1. Breastfeed more frequently
Not breastfeeding often enough is the number one cause of low milk production and the easiest to reverse. How often has your baby been nursing in a twenty-four-hour day? Especially in the first few weeks, mothers with vulnerable supplies shouldn’t allow longer than two to three hours between daytime feedings, or longer than one four- to five-hour sleep stretch each day. It’s normal for a newborn to nurse at least eight times in twenty-four hours, and when milk production is low, feeding more often than this is baby’s way of telling the breast that he needs more milk. If you don’t change anything, the breast won’t change what it’s doing either.
2. Breast Massage and Compressions
Massage helps bring milk forward for easy removal and also helps stimulate milk ejection, which may be weaker with lower milk volume. Work from your chest forward toward your nipple with kneading or circular hand movements, using comfortable pressure. But don’t limit it to feeding time. Breast Massage for general stimulation and enhancement is practiced in some cultures and is one of those “can’t hurt, may help” ideas. Breast compressions enhance milk removal by adding pressure inside the breast to propel milk through the ducts for easier removal by baby or pump. Start compressing when baby’s swallowing slows or when the flow slows for the pump; stop when swallowing or flow stops and repeat until it isn’t helping anymore. This easy and effective technique should be a part of every low-milk-supply strategy.
Warm, moist compresses applied to the breasts just prior to nursing or pumping can also help the milk to start flowing. There are commercial products, but you can make your own by filling a sock with uncooked non-instant rice and tying the end close. The shape of the sock allows it to be wrapped comfortably around your breasts. Lightly dampen it and microwave for about thirty seconds so the sock is warm but not hot. A warm, wet washcloth is also helpful. Hot showers are famous for milk ejection, although they may not always be convenient. You can even try nursing your baby in a warm bath.
4. Pump After Feeds
The most common approach to increasing supply by pumping is to nurse as long as baby will actively suck, and than pump. This is especially appropriate when baby is leaving a lot of milk in the breast, but also for the baby who sucks well only the short time that milk is flowing strongly. Whatever residual milk the pump removes then becomes baby’s next supplement before any formula. Pump until the milk stops, but at least ten to twenty minutes (the shorter the feed, the longer pumping time), even if there is no milk flowing during some of this time. Don’t stop just because the milk seems to have stopped. The amount of milk you pump does not matter because baby should be taking the majority of it first. Your goal is extra stimulation to tell your body to make more milk then it is making right now. If baby tends to nurse actively for a short while but then spends a lot of time mostly hanging out, limit his time on the breast to active suckling, even if that’s only five minutes per side, so that you have enough time to supplement him, pump, and keep your sanity.
5. Pump During the Night
If you can handle it, pumping at night takes advantage of any higher prolactin levels in addition to removing more milk. However, getting adequate sleep is also important to your overall health and well-being and can affect your milk production. The trick is to be flexible in balancing the time. Try to plan for at least one pumping session in the middle of the night if you can. Or don’t set an alarm, but if you happen to awaken, use that opportunity. The sedating effects of Oxycontin being released while pumping may help you get back to sleep when you’re done. Taking a couple of short naps in the day time can help you stay rested.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapeutic practice during which specific areas on the body are pierced with very fine needles. Although not as common in the Western world, acupuncture has been used to treat low milk production for over two thousand years. Research conducted in multiple countries suggests that it can be effective. Acupuncture can stimulate both prolactin and oxytocin, depending on the points chosen by the practitioner. Because TCM relies on thorough screening of the patient to select the proper treatment locations, mothers interested in acupuncture treatments for low milk production should seek an experienced and qualified practitioner, who may teach techniques that can be used at home as well.
Yoga is a system of exercises to promote control of the body and mind. Awtar Kaur Khalsa, M.A., IBCLC, RYT, a registered yoga teacher and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, reports that several lactating yoga students experienced increases in milk volume after attending her Kundalini yoga classes. She believes that arm movements increase blood circulation, which in turn causes relaxation and easier milk flow. Other mothers have reported increases after various upper arm activities, supporting the idea that such movements can stimulate milk production. From a practical standpoint, yoga is an effective means of exercise and relaxation that is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. At the very least, the relaxation it affords can help facilitate milk ejection.
Talking on the phone to supportive friends, reading books and magazines, watching television, and listening to the radio or music while nursing or pumping can be wonderfully effective in facilitating milk ejection by taking your mind off how much milk you are producing or how long the nursing/pumping session has lasted. It can also serve to ease stress and relax your tension.
9. Create a Relaxing Envioronment
Your environment is important to your feeling of safety and peace. When you’re breastfeeding or pumping, try to minimize negative elements in your immediate surroundings. This may mean moving to a quiet room away from the rest of the family, especially anyone who is not entirely supportive of breastfeeding. Put on some music if you find it relaxing. Before you begin, take a few slow deep breaths to clear your mind and body of any remaining tension. This influence of your environment on milk release is a factor that can change over time. Confidence is built with experience, and soon your mind will work effortlessly and efficiently in the busyness of day-to-day life.
10. Stay Hydrated
Breastfeeding can be very dehydrating and cause your body to hold onto any fluid that it can in order to feed your baby. You don’t need to drink an over abudance of fluid to recieve the benefits. Just drink the recommended 8, 8 ounce glasses a day. If you can do water, that is certanily the top choice.
11. Eat Protein
Your body needs protein in order to produce milk. Many times, as a mom, you reach for quick and easy snacks and meals to keep you going, If you are eating sugary snacks in place of protein, you may see a drop in your supply. Try replacing unhealthy snacks with protein rich snacks.
12. Oatmeal for Breakfast
Because of oatmeal’s abundance in nutrients, it’s a super food when it comes to helping a woman’s milk supply. Oatmeal has iron in it which also is a must for breastfeeding mothers and helps promote milk supply. This powerful food’s hot, rich, and soothing effects while eating also help lower stress levels. High stress levels have been proven to lower a woman’s milk supply as well. So help yourself to a hot bowl of oatmeal at least once a day for breakfast or a snack!
13. Lactation Supplements
Throughout time, in every country and culture mothers have taken special food or herbs (galactagogues) to help them make milk. Galactagogues can’t compensate for a milk supply problem if milk removal is not sufficiently frequent and effective. Identifying and addressing all contributing factors to your low production first will give you the best shot at success. Then, galactagogues may help speed up the process. Prolactin is high at birth to get milk production started, but then normally decreases to moderately elevated levels as milk removal takes over driving milk production. However, extra prolactin (brought about by galactagogues) can boost milk production further in many women. And it can inhibit or even reverse the process of mammary involution, the tearing down of your milk factory that might otherwise start when production has slowed down. This helps sustain your milk making cells. Extra prolactin can also compensate for milk deficiencies of some hormones. It usually takes at least four to seven days to see the initial galactagouge effect, though some response may be seen within forty-eight hours. Take 3 of our galactagogue packed lactation capsules 3x a day. We recommend spreading out the dosage so that the effects will last throughout the day.
Source: West, Diana, and Lisa Marasco. The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk. McGraw-Hill, 2009.