One of the most common concerns for new moms is, “Am I making enough milk?” While the majority of mothers are able to produce the amount of milk their baby needs, there may come a time where you need to increase your milk supply. In this post, you will learn tips and tricks for producing more breast milk.
If you’re a mom and you’re struggling to make enough milk for your baby’s needs, it’s time to get some tips! There are many ways you can produce more milk for your baby. Something as simple as changing the position of your baby while feeding or adding an herbal supplement may be enough to increase production and help you get a good milk supply, while other times, it’s a bit more complicated.
Not a day goes by that I don’t see someone asking about how to increase their breast milk supply.
While I wish I had the secret formula figured out, there’s really not a one-size-fits-all approach to increasing your milk supply. It often requires going over your history and determining first if your milk supply is low, then why it’s low, and finally, what the best course of action for your specific situation will be.
There is not a lot of data on how common low milk supply is, but there are a lot of causes of low milk supply. Determining the cause is the first step because often, you can try all the tricks in the book and eat all the cookies out there, but if you aren’t addressing the cause of your low milk supply, they won’t do a thing.
You can struggle with milk supply at any point in your breastfeeding journey – not just the early weeks. I have seen moms go from having an oversupply to not making enough milk later on, so it’s important to understand how and why you make milk.
For that reason, I always recommend working with a lactation professional if you are struggling to produce enough milk. I offer virtual lactation consults worldwide, and there are many lactation professionals available in person!
With all that said, if you are like me, you want to read every trick, tip, and article out there, so this article includes many of the different ways that you can increase milk supply. Just make sure you know why your supply is low before you start throwing darts at all of these ideas – I promise, it will save you a lot of time and emotions.
- How Does Milk Production Work?
- Understanding what “normal” supply is
- How Do I Know if My Milk Supply is Low?
- Why is My Milk Supply Low?
- How to Increase Breast Milk Production
- Nurse, Nurse, Nurse
- Nursing vacation
- Power Pumping
- Pumping after supplementing
- Be Close to your Baby
- Fix a Poor Latch
- Breast Compressions
- Eat Enough Calories
- Hand Expression
- Lactation Smoothie
- Dark Beer
- Lactation Cookies
- Switch Feeding
- Include Galactagogues in your Diet
- Goat’s Rue
- Mother’s Milk Teas
- Fenugreek + Milk Thistle + Fennell
- Prescription Medication
- More Articles You Might Enjoy:
How Does Milk Production Work?
First, let’s talk a little bit about how milk production works. After the first few days of giving birth, your body switches to the supply and demand system (or autocrine control).
To put it in a nut shell, if your baby or a breast pump is frequently stimulating the breast, it tells your body to make more milk. If there is a decrease in the stimulation or its not happening as frequently as is needed, your body will produce less milk.
It’s a common myth that you need to wait for your breasts to “fill up”, but this simply isn’t true. What is true is that the more frequently that you empty your breasts, the faster your milk factory goes. When you wait until your breasts “fill up” that is actually telling your body to slow down milk production. Milk is produced as your baby suckles or as your breast pump works – you don’t just use the milk that’s sitting there in your breast.
Often when I work with a mother, we discover that the reason she isn’t producing enough milk is because there simply isn’t a demand for it. This often happens when there are overly scheduled feeds or because a baby isn’t nursing efficiently.
Of course, there are sometimes underlying issues that are preventing the body from producing milk – and even if you nursed 24/7, you may not produce the milk you needed. However, in most situations, increasing demand is the best way to increase supply.
Understanding what “normal” supply is
Often, understanding what normal supply is and how much milk is “normal” is all a mom needs to feel confident in her supply. What you might perceive as normal often isn’t (especially if you are going off of what you see in Facebook groups!). I can’t tell you how often I’ve talked with a mom who thought she wasn’t making enough milk, and after we talked, she realized she was making plenty of milk for her baby’s demand.
The goal is to produce enough milk for your baby – not much more, not much less. The goal isn’t to have a freezer stash filled with milk or to have engorged breasts all the time.
