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  • Writer's pictureChardá Bell, IBCLC, CBE, CD

7 Legit Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply!


Are you a parent stressing over whether your milk supply is supplying? Let’s face it, keeping tabs on your milk output and your baby’s consumption can sometimes feel like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube blindfolded...I feel you!



If your sweet little babe is doing all the things—growing like a weed (gaining 0.5 - 1oz per day or 4 - 7oz per week), sleeping (for the most part, a 4 hour stretch after 4 months), eating often (every 3 hours under 6 months), and keeping you busy with diaper changes (6 - 8 wet diapers and 1 or more poop diaper daily after day of life 5)—chances are you're milk production is doing just fine. 


Yet, sometimes even the most efficient milk makers need a little tune-up, especially if you're aiming to stockpile some liquid gold for going back to work or a baby free vacation or even just to keep up with your babe’s voracious appetite as they go through those oh so wild growth spurts every few weeks, which means eating more than usual and lasting sometimes 3 - 4 days. For these reasons, increasing your milk supply may be warranted.


Look no further, google no more, I have 7 legit remedies for you!




Here’s your cheat sheet, click to jump to section:



Note to reader: When you try increasing your supply, it’s a good idea to try one thing at a time so you know what actually works for you. If you do all the things and something works, you won’t know which one that is and you don’t want to end up having to do all the things all the time because that can become exhausting and demanding. Instead, start with what you think is most appealing to you and work from there. Document your results daily with pics of output and/or jot some notes in your phone. 


1. Breastfeed More!


Breastfeeding more is the only guaranteed way to increase your supply, it may require asking for some support to allow you to do this, and asking for help is OK!


Good rule of thumb for a robust milk supply is to feed or pump every 2-3 hours or on demand, meaning when your baby wants it, and that may be less than 2-3 hours sometimes and that’s OK. Try not to go more than 4 hours without expressing milk and be sure to feed or pump at least once or more at night. Missing night feeds is one way people start to see a dip in their supply and their baby starts to lose weight too.  


Demand and supply is the driving force behind milk supply production and regulation. The more you feed and/or pump the more you will make. The less you feed and/or pump, the less you will make. It’s very simple.


You should create more milk this way, given you are not dealing with a true low supply issue due to a previous or underlying medical condition that would impair your supply. Wondering what that would be? Things like thyroid or hormone issues, hypoplastic breasts or insufficient glandular tissue, PCOS, for some breast surgeries that cut across the fourth intercostal nerve or were done less than 5 years before birth. Some temporary reasons for true low supply would be retained placenta or postpartum hemorrhage, and period/cycle, these are fixable! 

 

It’s also important to understand that at the beginning of your journey your hormones will have a large influence on your milk supply, it will be automatically produced based on those hormones that flood your body after birth. Once those hormones shed, your body will have to be told what to do, it won’t be automatic anymore. Which means, you need to create the demand to have the supply. The first 12 weeks postpartum your supply will fluctuate quite a bit and that’s normal. If you have issues after 12 weeks, definitely seek professional lactation help.


Basically, express milk from your body often and the milk will come! 


2. Galactagogues


A good, deep latch and effective milk removal from the start usually ensures a full milk supply without any need for galactagogues. 


But when that doesn't seem to be working, oh the temptation of the “quick fix” lactation cookies and the drink you saw on TikTok, that gave someone seemingly gallons of milk a day while you are struggling just to make a full bottle. It can make you feel like you are behind, like something is wrong or like you’re not doing something right and that’s just not the truth.


The reality vs. perception for new moms' expectations can be wild! The reality is, you are more than likely making enough milk. It is totally normal for some folks to take more than one session to make a bottle. Your goal is to be making about 25 - 35oz per day when you've reached full production. Making anywhere from 1 - 4oz per session is normal, that’s the evidence based truth, if you are making less than 0.5 - 1oz per session consistently, seek help. The perception is that you see people online proudly showing you their overabundant milk stashes, but what you don’t see is the behind the scenes footage…oversupply, mastitis, plugged ducts and pain! While it may be tempting to take these “innanet folks” advice, don’t do it sis! Ask a professional. If you choose to alter your supply on your own, be aware of the consequences. 



