How Can I Increase a Low Milk Supply?

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Answered by: Jessica, An Expert in the About Lactation Category
During a woman's breastfeeding journey, she may come to believe she has a low milk supply. While some women do suffer from a low supply, some women do not. Before taking actions to increase supply, a woman should first determine if her supply is actually low. If her supply is low, she may then take the necessary steps to increase milk production.



Is It Really Low Supply?

One of the most common concerns that may lead a woman to suspect a low milk supply is slow weight gain in her baby. A baby who is breastfed does not always gain weight as quickly as a formula fed baby. Women should make sure their pediatrician is using weight charts for breastfed babies. Babies who are breastfeeding should gain approximately one ounce per day during the first six weeks of life, although some babies may only gain four to six ounces per week. Older babies should gain about two to five ounces per week.

Another common concern is a woman not feeling engorgement. Engorgement occurs within three to four days after birth and is caused by the milk coming in. A woman usually feels a fullness in her breasts that will last for a few weeks. Once her body becomes adjusted to her baby's needs, her milk supply will regulate itself. This will cause a drop in supply and sometimes concerns the mother. There is no need for worry, because her body is simply maintaining the exact amount of her milk her baby needs. The best determination for a low supply is by monitoring baby's wet and dirty diapers. Babies who are less than six weeks old should have an average of five to six wet diapers per day and an average of three to four dirty diapers per day. After six weeks, a baby may have dirty diapers as little as every ten days and three to four wet diapers per day.



Increasing Supply: Frequent Nursing and Pumps

After determining that her milk supply is low, a mother can decide how to increase milk production. One of the best ways to increase supply is by simply breastfeeding more often. Mothers can offer the breast frequently to their babies throughout the day. Letting the baby empty one side then continuing on the next side can help increase milk production.

If her baby is not hungry, a pump is an effective tool for increasing milk supply. After every feeding, a mother can pump for an additional ten minutes to ensure the breast is emptied enough to produce more milk. Pumps can be purchased as hand-held models or electric models. Electric pumps are usually easier to use and more effective than hand-held. Each woman may find she has a different preference for what type of pump to use.

Increasing Supply With Foods and Herbs

Some women may find that adding oatmeal to their diet can have a positive impact on milk supply. There are also a variety of herbs that are recommended for increasing a low supply. Blessed thistle is an herb that may be taken up to three times per day to increase milk production. Fenugreek is another popular herb for increasing a low milk supply. Results are usually seen after taking at least six capsules per day. A mother will know she is taking enough when both she and her baby smell like maple syrup. Mother's Milk Tea is a commonly used drink for increasing supply. It includes a variety of herbs that are known for helping with a low supply.

Other Points To Consider

Some mothers may become concerned if her baby constantly wants to nurse. Breastfed babies have frequent growth spurts and may need the extra feedings at certain times. Some babies also comfort nurse and simply want to feel closer to mom. Overall, a mother should always consult with her physician and her baby's pediatrician before taking any medications and to determine if she has a low supply. She may also consult with a La Leche League Leader or Lactation Consultant. If her baby is nursing well, her breasts feel softer or lighter after a feeding, and her baby seems alert and happy her supply is most likely fine.

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