Almost all mums can produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed their baby, but your milk supply can be impacted by many factors.
What can impact on your milk supply?
The most common cause for insufficient milk supply, particularly in the early days, is your baby not latching and feeding effectively.
Your milk supply can also be impacted by:
- spacing or scheduling feeds
- introducing bottles/formula and not expressing to compensate
- returning to work or being separated from baby and not expressing to compensatecertain medications/herbs (like peppermint) /supplements
- illness or dehydration
- baby not latching and feeding well
- undiagnosed tongue ties
- conditions such as hypoplasia/Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT)
Your supply relies on milk removal. If this isn’t happening frequently AND effectively, your body won’t produce a full supply. Your milk contains a protein called Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL). The more milk which is left in your breasts, the higher the levels of this protein. This signals your brain to cut back on milk production.
If milk is removed frequently, and your breasts are drained effectively (although they’ll never be completey empty), the levels of this protein drop. THIS is key to increase milk production and increase your supply.
So how do we do it? Try these EASY ways to increase your milk supply:
1) Start expressing
Removing more milk is absolutely key to increasing your milk supply. If your baby only takes one breast per feed, try expressing the other side at the same time or straight after feeding. Try expressing (using electric pump or by hand) after a feed to remove milk remaining in the breast once your baby has fed.
How to maximise your expressing:
- express in between feeds (45-60 minutes post feed)
- fit in at least one expressing session between midnight – 6am when your prolactin levels are highest.
- try hand expressing before and after using your breast pump – you’ll be amazed how much more you can get!
- try using warm compresses on your breast before or during expressing.
- try to relax and take your mind off how much milk you’re getting. Pop a sock over the milk bottle so you can’t focus and see what you’re getting. Pop something entertaining on TV, make a cuppa and sit back and relax.
- try playing with or cuddling your baby while expressing to boost your oxytocin levels and help letdown!
The type of pump you use is CRUCIAL when trying to boost your milk supply. Hospital grade pumps will always be the most effective option. You can purchase these from brands like Spectra, or hire them for a short period of time from brands like Medela or Ardo.
Hands free electric pumps are super convenient but have much smaller, less effective motors and are not an ideal choice when expressing to increase milk supply.
2) Use breast compressions while feeding or expressing
Breast compressions help to increase milk flow, so your baby can get more milk at each feed. More milk removed = more milk made!
Use your hand in a C shape around the widest part of your breast, while feeding or expressing. Compress firmly, hold for 5-10 seconds, release and repeat throughout the feed or pumping session.
3) Help your baby to get a deeper latch
A deep latch means your baby will better stimulate your milk ducts and remove more milk at each feed.
4) Try A Power Pump
Power pumping mimics your baby cluster feeding and is an amazing way to quickly boost your milk supply.
A power pump consists of:
- Expressing for 10 minutes
- Resting for 10 minutes
- Expressing for 10 minutes
- Resting for 10 minutes
- Express for 5 minutes
5) Consider a galactagogue
A what?!? I hear you ask.
Galactagogues are supplements that help boost our milk supply. They won’t do this on their own, so it’s vital you use this in conjunction with effective pumping or feeding. Most galactagogues work by boosting your prolactin levels. This doesn’t cause your body to make more milk, but it makes your body more responsive to your feeding and pumping – supercharges all the work you’re doing!
If you’re needing a supplement because your milk supply is low, or baby is not feeding well and gaining weight, always seek some expert breastfeeding support or advice to get to the route cause of your milk supply issues.
There are many galactagogues on the market, and you should always seek advice from a breastfeeding professional, as even herbal supplements can have side effects or not be suitable for mums with certain health conditions. That being said, they are really helpful with boosting milk supply. Some galactaogues you may come across are:
- Milk Thistle
- Goat’s Rue
- Brewers Yeast
…just to name a few.
If you’d like some advice on using a galactaogue or boosting your milk supply, get in touch with us via our bloss profile.
…and one final tip – Hydrate!
When trying to increase your milk supply, and starting to pump, it’s super important that you stay hydrated! Keep a water bottle handy and sip while you’re feeding or pumping as an easy way to get more fluids.
Should I let my breasts fill up over a longer period of time before expressing?
No. It’s easy to feel like leaving longer between feeds or expressing will be more successful because you will get a larger volume of milk when pumping, BUT this won’t help your milk supply in the long run.
We need that frequent and effective milk removal. Letting your breasts fill will increase levels of FIL and actually signal to your brain that you need to produce LESS milk.
When feeding or expressing more frequently, don’t focus initially on how much milk you’re getting, focus on the frequency of removing milk (feeding or expressing) and keeping your breasts regularly drained.
If your baby is:
- under 12 weeks old
- not gaining sufficient weight
- causing you pain or damage while feeding
- reliant on nipple shields or top ups of expressed milk or formula
…you should seek some expert breastfeeding support to diagnose complications with breastfeeding, latching or oral function to eliminate these impacting on your milk supply.