Formula Shortage got you down? Try these tips to increase your breastmilk supply + reasons for dips!
Updated: May 31, 2022
So you think your supply is low?
Wanna know how to increase your milk supply? Keep reading!
Many lactating people anxiously think that they have a low milk supply, when their supply is usually fine, meaning established, regulated and with a happily growing baby.
You are not alone if you're worried about whether you're producing enough milk to feed your baby. This is totally normal, since you can't really see how much breastmilk your body is making or how much your little one is drinking the same way you can with bottle feeding. But trust me, there are plenty of ways to know that your baby is getting enough milk from you.
Most lactating parents make enough breast milk for their babies, in the early weeks many people make more than what their baby’s milk intake needs are. An average lactating person, with a full milk production routine established and maintained, will produce about 25-35oz milk per 24 hours. If the first month of exclusive breastfeeding is going well, your milk production dramatically increases from about one ounce (30 mL) on Day 1 to around 30 oz by day 40 postpartum. True low supply is believed to affect only 10% to 15% of lactating parents.
When the milk supply is adequate but other issues are at play like excessive gas or a growth spurt, that may be causing the fussiness coinciding with feeding times, leading parents to think their baby is not getting enough milk. When low supply does happen, it's usually temporary & with proper guidance you can do things to bring your supply back up.
The safest ways to increase your milk supply are to make sure your baby has a good latch, breastfeed or pump often, and maybe add some lactogenic foods to your daily eating habits.
Let’s take a look to see if your supply is truly low, and if it is, ways to address it!
We will learn:
Feel free to click on the titles above to jump ahead and skip to the section you need!
Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
First, let’s address this common question/concern...
For the majority of the public, your amazing body will naturally be able to create the perfect milk supply for your baby’s individual milk intake needs. Your body started laying the framework for this chest/breastfeeding journey while you were going through those awkward stages of puberty. Those little lumps swoll up with glandular tissue to become milk making houses for your future babies. If you want to be even more precise and in depth, this started when you were created as a baby in your own birth givers womb! Around 16 - 20 weeks pregnancy is when hormones facilitate the formation and enlargement of small sacs called alveoli in the breast tissue. These sacs secrete milk during nursing in response to your baby's suckling. The size of your breasts does not affect milk production. We don't store a lot of milk in our breasts on average-- 3 to 4 ounces, which is about enough for one feeding. A few of you reading this may notice or wonder, if your breasts may be underdeveloped or have insufficient glandular tissue, and in this case you may need more assistance from a lactation professional along your journey. Please remember that some chest/breastfeeding IS STILL chest/breastfeeding!
Chest/Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand system
The more demand on the system/body through effective and efficient feeding at breast or pumping/hand expression, the more milk the body makes. It’s a simple yet intricate dance to get milk production established. We are not perfect and neither is mother nature. Sometimes the body takes a day or two to catch up to a baby's increased milk demands during a growth spurt. This is stressful but very normal! Don’t expect everything to work as planned, be open to change and set realistic short term goals, this is how you will be successful on this journey.
Your boobs are sisters, not twins, (shoutout to IBCLC colleague Heather Sherman at SDBFC for that analogy!) and always have been in every way, look at them, one is ever so slightly or maybe a lot larger or smaller than the other, but they look good and come from the same mother with the same working parts. They will not always produce the same amount and that amount varies throughout the day and it fluctuates by session. This is to be expected, so don’t freak out when one sister decides to make 2oz and the other makes 4oz, you made 6oz total right? So it doesn’t matter which boob it came from, as long as you empty them both often.
Additionally, time spent at the breast is NOT an accurate measurement of how much milk your baby has consumed. We have to watch their body language, I speak baby and encourage you to learn to speak baby too! This way you know when baby is full or hungry by their cues rather than the clock. Many parents think a feeding session longer than an hour means the baby getting a lot of milk, but this isn't necessarily true and can even indicate a problem. In the early days/weeks babies may be slow to eat, but should become more effective and efficient overtime.
More breastfeeding when together means less milk needs to be expressed. The amount of milk per day babies need between 1 and 6 months remains pretty stable, on average between 25 and 35 oz. (750-1050 mL) per day. By thinking of the 24-hour-day as a whole, it becomes obvious that the more times each day the baby breastfeeds directly, the less expressed milk will be needed while parent and baby are apart. But many don’t realize that dropping breast feedings at home and encouraging baby to sleep more at night adds to the amount of expressed milk baby will need during the day. Understanding these basics of breastfeeding can go a long way in helping you meet your long-term infant feeding goals.
