How to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Nature gave women the ability to make more than enough milk for twins, regardless of breast size. If your supply is low, something has interfered with your breast milk production. Find out what the interference is, and how to increase it.

Increasing breast milk supply is really just supply and demand. The baby demands and the breast ramps up with supply. If low milk supply is a problem, one or more mixed messages have been given to the mother’s body to tell it to make less milk. Let’s look at how this happens.

The first few days

First, just because things are not perfect in the very beginning is not a cause for worry. For the first few days the baby should suckle frequently as a way to stimulate the coming of the milk. At the same time, the small volume of clear-ish liquid coming from the breast is tremendously important for the baby and is called colostrum.

Following the colostrum comes transitional milk, and then mature milk. It takes three to five days for mature milk to come on/be produced. Only with mature milk will babies start to poop frequently and regularly, as well as gain weight.

Interferences to successful milk production

The vast majority of the time a mother experiences a limited supply of milk, it’s not because she can’t. It’s the effect of cultural influences, attitudes and practices in modern society and the medical system.

These attitudes often result in mistakes and confusion that result in breastfeeding difficulties. In the absence of such confusion, there are extremely few women who truly cannot provide enough breast milk for baby.

Possible interferences to producing more breast milk:

  • Pacifiers especially in the first six to twelve weeks, cause problems for the mother by reducing baby’s stimulation of her nipples, which is nature’s way to boost milk production. They also cause disorienting nipple confusion for the baby, which can make the baby appear to be disinterested in nursing when in reality baby is only confused. This also may create future dental problems. The more baby nurses, the more your milk supply will increase.
  • Bottles Formula feeding with bottles is almost never “helpful supplementation” to breast feeding and is almost never necessary. It can cause harm – even just one bottle. In the first weeks of nursing, it reduces critical breast time needed to establish a strong flow of milk, and introduces all the problems that come from formula itself. Using a bottle to give the baby pumped breast milk will not, of course, reduce your supply.
    • Breast pumps are effective tools for increasing milk supply if you are separated from the baby for stretches, but when the baby is very young, say less than three months, give him/her all the skin to skin contact.
  • A forced feeding schedule instead of being on-demand for the baby. This is easier than it sounds. Understand that time intervals between infant nursing can vary from 15 minutes to two hours. Don’t loose the opportunity for milk inducing suckling, and don’t let baby go unfed. Take your time. Be patient. Let the baby take as much as they will, even emptying the breast. The fatty, weight building milk (hind milk) comes later. The early milk is thin.
  • Insufficient night feedings or interference with night feedings resulting from baby sleeping separately. Breast feeding releases in the mother a wonderful hormone that helps her fall asleep more easily and restfully. It’s best to sleep, letting the baby share your bed or sleep in an attached baby bed.  It’s far better for baby–and quite safe. Frequent night feedings are the biological norm. Separating mother and baby during sleep can not only interfere with these night feedings, but also diminish the quality of sleep for both mother and baby.
  • Lack of skin to skin contact between mother and baby. Multiple studies show the dramatic importance of skin to skin immediately upon birth and frequently thereafter. Breastfeeding exclusively and sleeping together help this happen. Don’t push your baby, separate and apart from you, and carry the shopping bag. Carry your baby!
  • Lack of an emotional environment of support often resulting in “stress”. As a new breastfeeder, surround yourself with supportive people such as by attending local meetings of La Leche League. The critical mother-in-law or husband or best friends can make this a rocky road. The mother can feel unsupported, nervous about trusting her instincts, doubting herself. Such an emotional state interferes with the production of milk, and the ability of the mother to give the relaxed, confident care close to Mama’s bosom that all babies crave.

You probably see a pattern. The western lifestyle pushes us toward ignoring Baby’s real needs such as:

  • Is given a pacifier or bottle instead of put to the breast
  • Shows signs of wanting to go the breast, but is rocked to sleep instead
  • Roots for the breast but is denied a feeding because they nursed only half an hour earlier
  • Is held less often than is biologically needed
  • Is isolated from the mom at night especially in the early months of baby’s life

All these things decrease the demand message from the baby to the mother and therefore cause the mother’s milk supply to decrease or to not develop fully. This can be reversed.

There is a lifestyle that creates health, determined by our biology. It is a lifestyle of a slow pace, giving the breast frequently and whenever the baby wants, of a family supportive of whatever the mother sees the baby needs, of sleeping with the baby and skin to skin closeness with the baby. THIS is working with nature to create healthy babies and healthy lives for ourselves.

Consider finding a lactation consultant for additional help.