Can I Increase My Milk Supply? (And How to Recognize When It's Necessary)
Updated: Jul 3, 2021
We have all heard that "Breast is Best", but what if we're struggling to breastfeed baby? Is there a way to increase milk production? Short answer: yes, but you may be making enough already.
Many women struggle with (and ultimately forgo) breastfeeding, and the most common reason for discontinuing is a "perception of insufficient breast milk" (Camurdan et al., 2008). However, this perception is often misguided, driven by unrealistic expectations for "normal" breastfeeding (Kent et al., 2012). As each momma/baby pair is different, there are many different ways breastfeeding can be "normal", and a "mother should have the confidence to follow the cues of her infant rather than trying to follow guidelines based on average feeding frequency, duration, or amount" (Kent et al., 2012). In fact, "normal" feeding frequency can range from 4 to 13 sessions/day, duration can range 12 to 67 minutes, and the amount ingested varies with "storage capacity of the breast (which is the amount of milk available to the infant when the breast is full), the infant's stomach capacity, and the infant's gastric emptying time" (Kent et al., 2012). At its most basic, if baby is growing at a healthy rate - congratulations! You are producing enough breast milk. (Wondering how to establish your milk supply in the first place? See this post.)
If you are still worried about baby's growth and your milk supply, there are a few ways that have been shown to help increase production:
Increase the drainage of the breast (Dewey and Lonnerdal, 1986). Breastfeeding is a game of supply and demand, and many babies do not completely drain the breast during each feed. Therefore, "best practice to increase suboptimal milk production is by frequently and effectively draining the breast" (Kent et al., 2012). This can be achieved by feeding baby more often or more efficiently (through proper attachment and positioning) or by expressing milk with a breast pump.
Relax (Lau, 2001). Lactation insufficiency is commonly blamed on stress, and prolonged stress has been shown to inhibit milk synthesis (potentially indirectly). So to help your supply you should read a book, take a bath, get a massage... whatever decreases your stress!
Try fenugreek (Kent et al., 2012). Fenugreek is an herb that is a known "galactogogue", or substance that promotes or increases breast milk. It is found in many lactation teas and has been shown to be effective within 7 days of use with the effect lasting for 6 weeks (Kent et al., 2012).
Now that you are more aware of what "normal" breastfeeding looks like and have a few easy-to-implement ways of increasing your milk supply (if necessary), go and enjoy feeding that adorable baby of yours!
Camurdan AD, Ilhan MN, Beyazova U, Sahin F, Vatandas N, Eminoglu S. How to achieve long-term breast-feeding: factors associated with early discontinuation. Public Health Nutr. 2008 Nov;11(11):1173-9.
Kent JC, Prime DK, Garbin CP. Principles for maintaining or increasing breast milk production. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2012 Jan-Feb;41(1):114-121.
Dewey KG, Lönnerdal B. Infant self-regulation of breast milk intake. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1986 Nov;75(6):893-8.
Lau C. Effects of stress on lactation. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001 Feb;48(1):221-34.