Here’s how to speak baby & learn to watch for signs of milk transfer:
Listen to hear your baby swallow while they feed
Look for milk in the corners of their mouth, especially after they unlatch
Watch for satisfied and content behavior after nursing like falling asleep after feeding
Check for chest fullness, should feel less full than they did before the feeding started
For my structured or data driven parents, some more precise ways of making sure your baby is getting enough milk:
Newborns will lose as much as 10% of their birth weight in the first few days after birth. This is normal, do not be alarmed! After that initial loss, they should begin gaining weight consistently. Most babies gain at least 0.5 to 1 ounce per day for the first few months, and they are back up to their birth weight within 10 to 14 days. If you're worried, book a lactation consult and ask for a weighted feed. Take your baby to the pediatrician by the 2 week check up or sooner, to ensure all is well. If you struggle, ask your midwife, OBGYN, pediatrician or doula to recommend a lactation consultant or to give you the information for a breastfeeding support group like La Leche League (those are everywhere, international). Also try local birth centers and reach out to birth worker, parent friends, online groups, etc.
Wet diapers are also a good sign that your baby is getting enough. Once your milk "comes in" or rather increases in volume by day 3-5, you should see an increase in the number of wet diapers. By day six, your baby should be going through at least 6 to 8 wet diapers every day—or more.If you're worried about knowing how much milk your baby is getting, track how many wet diapers your baby has over the course of the day—and call your doctor if you think it’s a not been enough diapers. While not ideal, it is not uncommon for some babies to go three to four days between bowel movements. Formula stools are different from breastmilk stools, formula often leads to gas, constipation, GI/tummy issues. Breast milk is very easily digested & gentle on the tummy creating less “bad” waste. Infant probiotics, baby massage, infant chiropractic can help babies who are experiencing poop irregularity.
Warning Signs of Dehydration
If you see the following signs, seek medical attention immediately because your baby could be dehydrated:
Less frequent urination
Few tears when crying
Reluctance to feed
Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
One of the most common causes of low breast milk supply is a poor latch. If your baby is latching on properly, they may not be able to get the milk out effectively and efficiently, which can cause your body to produce less milk. It's the removal of milk from your breasts that tells your body to make more. If you aren't sure if your baby is latching well, have a lactation consultant evaluate the latch with you. Sometimes little changes in positioning can make a big difference in latch and comfort. Try laid back positions or football/clutch for a deeper latch.
Not breastfeeding often enough is also a common reason milk supply might dip. Most newborns need to feed every 2-3 hours—during the day AND the night. The more you put your baby to the breast, the more you will stimulate your body to make the right amount of milk supply for your baby's needs.
Each time you feed, try and let your baby eat for about 15-20 minutes per side, offering the other side if baby is still hungry. If your baby nurses for less than 5 minutes, that's likely not enough time for the milk to be fully drained from your breasts, which can negatively impact your supply. If they are failing to stay awake, try rousing techniques like massaging the palms of their hands, soles of feet, ears, remove clothing so they aren’t too cozy, talk to them and play with and kiss those cute tiny arms and hands. If your baby often seems to be tired from eating 5 mins into the feed or less, contact your pediatrician and an IBCLC to figure out the root cause of this as it can lead to poor weight gain.
When babies go through growth spurts they have wild appetites, and they may appear ‘hangry’ all the time, inconsolable without the boob, and as a result, it can make you feel like you have a low milk supply when in reality, it's just that your supply hasn't caught up to the demand of your baby's new needs due to this growth spurt, and there will be more than one!
Download the wonder weeks app to track these leaps more closely and know when to prepare. Babies can get frustrated too, and sometimes this is why they cry. They will get over this hurdle in a few days, and all will be ok even when it feels like it won’t be. You have an opinionated little person already and that's ok! If you feed your baby when they show early signs of hunger, your body will recognize the increase in demand and it will make more milk. You should begin to see that increased supply within a few days as the growth spurt subsides and your milk supply matches up to the demand.
