Tips to increase milk supply while breastfeeding - Ruth Health

Tips to increase milk supply while breastfeeding

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Fast facts:

  • Low milk supply is a common concern while breastfeeding.
  • Many individuals who worry about milk supply actually are making enough breast milk, but for others, it is a challenge on the breastfeeding journey.
  • Your baby’s weight gain and growth is the most important indicator of milk supply.
  • Breastfeeding more frequently and fully draining your breasts of milk during feedings can help increase milk supply.

Breast milk is an important source of nutrients for babies who breastfeed, so it’s understandable that many breastfeeding individuals are concerned about producing enough milk.

Rest assured that there are simple ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk — and simple ways to increase milk supply, if necessary. Here’s what to know.

What are the signs of low milk supply?

Your baby’s weight gain and growth is the most important indicator of milk supply, more so than any other.

Most newborns lose weight immediately after birth, typically regaining their birth weight by about two to three weeks of age. (This varies by baby — consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s weight loss.)

Once a baby has returned to their birth weight, they should begin to gain an average of 4-7 ounces per week. Weight gain below this rate can indicate that your baby is not consuming enough milk.

It’s important to remember that temporary weight loss in a newborn is normal. Some breastfeeding individuals supplement breast milk with formula during this period out of concern. However, this supplementation can then create issues with milk supply and demand.

Diaper counting

Counting diapers can also give you a good sense of how much breast milk your baby is consuming.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Day 2: at least two wet and dirty diapers
  • Day 3: at least three wet and dirty diapers
  • Day 4-7 onward: 6 or more wet diapers every 24 hours

There are also some less reliable indicators of milk supply.

Here’s what not to worry about, so long as your baby is gaining weight at a steady rate:

  • Whether your breasts feel full or empty
  • The frequency and/or length of feedings
  • Absence of leaking milk
  • How much breast milk you pump or hand express

What are the causes of low milk supply?

Many individuals who worry about milk supply actually are making enough breast milk, but for others, low milk supply is a challenge on the breastfeeding journey.

There are several contributing factors:

  • Infrequent feedings — breast milk production is a simple instance of supply and demand. The more you feed, the more milk you produce.
  • Short feedings — your breasts must be fully drained of milk to stimulate more production.
  • Certain forms of birth control — hormonal birth control that contains estrogen may decrease your milk supply.
  • Health conditions — certain conditions including preeclampsia, diabetes, hepatitis B or C, herpes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may affect milk production.
  • Lifestyle factors — smoking and moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can be a factor in low milk supply.
  • Breast surgery — procedures such as breast reduction or mastectomy can remove glandular tissue, which can in turn affect the amount of milk you produce.

Tips to increase milk supply

If you are experiencing issues with milk supply, the following tips can help you increase milk production.

In some cases, you may see improvements within a few days of trying one or more of these strategies. For others, it may take more time. 

There are multiple factors at play, including your baseline milk supply and the cause(s) of your low milk supply.

A lactation consultant can help you navigate milk supply challenges (and just about any other breastfeeding challenge), offering individualized solutions.

Learn more about our lactation support services.

1. Breastfeeding more frequently

This is the most important thing you can do to increase your supply, as your body will produce more milk to keep up with the demand of your baby’s feedings.

For many individuals, breastfeeding a newborn 8-12 times a day helps establish and maintain milk production. However, fewer feedings shouldn’t be cause for concern if your baby is gaining a healthy amount of weight.

2. Correcting an improper latch

Your baby’s latch, or how they take your breast into their mouth to feed, factors significantly into milk supply. The key to a good latch is to cover not only the nipple but the surrounding areola as well.

Difficulty latching is a common breastfeeding challenge. If your baby is having trouble latching correctly, a lactation consultant can offer suggestions to keep your baby well fed.

3. Alternating breasts during feedings

To establish and maintain a steady milk supply, it’s important to fully empty your breasts of milk. It’s better to fully empty one breast during a feeding than to offer both without fully emptying either.

During feedings, nurse until your baby unlatches on the first breast, then offer the other. If there is still milk remaining in your second breast, start with that one at your next nursing session.

4. Pumping or expressing milk between nursing sessions

For some individuals, it’s necessary to express or pump milk frequently between feedings to maintain a steady milk supply.

These are some instances when it may be beneficial to pump:

  • There's still milk in your breasts after a feeding
  • Your baby missed a feeding
  • Your baby takes a bottle of breast milk or formula

If you’re away from your baby while at work, you’ll need to pump or hand express at the times when you would regularly feed your baby.

5. Taking good care of you

Breastfeeding is an energy-consuming activity. Rest, hydration, and a nutrient-rich diet will keep both you and your baby nourished and feeling your best. More specifically, be sure to get plenty of protein, iron, iodine, choline, and calcium.

Get more tips on breastfeeding nutrition.

Lactation support from Ruth Health

Ruth Health offers nearly 24/7 virtual lactation support from lactation specialists to provide individualized care throughout your breastfeeding journey.

Learn how we can support your breastfeeding journey, and sign up below for a free copy of our e-book on postpartum care, plus 20% off of your next booking!

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