How can I increase my milk supply? It’s a question that most breastfeeding mothers will have asked themselves at one point or another. The good news is that for most women there is absolutely nothing wrong with your ability to produce enough milk. That’s not to say you won’t face issues, but these difficulties can usually be attributed to other factors such as bad latch, scheduled feeding and the amount you pump. Fortunately there are ways to rectify any problems that may arise. We caught up with Dru Campbell, midwife and lactation consultant at Health Bay Polyclinic in Dubai, to get her top tips on how to increase milk supply.
Tips to increase milk supply #1: Feed on demand
It’s normal for babies to feed between eight and twelve times in twenty-four hours during the first few months of life. It’s important that you don’t restrict feeds because when baby suckles a hormone called prolactin is produced in your brain and this sends a message to the milk glands to make more breast milk. As breastfeeding is a supply and demand system the more you put baby on the breast, the more milk you will produce. Ensuring the breast is well drained during each feed will also help to boost supply.
Tips to increase milk supply #2: Breastfeed first, pump second
While some mums may find it necessary to use a breast pump alongside breastfeeding, I always recommend that baby breastfeeds first. The reason for this is that a baby who is well established at breastfeeding will almost always take more milk from the breast than a pump will. The other reason is that during the first few weeks baby is still learning how to suckle and in order to get the hang of it they need as much practice on the breast as possible.
Tips to increase milk supply #3: Breastfeed at night
Night feeds are particularly important in the beginning because milk production is at its best between 1am and 5am. As this can be very exhausting, it is important that you rest during the day when baby is sleeping.
Tips to increase milk supply #4: Eat right
A well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet is essential for new mothers, not least because you need to keep your strength up at a time when you are likely to be sleeping less and exerting yourself more. In addition, there are some foods you can eat that will actually help to boost lactation, such as fennel and oats. Likewise Fenugreek is an excellent herbal remedy that is often used to increase milk supply. Note: Foods such as these will only help if the breasts are being stimulated regularly.
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Tips to increase milk supply #5: Stay calm
While stress doesn’t always directly affect milk supply, it can cause the flow of milk to slow down. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when your baby starts suckling and it causes the ‘let down reflex’, which is the release of milk. Oxytocin flows best when you are relaxed and calm. Conversely, adrenaline, which is released when you are stressed, actually slows down the production of oxytocin, and in turn the flow of milk. If you feel stress is a problem, try feeding on a comfortable couch or chair, listening to relaxing music and reading a positive book. Skin-to-skin contact can also help.
Tips to increase milk supply #6: Keep hydrated
You should be aiming to drink around 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day while breastfeeding (this can include juices and herbal teas). However, the most effective way to maintain adequate hydration is to simply drink when you’re thirsty. Quite often you will feel parched when you start breastfeeding or expressing, as the flow of oxytocin can induce thirst.
Tips to increase milk supply #7: Get help if necessary
If breastfeeding is painful it may mean that baby is not attached properly, which can cause stress and affect your flow of milk. In this case I would recommend seeing a Midwife or Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who can review the position of your baby and latch.
For more information and advice on lactation support, email Dru Campbell at email@example.com