Wondering how to increase your breast milk supply quickly? If you have low milk supply, I’ve got you covered with some easy things you can do to boost your milk production.
When you’re breastfeeding, it’s normal to wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. It can be frustrating to not know exactly how much milk you’re making or what your baby is getting from the breast!
It’s not as easy as with bottle feeding to know if your baby is getting enough breast milk, because with a bottle you can see exactly how many ounces your baby has consumed.
So wondering if your baby is getting enough to eat is a common concern. In fact, it’s one of the most common questions I receive from new moms.
The good news is that while many of us question our milk supply, in most cases, your body is capable of producing enough milk on its own. And if you do need help increasing your milk supply, there are many ways to easily and naturally increase your milk supply.
While I aim to provide useful information, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you NOT take this article as medical advice or as a substitute for seeing your own healthcare practitioner. Please consult your medical provider for advice that is specific to you and your baby. Whether your baby is getting enough milk is an important issue that only you and your doctor can evaluate. It is recommended that you work closely with a certified lactation consultant to examine and correct any breastfeeding issues. Don’t risk it – call your baby’s pediatrician right now if you are concerned.
Wait – Is Your Milk Supply Actually Low?
Before we dive into ways to increase milk supply, you should first determine if your milk supply is actually low. It’s easy to assume that your supply is low when it actually may not be, so it’s best to find out for sure before you start taking measures to boost your milk production.
The surest signal of your milk supply is your baby’s weight gain. If your baby is gaining sufficient weight from exclusive breastfeeding, then you most likely do not have a supply problem. And if your baby is having enough regular wet and dirty diapers daily, then you most likely do not have a supply problem. However, if your baby is struggling to gain weight or is not having 6-8 wet diapers per day, it would be a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor and lactation consultant ASAP.
By making an appointment to see a lactation consultant, you can find out just how much breast milk your baby is getting during feedings. The way they do this is by measuring your baby’s weight before and after a feeding to determine how much milk your baby is getting. This is a helpful way to assess how well your baby is breastfeeding and how much milk they are pulling from the breast while they nurse.
When I did this, my lactation consultant instructed me to not nurse the baby for two hours prior to the appointment so that we could do a full feeding in her office. While it was tricky to time this out, I really found this process to be useful.
(While there are baby scales you can use at home, I prefer working with a professional to determine how well my baby is nursing and how well they are developing. And to be honest, I know that I would have obsessed about my baby’s weight if I had a way of measuring it at home. So I don’t recommend this for general use.)
What Isn’t a Sign of Low Milk Supply
As attuned as we mamas can be to our own bodies, sometimes there are misleading signs that may have us thinking that we have a low milk supply when we don’t at all.
Here are some common concerns that aren’t necessarily a sign of low milk supply:
- Not sensing a let-down is not a sign of low milk supply. If you don’t feel a strong let-down or if you don’t even feel any let-down at all, this does not necessarily indicate that your supply is low. Let-down sensations vary from woman to woman and during your breastfeeding journey. I used to have very strong let-down sensations when my boys were just a few months old, but that went away as they got older.
- If you stop leaking breast milk, that doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t producing enough milk. If your breasts stop leaking between feedings, that does not mean you are not producing enough milk. As you establish breastfeeding with your baby, your body will have set a supply and demand cycle. It’s not uncommon to stop leaking milk between feedings as your body figures out how much milk your baby needs.
- Having a fussy baby also isn’t necessarily a sign of low supply. Babies can be fussy even with a full tummy. Babies like to be close to their mother, and they like to suck as a calming mechanism. If one or both of these things isn’t happening, they might be fussy, and it may have nothing to do with your milk supply. Ask your doctor whether probiotics might be beneficial for your baby.
- Nursing frequently isn’t necessarily a sign of low milk supply. If it seems like your baby wants to breastfeed every 45 minutes, that does not mean your milk supply is low. Younger babies nurse more frequently than older babies do. Breast milk is easily digestible.
- Pumping less milk isn’t a sign that your supply is low. Babies are much more effective at extracting milk from the breast than any pump ever will be. Even if you are able to pump less milk than before, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your supply has dipped.
However, if you are seeing any of the above signs and are still concerned, contact an IBCLC lactation consultant or visit your local La Leche League meeting for one-on-one advice.
11 Things You Can Do to Increase Your Milk Supply Naturally
Here are tried and true ways to increase your breast milk supply. You can even try taking these steps to naturally increase your milk supply. If you do not have a supply problem, incorporating the suggestions below does not cause any harm and can improve the nursing experience for you and your baby.