Milk supply self sabotage? - Try to Avoid:
Letting your baby sleep for extended periods of time between feedings
Giving a pacifier in place of a feeding instead of after or between
Not feeding on demand
Missing hunger cues or feed sessions
Factors That Affect Milk Yield
Your baby’s age
Whether or not you’re exclusively breastfeeding; combo feeding decreases supply
Time passed since your last breastfeeding or pumping
Time of day
Your emotional state
Your breast storage capacity
Your pump quality (hospital grade is most efficient and effective) and flange fit, yes there are more sizes than what it comes with the standard of 24mm and 27mm
Your baby’s age
How much milk a baby consumes per feeding varies by age and—until one month or so—by weight. Newborn stomachs are tiny, during the first week most full-term babies take no more than 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 mL) at feedings. After about four to five weeks, babies reach their peak feeding volume of about 3 to 4 ounces (90 to 120 mL) and peak daily milk intake of about 30 ounces per day (900 mL)
An exclusively breastfeeding baby receives only breastmilk (no other liquids or solids) primarily at the breast. Giving formula regularly will cause you to express less breastmilk than an exclusively breastfeeding person, because the milk production in a combo feeding parent will be lower.
Time elapsed since your last milk removal. On average, after the first month of life, an exclusively lactating parent can expect to pump:
About half a feeding when pumping between feedings; 1.5 - 2 oz (45 - 60 mL)
About a full feeding if pumping only no feeding at breast; 3 - 4 ounces (90 - 120 mL)
Time of day
Most pump more milk in the morning than later in the day. That’s because milk production varies over the course of the day. During afternoon & evening, milk production is often slower, so more feeds during this time is normal for the baby to get a full feed. 30 - 60 mins after the first morning feed is a great time to pump. No matter when you pump, you can pump on one side while nursing on the other to take advantage of the baby-induced let-down and save yourself some precious time by multi-tasking. A hands free pumping bra like this one by Kindred Bravely, can help accomplish other tasks while you pump both sides.
If you feel stressed or angry when you feed or pump, this releases adrenaline into your bloodstream, which can seriously inhibit your milk flow. I’ve seen it with many clients especially through the pandemic. If you’re feeling down and aren’t able to express as much milk as usual, take a meditation break and pump later, try again when you’re feeling calmer and more relaxed. If you need mental health support, try Postpartum Health Alliance or Postpartum Support International. Get therapy if you need it, and for my melanated mamas try Therapy for Black Girls as a resource to find a trusted Black therapist.
Your chest storage capacity
This is the maximum amount of milk available in your breasts during the time of day when your breasts are at their fullest. Storage capacity is based on the amount of room in your milk-making glands, not breast size. People with a larger storage capacity usually pump more milk per session than those with a smaller storage capacity. What matters is how much the baby is getting over a 24-hour day, not per session, as it varies. Breast storage capacity explains many of the differences in breastfeeding patterns and pump yields that are super common. Baby may want to eat more often with smaller breasts(smaller storage capacity) and less often with larger breasts(larger storage capacity). Frequency at breasts does not always indicate a problem. Ask an IBCLC to help you determine if baby is getting enough at your chest with a weighted feed session.
Pump quality and fit
Automatic double pumps that generate 40 to 60 suction-and-release cycles per minute are most effective at expressing milk. Pump fit affects your comfort and milk flow. Pump fit is not about breast size; it’s about nipple size. It refers to how well your nipples fit into the pump opening or “nipple tunnel” that your nipple is pulled into during pumping. If the nipple tunnel squeezes your nipple during pumping, this reduces your milk flow and you pump less milk. A too-large or too-small nipple tunnel can cause discomfort during pumping. Small-breasted people can have large nipples and large-breasted people can have small nipples. Also, because few people are completely symmetrical, you may need one size nipple tunnel for one breast and another size for the other, this is normal.
You know you have a good pump fit if you see some space around your nipples as they move in and out of the nipple tunnel. If your nipple rubs along the tunnel’s sides, it is too small. It can also be too large with too much space around the tunnel. Ideally, you want no more than about a quarter inch of the dark circle around your nipple (areola) pulled into the tunnel during pumping. If too much is pulled in, this can cause rubbing and soreness. You’ll know you need a different size nipple tunnel if you feel discomfort during pumping even when your pump suction is near its lowest setting.
