Today I’m going to share with you my biggest struggle for the past three weeks – since we welcomed our new baby:
The need for more and more milk!
I have solved the issue of low milk supply every single time using the tips I’m going to share with you in this post. Believe me, I have been through that same stress and worry you may be feeling right now of wanting to feed our sweet little new babies well and naturally without having to supplement with formula milk.
Like you, I went looking for any and everything I could find on Google and Pinterest to increase my milk supply whenever I sensed that my baby’s needs were not being met.
This post is a list of simple household remedies you MUST try before you visit the doctor if you want to solve this problem too because they work for me every single time.
This post contains affiliate links.
Update: Six months in, I have settled down to the least amount of the best remedies. For me, that is taking hot milk a couple of times a day, staying uber hydrated PLUS well-fed with good food and regularly pumping. I used my saving and invested in an electric pump because the manual one broke my hand by the time I reached my fifth month. I got the one by Tommee Tippee. Pumping can gobble up your entire day and you end up ignoring everyone and every other task at home to keep the baby fed. You can’t ignore the whole house and other kids for months upon months. So you need to have a strategy for incorporating pumping into your day. I will share mine soon. Because giving my baby natural milk is my choice and my priority in this season of my life, so I know I won’t have to look back and regret as I frequently do now for my son. So I have learned to adjust with a tough routine. The only thing missing during my son’s infancy was proper education. If I knew about all the tips mom bloggers share with us, I wouldn’t have given up so soon. I didn’t know blogs or online courses were a thing back then. I simply didn’t know what to do and what to look for. Take my word, your best time to learn about breastfeeding is not your baby’s first month; it is BEFORE your baby arrives, even if you learn all the feeding-related important to-dos just one day before the baby but DO do so before time. You would really want to know the things you’re supposed to do in those first hours. I’m happy my second baby takes breastmilk every day but I still made life difficult for myself by delaying finding out everything I was supposed to do for taking a strong start. Consequently, my baby struggled with her latch – we have since settled on a bottle. But I just wish I had trained her to feed directly from me along with her mild lip tie, right from the start. The constant bottle and pump cleaning and sterilizing get on my nerves. If my baby fed with me, at least I wouldn’t have had to sterilize myself. I believe she would have learned her way with latching if I hadn’t given her the choice of a bottle then. Learn everything you should know about breastfeeding and pumping from Milkology HERE.
Also, at the end of this post, I will also mention things you must avoid so your breastmilk supply is not affected.
But before we jump in, just keep in mind, that often times, problems are solved if we stay patient and keep looking till you find the solution.
Now coming to the tips that work for me:
You can increase milk supply by focusing on three important things and they always help me get back on track.
Unless there is a medical condition, I’m sure that if you try these tips alone, you won’t have to worry about decreasing milk production.
A. Keep demanding more milk production from your body
You must have heard that milk production in our body is based on a supply-demand rule. This rule alone can be sufficient.
The more milk you remove or ‘demand’ from the body = the more milk will be produced or ‘supplied’
This can be done in the following ways:
I try to nurse as often as I can. I keep telling myself that these first few weeks are extremely crucial and will set the rhythm for later days. Everything else can wait.
Every time the baby removes milk from the mom’s body, it will auto create a demand for more. Just like at the pizza store, when we keep placing orders, the guys working in the kitchen know to keep preparing more dough because more orders are being placed.
And if at any given time, it seems that there is no more milk and the breasts feel empty, even then, the baby’s suckling will send a message to the body that more is required.
Knowing this info has given me a whole new look at how far I have to keep nursing before I end it.
If you cannot nurse your baby directly for some reason, then you may use the option to remove milk by pumping it out. I gave up nursing my first one when he couldn’t latch and cried till he turned blue – without even considering pumping as another long term option.
Simply because of the lack of education.
But you know now.
Back then, someone did give me a manual pump, and angry as I was, I thought it was super dumb and slow. Needless to say, I found it impractical to hook myself with such a hand-breaking tool for the next two years. (I was so unprepared the first time, I didn’t even remember to look up google in an attempt to try to solve my problem.)
Unless you are living under a rock like I was the first time around, you can find all kinds of electric and manual pumps available according to your specific needs (like nipple size, the noise of the machine, portability according to your usage and budget).
Use the pump if you travel, or your baby has difficulty latching on to your breasts, or for any other reason where you can’t nurse her.
Massage or compress while you nurse or pump:
I found it very astonishing how a simple press can open up so many clogged milk ducts and if you try it, you will surely see more streaks of milk coming out.
So when you nurse or pump, gently compress or massage your breasts with your fingers. Keep trying different spots as you feed your baby. It’s like 2x-ing your feeding efforts.
2x your feeding efforts with a compress.
B. Take foods that increase milk supply
It is a great thing that mother nature took care of our mother-y needs. Here is a list of some natural healthy foods that I have personally found to be my panic-defusers for boosting milk supply.
