It’s practically an undisputed fact that breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for your baby. While modern infant formulas now mimic the nutritional value of breastmilk more closely than ever, they still fail to provide some of the goods that it seems only a mother can make.
For instance, breastmilk is known to be a rich source of antibodies, those little proteins that help your baby fight disease. Indeed, breastfed babies don’t get sick as much as formula-fed babies and are even less prone to allergies.
Breastfeeding is so healthy that doctors recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for up to six months of age. But despite all the benefits, many breastfeeding mothers have one common fear: what if I’m not making enough milk for my baby?
The good news is that most mothers probably don’t need to worry about this. However, if you are looking to ways to stimulate or increase milk flow, you’re in luck! We’ve got 15 tricks that can help you and your baby make the most of mother-made milk.
15 Room in Early
Ask your health care providers if you can room in with your baby as soon as possible after birth. While moms are now encouraged to begin breastfeeding immediately after birth, keeping the baby in the nursery does make for a bit of inconvenient distance that gets in the way of feedings.
Even if you haven’t begun lactating yet, rooming in is still a great idea. Allow your baby to suckle at your breast often, even if no milk is coming out. This will help stimulate milk production.
Of course, if your baby was born premature or if either of you needs some extra care, rooming in may not be possible. Make sure to discuss with your health care providers the possibility of beginning breastfeeding and what you can do to help ensure that your baby is getting adequate nutrition.
14 Feed Often or Longer
Perhaps the single best way to increase your milk flow is to feed your baby often or longer. The more your baby feeds, the more you’re signaling your body to produce milk. Don’t limit yourself to feeding your baby when she’s hungry. Try to offer your breast at regular intervals and see if she wants some.
Of course, appetite may vary with the baby. Some babies prefer small, frequent feedings while others like big meals in one go. As long as you’re increasing your total feeding time, you should still be triggering an increase in milk production. Do note, however, that most mothers find shorter feeding sessions gentler on the breasts than longer ones.
13 A Good Latch
One thing that may get in the way of milk production is a poor latch. A poor latch can result in painful feedings, making your body less inclined to produce milk. It may also result in insufficient emptying of your breast, which may also decrease your body’s milk production.
With a proper latch, your baby should have most of the areola in her mouth with a good suction. In the beginning, you may feel the initial discomfort of your letdown reflex, but overall if you don’t have any sores on your breast and your baby has latched properly, breastfeeding should be painless.
12 Warm Compress
Another way to promote milk flow is with a warm compress. You can do this by soaking a towel in warm water and applying this onto your breasts prior to feedings.
This dilates blood vessels, increasing blood circulation to your breasts. This speeds up the delivery of nutrients to your mammary glands and stimulates milk production. Make sure you don’t apply the warm compress for more than 20 minutes at a time.
11 Breast Massage
A warm compress is best paired up with a breast massage, which also improves blood circulation. Not only is this great for increasing milk supply, it is also an effective way to treat or prevent clogged milk ducts.
Massage your breasts in a circular motion from the outside, going inward towards your areola. You may also milk your breast in straight outside-in motions, going around the entire circumference.
10 Avoid Pacifiers
If you’re offering pacifiers to your baby to calm her down, you might want to consider offering her your breast to suck on instead. Babies naturally find comfort through sucking, which is why pacifiers can be so effective. However, offering a pacifier is missing out on an opportunity to stimulate an increase in milk production.
9 Less Formula
The more formula you’re feeding to your baby, the less breastmilk she’s getting. Now, you may not be aware of it but your body can sense how much breastmilk you’re giving out in a day. If your body senses an increase in your baby’s demand for milk, it will respond by producing more. If, however, you begin to feed your baby less breastmilk, presumably because she’s taking more formula, your body will sense the decrease in demand. Your mammary glands will thus produce less and less milk as time goes by.
One other factor to consider is that bottle feeding is different from breastfeeding. Generally, it’s easier for your baby to get milk out of a bottle than out of a breast. If she gets used to bottle feeding, she may begin to find breastfeeding a bit tedious. One way to remedy this is to pick nipples that mimic the shape and the flow of a mother’s breast.
8 Pump It
Of course, in this busy world where nursing moms need to work and rest, it may not be possible to be by your baby’s side every time she needs to feed. To ensure that your mammary glands receive regular stimulation, you may want to buy or rent a breast pump.
Many mothers find that electric breast pumps provide the most stimulation for milk production. If you want to be done with pumping quicker, some models allow you to pump both your breasts at the same time. You may then freeze the expressed milk in special bags. This way, if your baby needs to feed while you’re away, the person doesn’t need to grab formula. All they have to do is warm up the breastmilk and place it in a feeding bottle.
7 Eat Well
Needless to say, milk production will depend on how well nourished you are. After all, the nutrients that go into milk do come from your own diet. If you’re not eating enough or you’re not eating healthy, your breastmilk will have less of the proteins, vitamins, fats and minerals that your baby needs to grow. If you’re really not eating enough, your milk supply may even diminish.
To avoid this, make sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet with the recommended amounts of vegetables, meat, oils and carbohydrates.
6 Keep Hydrated
Another major component of breastmilk is actually water. It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers drink an additional liter or so of water to compensate for fluid lost during breastfeeding. Do note that if you’re only mildly dehydrated, your body will still be producing the same amount of breastmilk as usual. If you’re severely dehydrated, your milk supply may decrease.
5 Get Rest
If you’re stressed out or not getting enough rest, your milk production may drop. The best thing you can do if you’re trying to increase your milk flow is to get enough rest. Now, we all know this is easier said than done. With a baby keeping you up at night, as well as other chores and responsibilities, getting adequate rest can be a bit of a challenge.
You can optimize sleep time by taking frequent naps during the day. One general rule that many mothers swear by is to sleep when the baby sleeps. During the night, you and your partner may want to take turns responding to baby calls. If all else fails, get a babysitter for a day so you can catch up with much-needed shuteye.
4 Offer Both Breasts
Once your baby is done feeding on one breast, make sure to offer the other one as well. This ensures that your baby takes in as much as possible during each feeding session. Remember, the more your baby feeds, the more you will be able to produce.
3 Empty It
Allow your baby to completely empty your breast. This can help encourage the production of a greater quantity of high-quality milk. One easy way to ensure that your breasts alternately become as empty as possible is to begin feeding on the breast that you last used. That is, if during the last feeding you started with the right breast and ended with the left, you should begin with the left breast during the next session.
2 Baby Knows
When it comes to breastfeeding, your baby may be the best judge of whether you’re getting enough flow. After all, if your baby seems sated after every feeding and if she’s gaining an appropriate amount of weight, she may be getting just enough and you needn’t worry.
Trust your baby and watch out for signs that she wants to feed and the signs that she wants to stop.
1 Get Help
If you’re not able to achieve the right latch or if your baby isn’t gaining weight, consider getting professional help. Help can come in the form of your doctor or a lactation consultant, who may be able to rule out any other problems causing your low milk supply or your baby’s poor latch. She may be able to prescribe a nutritional supplement to help increase milk production.
You may also want to try looking for local or online communities of breastfeeding mothers such as La Leche League International. Being part of a community such as this gives you access to a wealth of wisdom from mothers all over the world. More importantly, members of this community will be able to understand your fears and your frustrations. After all, most of them will have been there or are going through the same things as well.