Breast milk should be the only source of nourishment for a baby for the first six months. Thus, several lactating women may wonder how to increase milk supply safely.
To ensure a good milk flow, mothers should start breastfeeding at the earliest and continue to do so more frequently. Good baby latching also ensures effective milk flow.
Insufficient milk production is not a common concern since new mothers usually produce sufficient milk. However, if you have been facing issues with breastfeeding, this post will help you establish a normal milk supply (1).
How To Know If Your Milk Supply Is Low?
Here are some signs that alert the mother to a low milk supply (2):
- If the baby is losing weight past the three day mark or not gaining an adequate amount of weight (per your pediatrician’s examination)
- If the baby is producing less than the expected number of wet and dirty diapers for their age (day or week after birth)
- If the baby is showing dehydration signs, such as dry mouth, dark urine, ‘brick dust’, jaundice or irritability
- If the baby is not feeding for long or less than eight times per day in the first month after birth
- If the mother is not eating enough food to sustain her supply
- If the mother is dehydrated
What Are The Causes Of Low Milk Supply?
Some possible causes that can lead to low milk supply in mothers (3):
- Oral contraceptives containing estrogen may cause bodily imbalances resulting in low milk supply.
- Smoking and alcohol intake can also affect the amount of milk supply in a mother.
- Recent mastitis (infection of breast tissue) may cause a low milk supply.
- Breast surgery can impact the creation and supply of milk.
- Scheduled breastfeeding or timed feeds leading to a lack of breast stimulation
- Inability of the baby to consume breast milk effectively.
- Baby does not feed at frequent intervals (most babies feed at least eight to 12 times daily)
- Baby is unable to latch properly to the breast.
Existing health issues, such as anemia, thyroid disorders or retained placenta, can also be the reasons for low milk supply, but they are rare.
Way To Increase Breast Milk Supply
If the mother cannot create sufficient milk for the baby, she should be encouraged to to follow basic measures such as good hydration and diet, gently massaging the breast before latching the baby, limiting caffeine consumption to 200mg per day, quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol consumption. Here are some tips to help the mother increase milk supply (4):
- Pumping: This involves the use of a manual or electric breast pump or learning to hand express. The mother is advised to pump when she feels her supply is at its best – usually between midnight and 8am. She can pump from both breasts and should not expect to be able to pump as much as the baby takes from a bottle initially. Ten minutes on each breast would be a good starting point. Increased breast milk demand increases supply.
- Foods: Consuming fruits and vegetables, whole-grain products, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and protein-based foods can help. A balanced diet focuses on providing high nutritional value and can improve milk supply.
- Herbal supplements: Also known as galactagogues, these herbs show an effective increase in milk supply in some women. The most commonly used supplement is fenugreek but there are also risks which should be taken into consideration (5).
- Essential oils: Although there is no evidence-based research to support its use, basil essential oil may improve the overall health of the mother, which in turn, could improve her supply of milk. You should always use it with a carrier oil to dilute its strength (2).
- Medication: Healthcare professionals might prescribe certain medications, such as Domperidone, to increase the supply of milk. Make sure you discuss both the benefits and risks of any medication with your care provider.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can water increase breast milk?
Hydration is essential to have good milk production. Following a routine of drinking a glass of water after nursing may show a boost in the milk supply during the next pumping (6).
2. What fruits to avoid while breastfeeding?
Nursing women may need to limit or stop the consumption of fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, strawberries, grapefruit, orange, and lemon (7).
3. Do bananas increase breast milk?
No. Although some may believe that specific food items such as bananas might increase milk production, there is no scientific evidence to prove that (8).
4. Can lack of sleep affect milk supply?
Yes. Sleep schedule plays a vital role in breast milk production since stress from lack of sleep can increase levels of hormones such as cortisol, which in turn may reduce the milk supply (6).
Breastfeeding is a continuous demand and supply process. As the milk is fully emptied from the breast, the body is signaled to refill for next time. If a mother experiences a low milk supply, there are multiple ways of improving the amount she produces. Discuss your supply issue with your healthcare provider or lactation specialist. There are many ways to manage and improve breastfeeding.
- Insufficient breast milk supply is not common and may occur due to intake of birth control pills, alcohol intake, breast surgery, or infections, among a few reasons.
- You may have a lack of breast milk if you notice your baby keeps losing weight, passes dark urine, and does not feed for long.
- Home remedies such as maintaining a balanced diet, massaging, using a breast pump, or taking doctor-prescribed medication may help increase the supply.
- Increasing Your Breast Milk Supply.
- Do I Have A Low Milk Supply?
- Low Milk Supply.
- Increasing Your Breast Milk Supply Fact Sheet.
- Galactagogues-Boosting Your Milk Supply.
- 4 factors that can decrease breast milk supply – and how to replenish it.
- Foods to Eat and Not to Eat While Breastfeeding.
- 5 Breastfeeding Diet Myths.