If you are pumping in addition to breastfeeding (so breastfeeding and pumping shortly afterward), it is very normal to get .25-2 ounces TOTAL. If you are pumping in place nursing, we generally look for about 1-1.5 ounces per hour from the last time you nursed.
It’s also very normal to have one side produce more than the other.
How Do I Know if My Milk Supply is Low?
If you have been able to produce an adequate supply of milk before, you can more than likely produce it again.
Many women have even been able to relactate after stopping or not even nursing at all – you can even breastfeed when you adopt a child with the proper support.
There are some conditions that will cause low milk supply and those should be addressed with a physician or a lactation consultant. Having a prenatal consult can be a really great way to determine your risk factors for these types of conditions.
This can occur with women who have had breast surgery (either for reduction/enhancement, cancer, lumps removed, etc.), did not develop adequate mammary glands during pregnancy or puberty, have a thyroid condition, diabetes, etc.
Breast size does not indicate a better or worse ability to produce milk. Breast storage capacity is a more important factor to consider.
In this article – Top Signs of Low Milk Supply to Worry About – I go over the top signs of low milk supply. But in general, you should ask yourself:
- Is my baby having enough wet diapers and dirty diapers?
- How is my baby’s weight gain?
Here is a great post about infant weight gain – Kelly Mom on the growth patterns of breastfed babies.
Cluster feeding is often one of those “false alarms” that can make you feel like you aren’t making enough breast milk when you are. Cluster feeding is very normal in the first few weeks after your baby is born, but it can happen at anytime – especially if your baby is sick or going through a growth spurt. As long as you aren’t noticing a decrease in diapers or any signs of dehydration, you are baby fine to keep nursing according to your baby’s needs.
And, as my favorite article by Dr. Jay Gordon says, watch the baby, not the scale.
It’s hard because the breast doesn’t have ounce markers, so it can be tricky to know for sure how much your baby is getting. You can do weighted feeds (the Hatch Baby Grow is excellent for that).
There are a lot of false flags when it comes to milk supply, which you can read about more here – 11 Low Milk Supply False Alarms.
Why is My Milk Supply Low?
As I mentioned previously, this is an essential question to ask when you are experiencing a lowered breastmilk supply. There are a lot of things that can impact supply – even just temporarily. In this post, Here are a few things to consider:
- Lip/Tongue Tie
- Mastitis or Plugged Ducts
- Not feeding on demand
- Hormonal Birth Control
- Certain foods and herbs
In this article, I discuss these (and more!)
How to Increase Breast Milk Production
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics about milk supply, here are some of the best tips for increasing milk supply.
Nurse, Nurse, Nurse
I have already touched on this a little bit, but (barring any underlying medical condition), the best way to increase your milk supply is through frequent feeds.
Nursing is a supply and demand system – the more your baby nurses the more milk your body produces.
When I was researching tips on how to increase my own milk supply, I came across a post on Dr. Jay Gordon’s website. I started reading the comments, and the lactation consultant that was responding kept telling people that in the early days of life, your baby feeds should be every 60-90 minutes, rather than the three hours that is often promoted in the hospital.
That might be a *little* much and not necessary for every baby, but if you are struggling with supply, do that! Often when I see people asking about supply in groups I’m in, they are not feeding frequently enough. Wake your newborn up if they are sleeping too long! I think that was one of my mistakes.
I started doing this, and it was truly the thing that increased my supply the most and caused Oliver to start gaining weight more quickly. Frequent feeding is what saved my milk supply and increased it the most.
So even if supply isn’t necessarily an issue, if your child is having issues gaining weight, feeding smaller meals more often can help. Grab your boppy, buy a subscription to Netflix, and fill up your water cup – might as well make yourself comfortable!
Of course, ALWAYS be aware of signs of dehydration in infants to ensure that they aren’t suckling without getting any milk.
Something else I read about is called a nursing vacation. Basically, for a day, just go in your room and feed your baby all day long. Don’t let anything distract you – just nurse all day long with plenty of water by your side.