1. Reduce Your Stress Levels to Allow Your Body to Produce Enough Milk
If you find that you are stressed or anxious, the first step in increasing your breast milk supply is to reduce your stress level. Excessive stress can deplete your body of nutrients and minerals, which can affect the body’s ability to complete essential functions. Breast milk production is negatively affected by stress, so this is another reason it’s important to prioritize self-care and relaxation.
Find ways to cut down your to-do list, take time to take care of your own needs, and try to make sure you are getting restorative sleep every night. If you are experiencing postpartum depression or are dealing with extenuating life circumstances, ask for help with the baby and try to make your own needs and sanity a priority as best you can.
(Just to add: excessive stress about whether or not you are producing enough milk can end up causing an issue where there wasn’t one before. So, try not to worry—though I understand that can be easier said than done.)
2. Drink Enough Water So You Aren’t Dehydrated
In case you had any doubts about the importance of hydration, here’s a fact that will convince you: breast milk is composed of 87% water. Your body needs to be well-hydrated to be able to produce breast milk. You don’t want to be dehydrated while trying to nurse your baby; not only can it impact your milk production but it can deplete your own body.
For this reason, it is essential to make sure that you are drinking enough water every day. (And, not to mention, dehydration can cause a host of conditions on its own.) Try to remember to drink water before you get thirsty.
At the same time, don’t overdo it. In general, you want to consume more fluids than are leaving your body — but you don’t want to force fluids. Some advice I found useful was to drink an 8 oz. glass of water when the baby is nursing and a couple more during the day.
For me, having a water bottle full and ready to go is the best way to ensure that I drink enough water. In fact, I keep one upstairs and one downstairs so that I don’t have to lug it around all the time. I like this straw water bottle because I seem to drink much more water out of it than anything else I’ve tried.
There are some helpful apps you can download to remind yourself to drink water, too.
3. Nurse Your Baby on Demand to Boost Production
Breast milk production is all about supply and demand. In order for your body to produce more breast milk, you need to make sure that more milk is extracted from your breast. This will keep the supply and demand process working.
While some parenting books or well-meaning family members might suggest feeding on a schedule for convenience, this may not help establish healthy breastfeeding patterns and can cause a decrease in supply.
When a baby is nursed on demand, your body automatically produces the amount that the baby naturally needs.
Early on, this may include what’s called cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is when your baby nurses for long periods of time, sometimes hours on end. While it can be difficult and frustrating for both mom and baby, cluster feeding helps establish a healthy milk supply and is an essential part of finding a nursing routine. When this occurs, I often grabbed a good book or movie, and let my baby nurse while I relaxed—it worked for both of us!
4. Exclusively Breastfeed Your Baby to Keep Your Supply Up
Supplementing with formula or donor milk can disrupt the supply and demand process. Because your body is creating milk based on your baby’s demands, supplementing your breast milk can indicate to your body that your baby needs less milk than she really does.
In the event that you do need to supplement, or stop nursing for any other reason, continue to pump to maintain your milk supply. And be sure to check out my guide to the best organic baby formula so that your baby gets one of the healthiest formula available.
5. Ensure That a Proper Latch is Established to Nurse Efficiently
Sometimes babies nurse excessively but are not actually extracting enough milk due to an improper latch. Inefficient nursing can lead to a decrease in supply because your baby is not actually getting what she needs from each nursing session.
Some indications of an improper latch include pain while nursing, frequent clogged ducts, your baby making a clicking sound while nursing, or if your baby seems angry while nursing. In these cases, it’s important to consult with a lactation expert to ensure that your baby’s latch is correct. You can find lactation consultants through La Leche League, or you can ask your obstetrician or pediatrician for a referral.
If things don’t improve after seeing a lactation consultant, you may want to have your baby evaluated for oral ties (lip or tongue ties) by a preferred provider.
6. Nurse Your Baby on Both Sides During Feedings
When breastfeeding, switch sides often—about 2 or 3 times on each side during one feeding session. You can also apply some breast compression during each feeding to keep your baby sucking. This will keep your supply up and signal to your body that you need to keep producing more milk.
7. Avoid Pacifiers and Bottles For a Few Days
If you are looking to produce more breast milk, keep your baby at the breast as often as possible for a few days, allowing your baby to use your breast as a pacifier. Avoid using pacifiers or bottles during this time to give your body the chance to increase milk supply naturally.
