While breastfeeding may seem straightforward in theory, it really isn’t in practice. The process isn't merely as simple as sticking the supply into the baby's mouth. What is a new mom to do when after breastfeeding for close to an hour, the baby remains fussy, showing signs of hunger?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways a mom, along with veteran moms, can increase their supply without having to turn to formula. At the end of the day, fed is truly best but before giving up on breastfeeding altogether, it's worth trying a couple of tips and tricks to increase milk production. A number of natural herbs and products have been proven to increase lactation. There are also a couple of other tips and tricks that every breastfeeding mom needs to implement, especially in the beginning when her supply is still coming in. Some of these should also continue to be practiced throughout the entire breastfeeding journey for the mere reason of simplifying the process.
Breastfeeding takes time, so if you can increase your supply by adding a herb to your meal or trying a particular trick, why not? Let's have a look at 20 ways new moms can fix their milk supply issues -- all tips that also apply to veteran moms.
20 Ditch Formula
Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. While a doctor might recommend supplementing if the baby doesn’t appear to be gaining enough lbs, the process can actually be more hurtful to breastfeeding. “Your supply of breastmilk depends on your baby's demand for it, so the less often you nurse, the less milk your breasts will produce,” explains BabyCenter.
For this reason, it’s best to stop supplementing altogether to give the body a chance to produce more milk. “If you start supplementing with formula regularly, even for just one feeding a day, your milk supply will diminish (at least until you reinstate the missed feeding),” continues BabyCenter.
19 Breastfeed Longer
Breastfeeding is confusing for first-time moms but it’s important to realize that just because the baby fell asleep five minutes into the feeding doesn’t mean that he has by any means received enough milk! In fact, it might be worth trying to keep baby awake long enough to empty the breast of both foremilk and hindmilk. When baby first starts breastfeeding, he drinks foremilk. It is then gradually replaced by hindmilk, which is higher in fat content.
Kelly Mom also recommends to switch nurse: “Switch sides 3 or more times during each feeding, every time that baby falls asleep, switches to “comfort” sucking, or loses interest. Use each side at least twice per feeding,” recommends Kelly Mom.
18 Load Up On The Gatorade
While Gatorade is usually only advised for intense exercises, it can actually also be beneficial for breastfeeding mamas! Swaddles n’ Bottles explains, “You need those electrolytes! I drank a lot of Smart Water when I was pregnant with Emmy to help with the leg cramps and it worked wonders. Who knew the same thing would help with breastmilk production?! Try to drink at least 20 oz a day! It’s also a nice little mix up from the endless amounts of water you need to drink! Rumor has it the red Gatorade works the best but I’ve always stuck to the blue and it gets the job done.”
17 Let There Be Milk Is A Life Saver
… Quite literally! Let There Be Milk are drops that naturally increase breastmilk supply. Caroline from Swaddles n’ Bottles detailed how she used the drops, “I did 3 servings on the first day and 5 servings the second of my milk makin’ mission (a serving is one full tube of the liquid). I had not tried this product prior to my production dropping and was floored by the results. I woke up after day one and my breasts were SO FULL!”
As these drops are frequently out of stock on Amazon, Caroline also advises that these drops can either be had in capsule form or there is also Motherlove More Milk that is quite similar.
16 Make A Breastfeeding Smoothie
Not only does Vigor It Out claim that drinking a milk boosting smoothie “will immediately increase lactation” but it might also help you drop the baby pounds – yes!
There’s even a chance that the change might happen overnight, though it does depend from each breastfeeding mom. Simply throw the following ingredients into a blender: ½ banana, ½ cup frozen blueberries, 1tbsp cashews, 1tbsp flax meal, 1 ½ tbsp. quick oats, 1tsp brewer’s yeast, 1 ½ cups almond milk (or any other milk) and 1 stevia sweetener packet.
You can even go a step further by replacing the stevia with a natural honey option.
15 Prep Overnight Lactation Oats
For her part, Caroline from Swaddles n’ Bottles recommends overnight peanut butter and honey lactation oats. Not only can a few of these be prepped in advance but just like the smoothie, these too should boost milk production overnight.
Grab a mason jar (or any other container) and add the following: ½ cup rolled oats, ¾ to 1 cup of milk, 1 tbsp flaxseed, 1bsp Brewers yeast and 2 tbsp peanut butter.