Power Pumping is a great technique for increasing milk supply. It’s one of my favorites to recommend.
Basically, get comfortable for an hour with a TV Show or movie and pump. You pump on each side for 10 minutes, then take a break for 10 minutes, and continue this process for an hour. You can do this 1-2 times a day, and you should see an increase in supply in about three days.
I highly recommend buying, renting, or borrowing a high-quality pump. Your insurance should cover a breast pump (learn how to get a free breast pump here).
I personally love and recommend the BabyBuddha Breast Pump.
Pumping after supplementing
Supplementing can be necessary! If your baby truly isn’t getting enough, the most important thing is that they get fed! However, I highly recommend working with an IBCLC if you get a recommendation to supplement – or, at the very least, reading this great article.
I had to do this with Oliver – though I didn’t use formula. I just pumped every time after I fed him and then gave him whatever I had leftover about 30 minutes later.
If you do end up supplementing full feedings with either formula or pumped milk, it’s important to make sure you pump after that feeding.
Supplementing can decrease supply if you don’t pump after. The less time the baby is at the breast, the less your body is told to create. I’ve been told that supplementing is a slippery slope, so unless you really need to, avoid supplementing!
Be Close to your Baby
Being near your baby can help release prolactin, which increases milk supply. There are many reasons why having your baby skin-to-skin is so emphasized when it comes to breastfeeding (see Dr. Newman’s page on the importance of skin to skin contact.)
If you can, hold your baby as much as you can, do skin to skin, and just nearby. It may help them want to nurse more as well. Babywearing is an awesome thing you can do (I LOVE babywearing – here is a post I wrote about the basics of babywearing, along with some carrier recommendations).
It helps free up your hands so you don’t feel like you have to hold your baby all day, but it keeps them nice and close. Sleeping in the same room is helpful, tool.
Fix a Poor Latch
Sometimes, if a baby isn’t latched correctly, they aren’t nursing efficiently, which tells your body to slow down the milk-making factory. Acheiving a proper latch might be the thing that helps the most!
Breast massage and compressions can help continue the flow of milk from the breast when the baby is not actively sucking. This isn’t something that most breastfeeding mothers need to do, but if you are struggling with supply, your baby isn’t eating well or gaining weight, or any number of reasons, you may want to look into this.
Here is more information from Dr. Jack Newman’s website on breast compressions.
Eat Enough Calories
It can be tempting to try and diet to get back to your pre-baby weight. While you should do your best to eat healthily and moderately exercise to do so, it’s so important to make sure you are eating enough calories.
Remember, breastfeeding can burn around 500-800 calories a day, so you want to make sure you are eating enough so you produce milk.
I know many women who have seen a big dip in milk supply when they’ve lost weight fast or started a really intense workout program. You should aim to lose about one pound per week. Here is a post I wrote about losing weight while breastfeeding without compromising your milk supply!
And if you are having trouble finding things to eat, here are the best snacks for breastfeeding moms.Make sure you try and emphasize healthy snacks.
You might also find one of these breastfeeding meal plans to be helpful!
Sometimes adding in some hand expression can help you get more milk from pumping than you would have otherwise – and it’s a simple way to tell your baby you have more demand. I think we underestimate the power of hands sometime. You can start or finish off a feeding or pumping session using hand expression.
You could make a smoothie with lots of healthy ingredients and healthy fats, as well as throw in some flax seed. You might want to throw in one of our favorite breastfeeding friendly protein powders, too.
I was hesitant to put this one, because I do not drink myself. However, I’ve heard from many sources that drinking a dark beer can increase milk supply temporarily.
You can drink alcohol while breastfeeding (I think the general rule is if it’s safe to drive, it’s safe to nurse), but drink responsibly if you choose to do so. Here is more information on breastfeeding and alcohol.
It may seem impossible to get enough sleep when you have a breastfeeding baby, but it’s important to rest as much as you can.
Being tired and stressed out can definitely decrease your supply. My lactation consultant recommended that I go and get a massage! I didn’t, but I feel like it definitely would have helped. And seriously, worrying about your milk supply will just make things worse.