8. Pump Between Feedings to Stimulate Your Supply
Pumping is very helpful when it comes to boosting your milk production, especially if your baby is not nursing effectively. You can add pumping into your day – even if just for a few minutes after nursing sessions. But the best approach I found was to pump in between feedings; since I was nursing the baby every 3 hours, I would pump about 90 minutes after nursing.
And let me tell you – this was extremely effective. In fact, I only had to do this a few times to notice a significant difference in my milk production.
9. Eat Foods That Increase Milk Supply
A galactagogue is a food or an herb that helps to naturally stimulate lactation to increase milk supply. Consider combining some of the suggestions above with galactagogues to have the most impact on your milk supply.
Foods that increase breast milk production include:
- Leafy greens
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
Oatmeal is perhaps the most common food that is used as a galactagogue because it is easy to add to your diet. I used to eat a lot of oatmeal while nursing my oldest and I found it very helpful with increasing my milk production. If you do incorporate oatmeal into your diet, please be aware that most oats were found to be contaminated with glyphosate.
Here is a chart that shows which whole oats were tested by the Environmental Working Group, and their results. The columns on the right show glyphosate parts per billion (ppb) over multiple tests. Bob’s Red Mill Old Fashioned (at the bottom) was tested four times, whereas the other brands were each tested two or three times. ND means “not detected”.
For reference, EWG has set a benchmark for children’s daily exposure to glyphosate in food at the level of 160 ppb.
Make sure to choose organic oats that tested low in EWG’s 2018 tests. These include:
- 365 Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
- Nature’s Path Organic Old Fashioned Organic Oats
- Bob’s Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (also available at Thrive Market and Vitacost)
I mostly use the gluten-free oats from Nature’s Path.
While the most obvious method is to simply eat bowls of oatmeal, oatmeal can also be added to smoothies, bread, other baked goods, or granola. You can even make your own oatmeal lactation cookies if you like to bake.
If you don’t have the time or energy to cook from scratch right now (and let’s be honest, most of us don’t have the time for this with a baby), consider using a pre-made baking mix.
Otherwise, be sure to eat a healthy diet and mix in as many of the nursing superfoods listed above as possible. Keep healthy snacks by your nursing station for easy access.
10. Try Herbs and Supplements to Increase Milk Supply
You can also use herbs to increase your milk production. Some galactagogue herbs include:
- Blessed thistle
- Red raspberry leaf
- Brewer’s yeast
These can be found in supplements, food products, or tea. I used to sprinkle brewer’s yeast onto yogurt or other foods while nursing my oldest and I found it to be very effective in boosting my milk supply.
Another one of my favorite products that I used to increase my milk production was Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicinals. This organic tea combines many of the most effective galactagogue herbs in what I found to be a mild, pleasant tasting tea. Others may disagree with me, as the tea can have a stronger anise taste than some prefer. But I didn’t mind it at all.
If you’d rather take a pill, there are many options for herbal supplements that provide combinations of galactagogue herbs designed to increase supply. Talk to your lactation consultant or midwife to find the right supplements for you.
11. Make Sure to Take Your Vitamins
If you aren’t feeling like yourself or if you are feeling depleted, it is a good idea to see your doctor and get some bloodwork done. Your doctor can determine if you have any deficiencies that may be affecting you, including your ability to produce enough breast milk.
Did you find this list helpful? While these suggestions work for some, they may not work for everyone. If your baby is losing weight or not having regular diapers, it is important to consult with your health provider and a lactation consultant on the best immediate course of action to take, as weight loss in newborns can have serious consequences.
However, if you and your baby do not effortlessly take to breastfeeding immediately – don’t give up! Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for your baby and using these suggestions to naturally boost your milk supply may help improve your nursing experience.
Founder and CEO | The Gentle Nursery. Yasmine is the CEO of Biomeology, a company that makes supplements for mothers and babies. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California, a doula in training, and a Functional Nutrition Coach.
Yasmine’s driving mission is to help reduce the rates of disorder, disease, and trauma in mothers and children and to inspire others to lead a healthier, happier, and non-toxic life. After learning about the toxic chemicals found in mainstream baby products, Yasmine created The Gentle Nursery to help other parents make healthy choices for their babies. With a 10-year background in research, analytics, and leadership for a Fortune 100 company, Yasmine applies the same principles and attention to detail to every article she writes and researches. Yasmine’s advisory team includes an amazing team of moms, medical professionals, chemists, and other experts that help ensure accuracy and perspective. Yasmine is the author of The Baby Registry Handbook.