Should you listen to the internet for advice? No. 

The claims of V8, body armor, pink drink, and every other fad are probably a waste of your time and money. There are better and more effective options. 


Not to mention, if you’re trying to be mindful of your nutritional choices, there are better ways. Avoid the empty calories of prepackaged items that often have too much sodium and sugar. Instead, ask a relative or friend to whip you up a batch where you get more bang for your buck and it’s way healthier because you get to control what and how much goes in them. My favorite recipe is here: 


Are there things that can help your milk supply? Yes. My recommendation is to ask an IBCLC about herbal supplements or galactogogue about the safety for you as an individual. 


There are also many herbs that are incompatible with certain medical conditions, not safe for babies and should be avoided during nursing due to unknown effects. For example, if you have insulin issues or allergy to peanuts, you should NOT take fenugreek. If you are prone to yeast infections or thrush, you should avoid brewers yeast.  Fenugreek and brewers yeast is in a lot of lactation supplements including cookies, drinks, pills, teas, etc. 


Galactagogues are medications, herbs or foods which can provide a small to moderate increase in milk production. A galactagogue may be helpful if you are not producing enough milk. However, you should be feeding or pumping an appropriate amount of times per day in addition to using galactagogues to see improvement. There is no magic food, drink or pill that will give you more milk without also expressing milk at least 6 - 8x in 24 hours. 


I do recommend trying to increase your intake of lactogenic foods, ones that increase milk secretion. There are a ton! 


When people ask me about trying herbal galactagogues, I tell them this: 


  • Check with your doctor if you have any medical conditions. 

  • Start low and slow on dosage, watch for negative side effects in you and baby. 

  • Only do one thing at a time

  • Consider pure form and organic products; Avoid things with additional ingredients other than the herb you need 

  • Tinctures have a stronger effect, easy to add to water, juice  or smoothie. 

  • Add it to something you already like!

  • Don’t go out of your way to eat lactogenic foods you don’t normally eat. Stick with what you like and know, eat more of that. 

  • Drink to thirst. Hydration is helpful to your blood flow which is helpful for your milk flow. Don’t over hydrate as you can cause the opposite effect on your supply! If you like coconut water and body armor then drink them because you like it but not because you think it’s giving you more milk, I can guarantee that is not the reason for a more robust supply. These drinks simply have added electrolytes which help with quick hydration. Be mindful of the sugars and avoid artificial sweeteners and other herbs that may be added to those drinks. More on caffeine & breastfeeding here: https://www.melaninmilksd.com/post/caffeine-and-breastfeeding-sip-or-skip


My favorite choices that have lactogenic ingredients and properties: 

  • Moringa 500mg/day 

  • Mammas Milk Bar

  • Legendairy milk supplements

  • Boobie Bars

  • Oatmeal, dark leafy greens and flax seeds 

  • Coconut water is not lactogenic but it is a natural quick hydration drink of choice if you are looking for one. Milk is made from your blood not your fluid intake, but being well hydrated is good for your oxygen levels and blood flow which means it’s good for your milk flow. 


For a complete list of lactogenic foods, herbs and galactagogues check out my blog on that here: 


Pro Tip: Using galactogogues and eating lactogenic foods while power pumping is a great way to try and give your supply a little boost. Look for an output of 0.5oz - 1oz more than you normally make. This will be noticed by the 3rd of 4th day of power pumping. Supplements don’t work overnight, it may take anywhere from a few days to a month to see results. See my blog on power pumping here: 



3. Breast Compressions


People don’t realize the amazing power of their own hands! Doing a few simple breast squeezes or compressions with your hand or trying hand expression before or after feeding or pumping can increase your output during that session. You might already do this naturally without realizing it. Hand expression is also a great skill to learn prenatally and to use in the early days post birth. A pump isn’t the best at getting out colostrum, but your hands can be magical!