Just make sure you stay hydrated! With both of my boys, I was given a huge water cup to take home. One of the best things you can do is drink to thirst – plus a little more. I always recommend drinking a glass of water when you sit down to nurse your baby.This article about breastfeeding and hydration might be helpful.
Personally, I have had a lot of luck with getting a 64-ounce water bottle to help make sure I drink enough.
If you don’t like plain water, I really like these True Lemon packets. The orange ones sound great, too!
Lactation cookies are pretty popular. There are a ton of different places to buy them as well as recipes out there. In general, they typically have Brewer’s Yeast, flax seed, and oats (preferably steel cut oats), along with some other ingredients to make them taste good. I really love my recipe for dairy free lactation cookies.
However, I would be careful not to eat too many. They can be very high in sugar, and often, the effects people see from them are likely due to the increase in calories.
This is a great method for helping to increase milk supply, as it encourages the let-down reflex to happen multiple tims I think it’s ideal over triple feeding, which is commonly recommended. Here is a great article about switching nursing.
Include Galactagogues in your Diet
Galactagogues are foods and herbs that are thought to have a lactogenic effect. You can click here for our list of galactagogues! A bowl of oatmeal is one of the most popular ones to try.
Okay, I know this might sound a bit weird, but I listened to this YouTube hypnosis video one night when I was worried about milk supply, and it worked! Hypnobabies has a track called “Breastfeeding Success” that I’ve heard great things about as well. Just go to their website and type in breastfeeding success, and it should show up.
This is one of the more popular herbal remedies that stimulates the development of mammary tissue. I’ve heard great things about it!
I’ve heard mixed reviews about mother’s milk teas. I personally never tried them, nor do I think they are the best option. But they might be worth looking into if you are drinking tea anyways.
Fenugreek + Milk Thistle + Fennell
There are a lot of lactation supplements out there – and I’m always on the fence about them.
I think Fenugreek is something that a lot of women first jump to when they have supply worries or issues. It really shouldn’t be, as there are many things (listed above) you can do before that. However, it can be a successful thing in helping with milk supply.
Be warned, though – there are many women who experience milk supply decreases when using Fenugreek.
I honestly did use Fenugreek when Oliver wasn’t gaining weight, because I was feeling so desperate.
I do think it helped, but I really don’t know. However, it can make you smell like maple syrup, have a lot of gas (or your baby), and there are certain people who should not use it (particularly diabetics.)
I felt really light headed a lot when I used it. Here is the suggested dosage charge from Kelly Mom.
There are a lot of products out there that are created to help lactating women, and they often feature these ingredients. Motherlove is a very popular one.
A Fenugreek free lactation supplement is called Legendairy Milk. I know a lot of people like this.
Just be careful with supplements. In most situations, you do not need one.
I put this one last because it should only be used as a last resort. There are certain medications that can be used to increase milk supply. One that is often used is called Reglan.
However, I had the WORST reaction to Reglan when I was in the ER once, and the nurse said that the reaction I had was common. So I would be very careful with this one. There are many cited side effects for this one.
There is a medication called Domperidone. It is commonly used for digestive problems, but one of the side effects is increasing prolactin production.
You can read more about it on Dr. Newman’s website (breastfeeding expert.) In the United States, it isn’t prescribed, so most women that use it order it online from Canada or another country.
However, I would not just order it – consult with an IBCLC for the correct dosage and best place to buy it, as well as talk with your doctor. I’ve heard very wonderful things about Domperidone, but once again, any medication should be used as a last resort.
Again, if you are struggling with low milk supply, I would strongly urge you to book a lactation consult to ensure you are approaching it from the right angle. Good luck! I wish you the best results with working to increase you milk supply.
More Articles You Might Enjoy:
- How long does breast milk last after warming? What you should know
- The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Breast Milk – Fresh and Frozen!
- The Best Breastmilk Freezer Storage Ideas All New Parents Need to Know!
Katie Clark is a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and IBCLC student. She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.