As a mother of six children I’ve experienced different degrees of breastmilk supply issues ranging from low supply to oversupply. Well-meaning friends and family members will voice opinions on the subject, adding to a mother’s insecurities about their ability to feed their baby. Often moms feel they’re not producing enough milk, when in fact they’re doing a great job. As long as your baby has 4 to 6 wet diapers a day, with light-colored urine, you can rest assured they’re getting plenty to eat.
Occasionally some moms will experience legitimate low supply issues. When my twins are going through a growth spurt it can take a day or two for my body to play catch up. Low supply is frustrating for both baby and mother. Here are a few tips to get you through a rough patch and on your way to a successfully established breastfeeding relationship:
1. Feed your baby often.
Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand operation. The more your baby nurses, the more signals are sent to your brain saying, “Hey! We need more milk here!” Your brain responds by producing hormones that kick your ta-tas into high gear, making more breastmilk. There’s a very detailed and scientific explaination here: How Does Milk Production Work
Try to feed your baby every 1 1/2 hour, to 2 hours during the day. If possible, feed at least every 3 hours at night. Don’t look at it as a chore. These are precious moments spent snuggling with your baby. Increased feedings mean increased cuddles. Fun for everyone.
2. Empty your breasts.
If your baby is not emptying your breasts completely, your body thinks it’s producing too much milk and production then decreases. Make sure your baby is properly latched and allow your baby to nurse for at least 20 minutes per feeding, as long as they’re actively nursing, they’re removing milk. Let them do their job. Whenever possible after finishing one side, offer the other side to baby and allow them to nurse as long as possible. Moms of multiples can effectively empty their breasts by tandem nursing.
It takes some practice, but tandem nursing is a great way to tell your body to pump up the volume and bring on the milk. If you still have some milk left after fully feeding baby, express or pump the excess milk to keep production high.
3. Eat, drink and be milky
What is breastmilk? It’s food in liquid form. It makes sense that it takes food and liquid to make liquid food, right? Breastfeeding mothers NEED around 500 calories A DAY on top of their normal caloric intake. Most women operate on 1800-2000 calories a day. If you are busy making milk, it’s the equivalent of running a marathon. Making milk is hard work and your body needs fuel to keep up your supply. Listen to your body. If you’re hungry all the time, you need more calories. Don’t worry about dieting while trying to establish your breastmilk supply. Aim to add at least two healthy snacks a day.
Whole grains, low-fat cheeses, fruits and vegetables are all great foods to add to your diet to increase calorie intake. Healthy foods make healthy breastmilk. It’s good for you and good for your baby. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
4. Get yourself a Galactagogue
A galacta-what? A galactagogue is any substance that increases breastmilk. Herbal supplements are a great way to increase breastmilk production. I’ve had great results using fenugreek and Mother’s Milk tea.
Breastfeeding moms will often use blessed thistle and alfalfa supplements to increase their milk production. Enjoying a bowl of oatmeal every morning also increases your supply.
It wont take long for your body to get the message. Nurse often, nurse for at least 20-30 minutes per feeding, add healthy snacks and drink water, and try an herbal supplement if needed. Keep up the good work, moms! Your baby’s health depends on you.