How to Increase your Milk Supply
Breastfeeding not only gives a lot of benefits to our baby but it also gives us moms some benefits. Aside from supplying our baby the nutrition he/she needs in its best proportion, it also protects our babies from allergies, sickness, diseases, and infections. For moms like us, breastfeeding helps reduce our stress level our risk of postpartum depression.
Not only that, it may also reduce our risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For our newborn baby, we usually want to solely resort to breastfeeding so that we can give our baby all the nutrition he/she needs. However, some moms encounter some problems of having low milk supply or not producing enough milk for their growing babies.
Are you one of those mothers who have these problems? Let me help you with that. In this article, I have written some steps on how to increase your milk supply. But before we proceed with that, let us have some knowledge first.
How Breast milk Production Works
Inside a woman’s breast are clusters of cells called alveoli. This area is where milk is produced when a woman gets pregnant. At the later part of pregnancy and after birth, milk production is driven by hormones. This is called the endocrine control system. The hormone that significantly plays a role in milk production is prolactin. When prolactin level is high, milk production occurs. When the baby is born, there is a sudden drop in progesterone level. This process, coupled with high prolactin level signals copious milk production. Later postpartum, milk production is now controlled by what we call the autocrine control system.
During this time, production of milk is now dependent on how much milk is removed. It works like supply and demand. When the demand of your milk is high, the supply will also be high. That’s why it is good that your baby is actively breastfeeding so that your breast continually produces milk. Milk production is also affected by the storage capacity of your breast. This varies between moms. Although breast size may affect the maximum amount of milk produced by a mother, storage capacity is not solely dependent on it.
Reasons for Low Milk Supply
Your milk supply can be considered low if it is not able to meet your baby’s feeding or nutritional needs. Some mothers may think that their milk supply is low when they lose the feeling of fullness in their breasts, but this is not a case. Low milk supply may result to your baby’s malnutrition, so it is still best to check if you are producing enough milk. Here are probable reasons why you may have low milk supply. These reasons may also help you determine how to increase your milk supply.
Hormonal and Endocrine Problems
Hormonal and endocrine problems may be due to certain diseases such as diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disorder, or hypertension. These diseases interfere with the hormones responsible for milk production or suppression. For example, mothers with diabetes have slower production of milk because the disease interferes with the production of a hormone called insulin which is also involved in milk production.
Another example is polycystic ovary syndrome which results to low progesterone, hyperandrogenism, and insulin resistance and may cause your breast to not mature properly. In mothers with hypothyroidism, it is hard to produce milk to its maximum because the thyroid hormone, which is also involved in the development of breast and production of milk, is produced in low levels.
Breast hypoplasia, also called insufficient granular tissue, is a condition wherein your breasts do not have enough “milk-making ducts”, thus, not enough milk is produced. Hypoplasia does not necessarily depend on small breast size. Indications of hypoplasia depend more on breast shape, asymmetry, and placement. Other indications are disproportionately large or bulbous areola and absence of breast changes in pregnancy, postpartum, or both.
Certain Medications, Birth Control Pills, or Herbs
There are certain medications with active ingredients that decrease your milk supply. These drugs may affect the production of the lactation hormone called prolactin or the secretion of the breast glands. Examples of these ingredients are pseudoephredine, methergine, and bromocriptine. There are also certain herbs that can negatively affect your milk production like sage, parsely, and peppermint. Hormonal birth control pills can also cause your milk supply to significantly drop.
The amount of milk your breasts produce also depends on the amount your baby feeds. Your breasts produce more milk when it is frequently emptied or close to empty. Thus, if your baby is not able to drain your breast effectively, less milk will be produced.
Some reasons why this may occur are if your baby has a problem on latching on your nipples and not getting milk well, using pacifiers which may affect your baby’s latch on and feeding frequency, and scheduled feeding which makes your breast fuller for longer periods and slows down milk production. Giving supplements to your baby may also slow down milk production since your baby will tend to breastfeed less.
How to Increase Your Milk Supply?
Step 1. Breastfeed your baby frequently.
As I mentioned above, the more your breast is emptied, the more it will produce milk. Thus, it is important that you are able to breastfeed your baby as frequently as possible so that he can consume all the milk in your breast allowing your milk production rate to increase. I recommend that you nurse your baby every two hours during the day and every three hours at night.
