Educating Breastfeeding Mothers on How to Boost Milk Supply

If you are a breastfeeding mother who is not producing enough milk, do not panic. The lactation consultants at University Hospitals will provide you with helpful tips to increase your milk supply and ensure your baby is receiving the nutrients they need.

Signs Your Breastfed Baby is Being Well Nourished

Listed below are some of the signs that a breastfed baby is being well nourished:

  • Your baby nurses at least 8 to 16 times in 24 hours, or every 2 to 3 hours. Your baby may be fussy once or twice a day. At these times, he or she wants to nurse often for several hours before seeming full. This is called cluster feeding.
  • Your baby wets at least six cloth or five disposable diapers and has at least one bowel movement in 24 hours. This occurs by 1 week of age.
  • You can hear your baby swallow milk while nursing or you can feel your baby swallow when lightly touching his or her throat.
  • Your breasts seem softer after nursing.
  • Your baby gains 4 to 7 ounces a week after the first week. There is no need to weigh your baby at home. Your baby’s doctor will do this for you. You may notice that your baby has outgrown his or her clothing.

What Causes Milk Supply to Decrease?

There are some factors which can cause your milk supply to decrease:

  • Your baby feeds fewer than 8 to 16 times in 24 hours. Milk production is affected by how well the breast is drained.
  • Your baby has a very weak suck or has an improper breastfeeding latch.
  • Giving bottles of formula or water after nursing. Most babies will suck on a bottle after nursing. This just means they need to suck. It does not mean they are still hungry. Babies cry or fuss for many reasons, such as being tired, bored, wet, hot or cold.
  • Giving solid foods too early and/or before you breastfeed. Most babies do not need solid foods for the first 6 months if they are breastfeeding 8 to 16 times a day.
  • Smoking can cause a decreased milk supply and interfere with the letdown reflex. Here are some things you should do:
    • Try to quit or cut down.
    • Smoke after nursing, not before.
    • Don’t smoke in the same room with your baby.
  • Beginning birth control pills too soon can decrease your milk supply. Wait at least 6 weeks before taking birth control pills and then use only the mini-pill (Progestin). If you still notice a decrease in your milk supply, talk to your doctor about other birth control options. Other medications may also affect milk supply. Check with your doctor. (Refer to PI-682 Breastfeeding and Birth Control: You Have Options)
  • Mothers who are exhausted may notice a decrease in milk supply. To keep yourself from getting too tired:
    • Sleep or relax when your baby sleeps.
    • Eat balanced breastfeeding diet that includes high-protein food.
    • Drink when you are thirsty so that your urine is pale yellow in color. Both under and excessive overhydration can decrease milk supply.
    • Take an iron supplement if your healthcare provider says you are anemic.
    • Talk with your doctor or nurse midwife about the need for vitamin supplement.
    • Accept help when it is offered.
    • Use nipple or breast shields and pacifiers with caution./li>
  • A breast flange that is too small or too large in size can hurt your milk supply.

Ways to Increase Milk Supply

If you notice your milk supply is low, you can increase your milk supply by:

  • Nursing your baby often. Nurse every 2 hours during the day and every 3 to 4 hours at night (at least 8 to 16 times in 24 hours). If your baby is refusing to nurse, use a good quality double electric breast pump to increase milk production. Pumping after breastfeeding signals your body to produce more milk.
  • Nurse your baby at least 15 minutes at each breast. Do not limit nursing time. If your baby falls asleep after one breast, wake him or her and offer the second breast. A few babies may benefit from nursing at one breast per feeding to increase the fat content of the feeding. Switch nursing- switching breasts several times during a feeding has been shown to increase your milk supply.
  • Gently massage breast before and during feedings.
  • Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress and promote the flow of breast milk.
  • Provide skin to skin time with your baby for about 20 minutes after feeds. This “kangaroo care” has been shown to increase milk supply. Be sure baby is positioned and latched correctly.
  • Offer both breasts at each feeding.
  • Try breast compression during the feeding to help drain the breast.
  • Pump immediately after breastfeeding during the day. Rest at night. Some mothers find that they get more milk if they pump for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes and pump for another 10 minutes.
  • Talk to your doctor about using medication or the herb, fenugreek.

Sources:

Wambach, Karen and Riordan, Jan “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation,” Fifth edition, Jones & Bartlett, 2016