Then mix it all up and place it in the fridge until the next morning.
With this one too, you can go a step further by using either almond or coconut milk, along with almond butter instead of the peanut butter (particularly a great option for ladies with PCOS.)
14 And Don't Forget The Cookies
Now that we have covered the milk-boosting smoothie and the overnight lactation oats, there’s no way we can’t skip the popular lactation cookies! Many recipes can be found online for lactation cookies, so just pick the one that best fits the ingredients you have at hand.
As the baker behind the lactation cookies posted on All Recipes pointed out, “These cookies are great for breastfeeding mothers! They are moist and super yummy and they help boost and/or maintain milk supply.”
Otherwise, Jessica Gavin’s oatmeal chocolate chip coconut lactation cookies. Either way, keep in mind that the brewer’s yeast might give the cookies “a very slight lingering bitter flavor,” as Gavin points out – a small price to pay for some extra milk!
13 The Importance Of Oats
The previously covered three recipes (the breastfeeding smoothie, the overnight lactation oats, and the lactation cookies) all have one ingredient in common: oats.
Whether it’s adding oats to other foods or simply eating a bowl of oatmeal, Kelly Mom explains, “Although there is no scientific evidence regarding oatmeal and milk supply, oatmeal does seem to work for some. Many working moms have noticed that on the days they eat oatmeal for breakfast, they can pump more milk than on the days they eat something else. In some countries, “traditional wisdom” recommends eating oatmeal as a way to increase milk supply. A number of lactation consultants recommend eating oatmeal as a way to increase supply.”
Oatmeal is also a super easy and quick go-to type of breakfast, which is perfect for a mama who is already sleep-deprived.
12 Sip Mother's Milk Tea All Day Long
Even easier than oatmeal, there is Mother’s Milk tea. Although there is a small majority of moms who find this tea to be too bitter, it’s once again a small price to pay for the benefit of increased milk. The taste is actually quite regular as far as a herbal tea goes but a little bit of honey can also make this tea more enjoyable. The tea mainly promotes lactation because of ingredients such as fennel, coriander, and fenugreek.
“The more I drink, the more milk I produce. So I brewed a large pot and store it in the fridge for a quick cup of iced tea during the day” reviewed a mom on Amazon, where a 16-count box of this tea can be had for about $5.
11 Massage The Girls
Sometimes, we just need to indulge in a little of self-care to get the results we want! The same goes for breastfeeding and increasing supply.
Born and Fed outlines a handy way to self-massage: ”Begin massaging the breasts in small circular motions (much like when conducting a breast exam). Each small circular motion moves around the breast toward the areola. Make sure you work all the way up toward you armpits (you have milk glands up there 😉).
While this advice mainly relates to pumping, self-massage can be greatly helpful in directly breastfeeding the baby as well – sometimes our ‘girls’ just need that extra little push to release!
10 Don't Neglect A Side
Breastfeeding is a complex and arduous undertaking that isn’t merely as easy as sticking the milk supply into the baby’s mouth. Although it’s common for babies to favor one side more than the other, it’s still important to feed from both no matter how challenging it might be. The advice here is to just keep offering!
“Have your baby feed from both breasts at each feeding. Let your baby feed from the first breast until they slow down or stop feeding before offering the second breast. The stimulation of having both breasts breastfed from can help increase milk production. Pumping milk from both breasts simultaneously has also been found to increase milk production and result in a higher fat content in the milk,” explains Healthline.
9 Check For A Tongue Tie
At one point or another during the beginning stages of breastfeeding, new moms will usually experience an “ah-ha” moment upon realizing that all of their breastfeeding troubles came as a result of a tongue – mine did! Although it’s possible for the baby to learn to adapt, more often than not, a tongue tie needs to be resolved with a little snip.
Frequently missed by doctors, “A baby is tongue-tied when the frenulum (the thin tissue that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth) is restricting his ability to move the tongue forward or up,” explains Today’s Parent.
8 Add Barley
We have already covered oats but barley can also play an integral role in the milk-boosting quest. Most moms will either hear or read about the benefits of drinking a Guinness beer to increase milk supply but as Today’s Parent explains, “research has shown alcohol can actually inhibit milk production. It’s actually barley, a component of beer, that may be lactogenic. ‘Barley is the richest dietary source of beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that has been shown to increase prolactin [known as the breastfeeding hormone] levels in both humans and animals.’”
