons for a Decrease in Your Milk
There are several things that can decrease your milk supply. These include:
- Not nursing or pumping often enough
- Latching issues
- Tongue or lip tie in your little one
- An illness or infection
- Lack of rest
- Drinking too much caffeine; coffee, soda and chocolate are okay in moderation but too much can decrease milk production
- Drinking alcohol; the occasional drink is okay, but alcohol can interfere with your body’s let-down reflex
- Starting hormonal birth control pills
- Eating too much of some spices and herbs, such as oregano, peppermint, jasmine, sage and yarrow
- Taking certain medications, such as antihistamines, diuretics and decongestants
- Dehydration from excessive exercise, heat, etc.
- Excessive stress from a big life change, such as loss of a job, death in the family, divorce, etc.
How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply
If you think your milk supply may be decreasing, take a deep breath and try not to panic. With a little help, you can figure out the reason for the decrease and resolve it to increase your milk supply.
Visit a Lactation Consultant
Meeting with a certified lactation consultant can be extremely helpful. She can help determine why your breast milk supply has dipped and make recommendations in order to fix the problem. If your little one isn’t latching properly, he or she won’t be able to remove enough milk, which will cause your supply to decrease. The lactation consultant can help you fix any latch issues you and your little one are experiencing.
The lactation consultant will also talk with you about your health history, childbirth experience and if your baby has any tongue or lip ties or other medical issues that could be preventing correct latching.
Breastfeed, Breastfeed, Breastfeed
Your body makes milk based on “supply and demand.” The more milk that your baby drinks, the more milk that your body will make. Breastfeed at least every two to three hours. If you have to “skip” a feeding, make sure you pump during that time. Try taking a nursing vacation, where you and your little one stay in bed for a day or two, just nursing, relaxing and spending time together.
Try Pumping After Nursing
After each breastfeeding session, use a high-quality breast pump to pump for an additional five to 10 minutes. This will help trick your body into thinking your baby needs more milk than he or she does. Store the milk properly in the freezer for an upcoming night out or for when you head back to work.
Power pumping mimics cluster feeding in your baby, which will make your body think that your baby is on a growth spurt and needs more milk. To try power pumping, pick an hour each day, preferably the same hour, for several days in a row. Pump for 20 minutes, then rest for 10; pump for 10 additional minutes and rest another 10; last, pump for a final 10 minutes and you’re done. By rapidly emptying your breasts for several days in a row, your body will quickly increase its milk supply.
Wear the Correct Bra
A bra that compresses your breasts, is too tight or has an underwire can press on your milk ducts and cause clogged ducts or decreased milk production. Wear the correct size and avoid bras that “reduce” your breast size.
Include Lactogenic Foods in Your Diet
There are foods that can help increase your milk supply. These include:
- Fennel seeds
- Fenugreek tea
- Brewer’s yeast
- Spinach and beet leaves
- Unripe papayas
- Carrot juice
- Brown rice
Take Care of Yourself
It’s important to care for yourself in order to take care of your new little one and your family. This is absolutely easier said than done, but do your best to make time for you. Get as much rest as possible, exercise, eat healthy and do something for you that you enjoy each day.
If your milk supply has decreased, it doesn’t mean the end of breastfeeding. Try these tips to increase your milk supply and get back on the road to nursing and/or pumping. If your little one has stopped gaining weight, the most important thing is to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need. Talk with your child’s pediatrician about what to do while you work on increasing your milk supply.