However, if your baby is feeding more frequently than that, just feed him/her whenever he/she is hungry. Also, make sure that your baby feeds on both breasts so that both breasts are stimulated for milk production.
Step 2. Always make sure that your baby is breastfeeding efficiently.
Your baby may be sucking and sucking your breast and yet, not getting any or enough milk. One way to ensure that this does not happen is to make sure that your baby has properly latched on in your nipples. A good latch-on allows your baby to suck ample amount of milk from your breasts which maintains good milk flow and promotes effective breastfeeding.
To make your baby latch-on properly, hold your breast near your baby’s mouth, tour your nipple to your baby’s lower lip and wait for him/her to open his/her mouth before you pull your baby in. Signs that your baby has properly latched on are if your baby’s cheeks are rounded and you can hear him/her swallowing.
Step 3. Avoid pacifiers and bottles as well as solid foods and supplements if possible.
It is best if all of your baby’s sucking needs will be met by your breast. If your baby uses a pacifier, it may affect the length of time that your baby spends sucking in your breasts. This will also affect your baby’s amount of milk intake which not only results to less nutrition for your baby but also to lower milk production of your breast.
Also, milk bottles require your baby a different way of latch-on and sucking. It may be easier to obtain milk from a bottle than from the breast. This may affect your baby’s proper latch on and sucking in your breast and may prevent him/her from breastfeeding and just prefer bottle feeding. Also, giving solid foods and supplements to your baby makes your baby breastfeed less.
Thus, it is better if you avoid them if your breast milk is enough to or able to meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
Step 4. Consider pumping sessions.
It is not every time that your baby feeds well and empties the milk supply in your breast. Also, there may be times that your baby is not breastfeeding frequently enough. If that is the case, you can help improve your milk production by engaging into pumping sessions.
You can have pumping sessions after nursing your baby to help empty your breast and produce more milk or in between nursing sessions if you are not nursing frequently. When pumping, make sure that you remove an optimum amount of milk from your breast. This will help your breast to produce milk efficiently.
Step 5. Take care of your body.
Taking enough sleep and rest is also important in increasing your breast milk production. It is important that your body is in its best shape when you are breastfeeding so that your body functions normally so it is also advisable that you avoid stress and too much exhaustion. Since it is not easy to get continuous sleep and rest when taking care of a baby, try to take small naps whenever possible.
For example, you can take a nap when your baby is sleeping or when someone like a babysitter or a friend is there to take care of your baby. You can also try to slip in some time for a bit of exercise in your everyday routine. It can help you avoid stress and sleep well during the night. Also, always make sure that you are adequately hydrated.
Step 6. Eat foods which promote lactation or pumping output.
There are also foods that can help you on how to increase your milk supply. These foods are called galactagogues. Some foods that you can eat to help you increase your milk supply are fennel or fenugreek seeds, barley or barley malt, oats, papaya, carrots, garlic, apricots, and salmon. These foods help in boosting your lactation hormones which results to producing more milk.
Step 7. Consider taking medications for increasing milk production.
Some moms may really have a hard time increasing their milk supply even after trying the ones mentioned above. If this is your case, you may also consider taking medications that may help you increase your milk production.
However, make sure that you consult a specialist first before taking any medication in order to avoid unwanted results. Examples of prescription drugs that have been used to increase milk supply are Metoclopramide, Domperidone and sulpiride. These drugs increases prolactin(an important hormone in lactation) levels by blocking dopamine which is a prolactin-inhibiting factor.
All of us mothers would want to give our baby the best nutrition they can get. To be able to do this, it is very important that we breastfeed our babies. Breast milk supplies all the necessary nutrients that our baby needs in proper proportions. It also protects our baby form allergies, diseases, and infections.
However, it is not enough that we just breastfeed our babies. We must be able to provide it whenever our baby needs it or he/she feels hungry. The problem is there are times that our breast may not be producing enough milk to meet our baby’s needs. But don’t worry! I may have some solutions for that.
In this article, I have listed some steps on how to increase your milk supply to help you in meeting your baby’s nutritional needs.