Instead of having a drink, add instead whole barley to your meals, such as salads, soups, and stews.
7 Pop Some Fenugreek
Today’s Parent also goes on to stress the importance of fenugreek when it comes to increasing milk supply. However, while many moms will usually get Fenugreek in capsule form in the hopes of quickly boosting milk production, Alicia Simpson, a registered dietician, recommends taking it slow with fenugreek, “While it is an incredibly popular herb, it is often used incorrectly, at the wrong dose, and with disregard for its side effects.”
When it comes to how much fenugreek to take, Kelly Mom advises, “Dosages of less than 3500 mg per DAY have been reported to produce no effect in many women.”
6 Sprinkle Fennel
Up there with fenugreek, fennel is also highly recommended when it comes to boosting milk supply. Very Well Family explains, “Fennel is believed to be a galactagogue which is something that brings about more breastmilk. It's taken as an herbal treatment to help mothers who breastfeed increase their breastmilk supply. One of the reasons it may work for some women is that the fennel plant has estrogen-like properties.”
Fennel can either be eaten raw or cooked. Alternatively, it can also be bought in tea form, as a herb/spice, in capsules or as seeds. Which way, fennel also goes great with the previously mentioned fenugreek.
5 Try Visualization
While visualization might not necessarily make you one million dollars richer, it can, however, help increase your milk production! Simply closing your eyes, relaxing and thinking about the let-down can quite successfully trigger the production and release of more milk. This trick can be particularly helpful for pumping moms who are away from their babies at the time of trying to get more milk out.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of stressing over how much milk is coming out; Just think about baby breastfeeding or look at pictures of the baby to (hopefully) trigger milk more milk.
4 Pump More
Speaking of pumping, that’s another tried and tested way to increase milk supply. However, you wouldn’t want to replace a nursing session with a pumping session. Instead, pump after a successful nursing session to show your body that more milk is needed.
Power pumping is also worth a try. As Libby from Wine and Mommy Time details, it consists of pumping for 20 minutes, resting for 10 minutes, pumping for 10 more minutes, resting for 10 minutes, and then pumping again for 10 more minutes.
“This method mimics cluster feeding to promote a natural increase in milk supply,” she also explains.
3 Remember To Nourish
Eating and drinking enough – you have to remember to do both! As Swaddles n’ Bottles points it out the best, “H2O makes liquid gold, mamas! DRINK MORE WATER! I’m sure you hear this a lot, but it’s true! Breastmilk is 88% water, so if you aren’t drinking at every feeding, your body will soon get dehydrated! A normal person should drink 64 ounces of water a day. But us breastfeeding mamas need closer to 100 ounces of water!”
The same goes for eating enough. For breastfeeding women, it’s especially important to drink and eat enough every single day and not skip meals.
2 Find A Solution To Sleep
As Medela aptly explains, “Giving the baby a bottle at night so the new mother can sleep may sound reasonable, but it often leads to a low milk supply down the road. A better way to help the new mother is to encourage her to rest with her baby at the breast, provide her with good nutrition, and free her from household duties so she can get breastfeeding off to a good start.”
While it can be difficult to nap when the baby naps, it’s essential to at least try to rest as much as possible during the day. Life with a newborn isn’t easy but there’s no need to make it harder by overexerting yourself.
1 Check Yourself
Lastly, if all else fails, consult with either a doctor or a lactation expert.
“Mom’s health [...], previous breast surgery/injury, hormonal problems (e.g. PCOS), anatomical problems, medications she is taking (hormonal birth control, sudafed…), or smoking also have the potential to affect milk supply,” Kelly Mom explains.
A multitude of factors can get in the way when dealing with low supply issues and sometimes, it’s simply best to consult. But in either one of these ways to increase milk supply, the most important advice to follow is to just relax.
References: Babycenter, Kelly Mom, SwaddlesnBottles, Vigor It Out, SwaddlesnBottles, AllRecipes, Jessica Gavin, Kelly Mom, Born and Fed, Healthline, Today's Parent, KellyMom, Today's Parent, Wine and Mommy Time, and Medela.