Are you having a bit of a dip in your supply? Not to worry, it happens to everyone at some point. Here I’ll go through the tips and tricks I and many other mamas have used to make more breast milk – fast!
First off, I think it’s important to dig into why you might be suffering from a lower supply. Because ultimately prevention is easier than treatment, when it comes to breast milk.
What causes low supply?
- Supplementing with formula (and not pumping)
- Not feeding on demand
- Poor latch
- Feedings are more spaced out
- Mommy is stressed out
Let’s go a little more in depth:
Supplementing with formula
This is a really common cause of low supply. While the occasional feed won’t do you any harm, just bear in mind that every time formula is offered, baby is not nursing.
What can eventually happen is baby prefers the formula so you implement mixed breast and formula, which as a result causes low supply.
If you want to continue breastfeeding long-term, it’s best to have baby nurse as much as you can and keep up a pumping schedule.
Not feeding on demand
We quite often hear to feed on demand with a newborn, but this is also true beyond the newborn phase.
The reason behind it being that babies go through growth spurts, in which they nurse more to boost your supply. Clever, huh?
Try to stay away from a strict schedule as much as you can. I know it seems like you’ve always got your baby on the boob, but the more baby sucks, the more your body will produce milk.
You can try offering her the breast after a period of independent play – this helps to regroup and calm down, as well as boosting your supply.
It’s so important to get off to a good start in breastfeeding, to avoid future problems from ocurring.
Sometimes the latch might feel okay to you, but remember you can only see baby from one angle. Get your partner to double check that baby has your entire nipple and a bit of breast in her mouth.
If your baby has a tendency to fall asleep on your breast (mine does) then she may be slowly pulling away on the latch towards the end of the feed.
Should you be worried about baby’s drowsiness, give her a little nudge on her cheek to encourage her. If you’re still concerned, see a lactation consultant in your area.
Feedings spaced out
Alas! The famous sleep-through-the-night has miraculously happened. Don’t start dancing around the living room just yet though, you might have also seen your supply drop too.
Though you can’t really change your little one’s newly adquired sleeping habits, you can squeeze in a mini pumping session right before you go to bed. This will give out the signal to produce milk to your body.
Mommy is stressed out
I believe that this one is really over-looked.
In order for breastfeeding to be well-established, mom needs a good does of oxytocin to start with. What is the biggest highjacker of oxytocin production? Stress.
This stress usually comes from the enormous workload and life change that comes with having a new baby to look after.
It’s therefore crucial that mommy gets enough outside help – read in this post for example, simple ways that daddy can help with breastfeeding. Don’t be afraid to call on friends, when you need it.
Tips to improve low supply:
Okay, so now we’ve talked about some of the common causes of low supply you’re wondering how to fix it. Read on…
1) Stay hydrated
If there’s one thing that I’ve really struggled with on my breastfeeding journey it’s this.
In the first few days after birth, I drunk around 3 litres a day and still ended up thirsty. At some point the thirst faded off…and I forgot to drink.
80% of breastmilk is made up of water, so it would make sense that if you’re not getting enough, you’ll be producing less right?
You can alternate with coconut water and sports drinks if you like, but I’m going to go against the grain here and tell you to avoid Gatorade.
Drinks like that are loaded with sugar and that is not what you need when you’re wanting to produce more milk!
Instead, you can try making your own DIY sports drink. Pop it in the fridge after, then take with you everywhere!
2) Good diet and nutrition
I think as mothers, after a whole nearly 10-month sacrifice of eating well and cutting out certain foods, we see post partum as a bit of a free for all – eat what you like.
While it’s perfectly fine to get in those major calories the first few days after birth to kick start your milk-making, make sure it’s within reason.
What does a nutritive diet consist of during breastfeeding?
I’m not going to get too in-depth about this here, I will be writing a post especifically about that in the near future. Here are some basic tips that you might want to take away nonetheless:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Wholegrain pasta, rice, etc
- Lean protein (whether in meat or not)
- ‘Good’ fats
- Calcium – this is highly consumed by your baby
- Vitamin D
Loveliliya has an amazingly in-depth post on the kinds of nutrients you should be adding in your postpartum diet.
3) Power pumping
Disclaimer: I’ve never been a power pumper myself as I’ve been fortunate to be blessed with a high milk supply.
The times that I have done it, however, I’ve followed a more or less strict schedule.
As there’s not much space in my freezer compartment, I tend to only save a certain amount of milk at a time.
Yes we’re working on getting a new freezer, but in the meantime what that means I have to re-build up my supply quickly.
I’ve put together a typical power pumping schedule:
Power pumping tips:
- Make sure you have a good breast pump
- Buy the right flanges for your breasts
- Set yourself up a pumping station
- Keep a bottle of water at hand
4) Eat foods that promote lactation
Yes, it is true that no amount of lactation cookies will dramatically change your milk supply overnight (sorry ladies). That’s not to say that they won’t give you a boost though.
With the correct nutrition that we mentioned earlier, plus some super foods for milk-producing mommies, you can increase your chances.
Some of my favourite foods for milk-making include:
- Overnight oats or morning porridge
- Chickpeas and pulses
- Herbal tea
- Non-alcoholic beer
5) Get enough sleep
Yes, I know that sleep and newborn are two words that don’t seem to go well together.
I do think though, that with a bit of planning you can get in your extra sleep here and there.
In fact, I believe so much that this is actually doable that I wrote a post about it you can find here. Principally it’s about how to get your baby to sleep, but there are some really useful tips for mamas too!
To put it in simple words: what can you sacrifice in your day to squeeze in a little nap? How can you re-organise your day to make sleep a priority?
The more rest you get, the more energy you’ll have in general. This is specially true if you’re breastfeeding as your body needs to recuperate to be able to produce more milk.
One of my top tips to getting more sleep is not doing chores when baby sleeps! For example, if you put the washing on first thing when you get up and put it to dry when baby wakes, that’s one thing already done.
Are you getting enough you time mama? I know that your life has dramatically turned upside down since you have a baby squirming in your arms, but you have to make some time out for you!
You time is not only a way to recharge your emotional and mental batteries, but is also essential to keeping up your milk supply.
Remember that I mentioned oxytocin earlier? If you’re stressed, you’ll be sending out stress hormones such as….
That’s not to say that a midnight kitchen crisis is off the cards, just keep them at bay that’s all.
Some ideas to decompress:
- Go for a walk with baby in a carrier
- Have a hot shower or bath
- Listen to your favourite music
- Pamper yourself/face mask/body scrub
- Do something creative
You can find more Self Care tips in this post I have.