This is my first go-to for whenever I sense my supply is decreasing. When I use barley, I can see improvement very quickly and the next nursing/pumping session produces more milk without a doubt.
I could say if I have also done some of the other things well (e.g. took some sleep and didn’t stress over anything), it doubles.
In fact now I’m trying to incorporate 2 bowls of porridge each day. I know it doesn’t taste delicious but hey, I stopped feeling anything (e.g. sleep, bad odors, disgusting sights, etc) the moment I signed up for motherhood.
Don’t skip meals:
By this I mean do not skip your regular (healthy of course!) meals just because you are already taking porridge, milk salad, etc to enhance your supply. I did just that and soon found myself losing energy (maybe due to lack of calories).
Everything on this list should be other than the regular meals you take – three times, twice or however much you eat in regular days.
Do take note that here I mean quantity and not the quality of food. There are some foods that reduce milk supply and you need to check with some specialist on this.
My rule is this: when in doubt, stay on the side of natural and commonly used food. (i.e. it’s safe or reaction-free for most people).
Drink more milk:
I didn’t find a lot of people mention milk as a milk booster when I was looking for my answers, but my sister swears by this.
She drank milk after every nursing session. I personally believe she overdid this remedy but she isn’t the kind of lady who makes silly mistakes for 2 nursing years- twice in her life!
She is the Martha Stewart of our family so I do take her advice and drink more milk than my routine intake.
Since I’m doing all of these tips, I don’t know how much this specific recipe is helping, but I know it has a big share
Fun fact: When I was making notes for this post, I called her and asked if she is ‘dead’ sure drinking sooo much milk helped her supply, she said yes, and said that every time she took a hot glass of milk, she could feel the breasts becoming full soon.
Unless you are allergic to dairy, I don’t think it hurts to try (over-) doing this remedy.
I discovered that leafy greens and carrots help increase milk supply. So incorporate at least one bowl of salad into your daily routine like me. Taking such healthy foods also help keep me more energetic than I normally would be, especially when sleep deprived mom can use a little more help.
Mother’s milk is said to be up to 70 percent water. So make it a habit to drink a tall glass of water before you sit down to nurse your baby.
Also, keep an extra glass filled with you as you feed the baby because every time you nurse you will feel very thirsty right in the middle when you won’t be able to break the nursing session to get up and get some water.
I have been consuming half a teaspoon of fenugreek swallowed with a glass of water three times a day and although it helps, the first few days my stomach stayed very upset and it made my baby very gassy too. No wonder its not a popular remedy even though it works.
3. And these Breastfeeding Best Practices (MUST DOs!)
I can guarantee, if you are nursing all the time and taking the best milk producing foods, but then you are not taking care of the points I mention below, then your milk supply WILL get reduced.
- Sleep as much as you can find time to. It is very difficult especially in the first few days to be rested well and I’m sure long stretches of sleep and routine nights are a thing of the past for new moms like you and me. But this has been the biggest issue whenever my milk supply dropped. And once I did make the compromise to leave any tasks other than my baby and took some rest, my milk supply instantly increased after one sleep session.
Here are a few ways you can try to get some sleep.
- Compromise on house chores and don’t waste time and energy on anything that can be delegated or skipped for a while.
Learn from my mistakes and make each of those few days help you establish a good milk supply.
- If you can pump milk, let your spouse or a family member take care of the baby as you catch up with some of the lost sleep.
- As soon as the baby falls asleep, join in.
If you are worried about how you will provide enough milk for your ever-hungry baby, that worry itself will begin a negative chain reaction of reduced milk supply.
The more you worry, the more the milk reduces, and the more it reduces, the more you will worry…
Also, tell your spouse not to make you upset over his white shirt that you turned pink in the laundry.
But most importantly, as much as you can remember that postpartum hormones will play their role, keep your focus on how happy you are about your new baby and not give in to any icky feelings.
Keep something for the rainy day
I thought if I had an extra bottle in the fridge, then I was ahead of my baby’s schedule. But I didn’t know that cluster feeding and growth spurts are a thing! Essentially, that’s when my baby kept asking for more more more milk. At one time I had to join her when she cried because I was drained and there was no more reserve in the fridge either.
No matter what, just don’t give up in the first month
If your feed isn’t sufficient for your baby, keep working, it will develop over time and how much you demand from your body will help a lot. Let your baby suckle even if no milk seems to come out, it will give the body a message to supply more than what was provided before.
Also, my baby is less than a month as I write this, but it is amazing how strong her nursing habits acquired from the first few days are. I had a c-section (unplanned!) and I did not feed her the first few days. Now, to this day, nursing is not easy. She gets fussy every feeding time. Eventually, she cries til she turns red for her bottle. Pumping takes up a lot of my time so I really wish she had learned to take all her diet directly from me, and not just the first half an ounce…