Try breast compressions as seen in this video:


Try hand expression here:


4. Massage


Gentle massage and you can use a little coconut oil or any edible oil you like such as olive oil, can be not only relaxing to help stimulate your letdown, but milk may also increase your supply. For instance, one study found that using circular breast massage increased the amount of breast milk produced by nearly 23%.


Try this next time you are having a hard time pumping at work. You can also do this during a feeding to promote better intake for your baby by aiding them in getting more milk out. 


You may also wish to try this for plugged ducts or breast engorgement. Over massaging may increase inflammation so don’t over do it. Try lymphatic drain massage instead for massive engorgement or persistent plugged ducts. 


Remember to do it gently, light firm pressure is good. Those breast massagers are fine to use too. Small steady circles throughout your feed or anytime during the session is helpful. Some people like to add a little warmth before their session, this is fine for less than 5 mins.


5. Breast pump


Want to pump for increased milk production? 

Pump 1-2x a day more than you already do or if you’re not pumping and only feeding at breast, start pumping 1-2x a day. Pumping for 15-20 mins should be enough, and up to 30 mins. If you already make a lot of milk or have a fast flow, 5-10 mins might be all you need. 1 - 2oz total is considered a normal output, yes that’s for both breasts. 


You can also try power pumping for 2 - 4 days. Read more on how to do that here: https://www.melaninmilksd.com/post/the-secret-to-making-more-milk-power-pumping


What type of pump to use? 

Passive pumps are ones like Haakaas, a silicone one unit piece that suctions onto your breast to collect milk while you are not actively compressing it yourself. These can be used while feeding or between feeds. They don’t work for everyone and can be painful for some. 


Electric wearable pumps are convenient but when used as a primary pump, can cause mastitis because they don’t do a good job of fully draining the breast every time. I recommend using it for power pump sessions, on the go, at work and traveling.


Standard double electric pump is the best choice in my opinion. Use one that your body responds best to and is in your budget if you didn’t use insurance to get it. One that says hospital grade preferred. Severe low supply, consider renting a Medela Symphony, they work every time for most people.


Manual hand pump, well you use your hand to manually pump the device. Some people love them, some people hate them. They do pull a lot of milk out but can be a lot of work and not friendly for those with postpartum arthritis. Keep one handy in a pinch in the car, at work or when you travel. 


6. Hire a lactation consultant!



I’m available for virtual support anywhere in the world, truly! I have clients from the UK to Japan, Iraq to Atlanta, to name a few and of course my local folks. I also have a clinic in San Diego and offer home visits as well for 6 weeks and under. Let me fix this problem for you and with you, I’d be honored to be your guide. My rate for virtual support currently starts at $125/hr. It's a 60 mins session and you will receive a plan of care and 1 week of free 24/7 text support with me. If you have a PPO insurance, your visit may be covered, check here: 


Keep in mind, I support all feeding methods and choices, and family structures. I can help with infant feeding topics beyond breastmilk, such as bottle feeding (any milk), solids, weaning, pumping and more! A big one for virtual support is questions about medications and substances such as cannabis and alcohol.

7. Acupuncture and Acupressure 


A colleague of mine, Alisa Galvan, L.AC., IBCLC is also a Chinese medicine practitioner here in San Diego. She has some fantastic resources on how to improve milk supply with these methods. You can find her at PUSH San Diego. https://alisagalvan.com/ & https://www.pushsandiego.com/


Your milk is made from your blood, acupuncture helps your blood flow and thus your milk flow. Try acupuncture with a qualified practitioner and let them know why you are doing it. There are several other benefits you can learn more about here with my colleague Dr. Shani Cooper, LAc, DACM at Root and Soul in San Diego. https://www.rootandsoul.com/




Remember, every lactating journey is unique, so don't be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you and your baby. And most importantly, give yourself plenty of grace and patience along the way. You're doing an amazing job, mama (and daddy too)! Here's to manifesting happy babies, full bellies, and lots of milk!


Evidence Based Sources:



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