Formula Shortage or Natural Disaster
The return of your period has caused a dip in your supply of breast milk
Preemie or ill child/baby
Relactation - You stopped but would like to start again (results may vary)
Induced Lactation - Adoption/Surrogacy/Bonus Parents
Hormonal birth control methods
PIMS (perceived insufficient milk supply) due to PMADs or other mental health conditions
True Low Milk Supply
A true low breast milk supply can happen. When someone’s supply is low, it is often due to an underlying issue that prevents the person's body from producing the full needs of the baby. Some can be managed, but others cannot be changed or fixed. True low milk supply can be caused by a wide array of things from exhaustion to extreme stress, previous breast surgeries, hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), belly birth or recovery from traumatic birth, certain medications, IGT (insufficient glandular tissue), underdeveloped breasts, some chronic illnesses, or lactation failure (rare).
Galactagogues: Do you really need those cookies and teas?
A substance that increases milk supply is called a galactagogue. Galactagogues can include foods, herbs, or medications. Some of the most commonly used herbal galactagogues are moringa, oats, fenugreek blessed thistle, and alfalfa. There are also prescription medications that can increase milk supply. Before you decide on any type of galactagogue, consider your reasons for doing so. Remain cautious about potential side effects or interactions and always ask a trusted IBCLC to help find out the root cause for your supply concerns and then you can make an informed decision on which galactagogue or medicinal options might be best and safest for you with a doctor and herbalist approval.
Some examples in which people consider using a galactogogue:
To increase pumping output, even if the baby remains well nourished with nursing.
Used in combination with increased milk removal by pump or baby with additional sessions of either or both.
Non-birth giving, adoptive, bonus and surrogate parents may wish to induce or increase the volume of milk to provide for a nursing baby/child.
Keep in mind, the methods for increasing milk supply that are non-herbal and non-medicinal are usually sufficient to provide the desired results, however if this has not worked on it’s own, adding a galactagogue to the mix/routine of increased feeding frequency and milk removal may be even more effective. Taking a liquid form of a plant, versus a dried powdered form, delivers more potent properties and is more readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Some types of galactagogues work better in particular situations and not in others.
All of these galactagogues, whether herbal or prescription medication, have potential side effects and drug interactions that must be considered for each individual person and baby. There are a good amount of herbs and prescription medicines that help to increase milk supply but also have related uses for digestive problems. Fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel, alfalfa, metoclopramide and domperidone to name a few. People with blood sugar issues should refrain from using Fenugreek and opt to ask your lactation consultant about alternatives instead. Check with your lactation consultant and medical care provider for information specific to your individual circumstances.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: Now that we understand milk production. You know that Body armor, gatorade, drinks from Starbucks or any other chain, beer and other TikTok myths are not going to increase your supply! These drinks are all helpful in other ways like helping to balance or restore electrolyte balance in the body, which makes you well hydrated. I don’t care what Mariah Carey told you, Beer is not going to give you an abundant supply. If you feel tipsy or drunk you should refrain from breastfeeding until you are sober. You don’t need to dump your milk after 1-2 drinks but beyond that use with caution and proper guidance. If you want a beer, drink your alcoholic beverage and wait 2-3 hours before feeding or pumping. Clearing the alcohol from the bloodstream is the goal, small trace amounts may remain but will not be harmful to a healthy full term nursing baby. Some suspect beer to help because of the brewers yeast in it, while the yeast may have some slight impact on possibly increasing production, drink responsibly because there is a right and wrong way to drink and breastfeed, let me show you how in this video I made.
Some people like to try more non-conventional holistic methods like the use of cannabis or CBD products. It works similarly to beer in that it may help relax you and take the edge off, give you some happy feelings which promote a good letdown and flow of milk production; but it will not increase your supply. Because of insufficient long-term data on the outcome of infants exposed to cannabis via breastmilk, health professionals' opinions on the acceptability of breastfeeding by cannabis-using lactating people varies. According to the CDC Data is insufficient to say yes or no. I’m not generally opposed to it, but I think healthcare providers should--without bias--discuss these options on case by case basis. Learn more in my most viewed blog Cannabis & Breastfeeding : Lit Tits
A Few Commonly Used Galactagogues:
Probably number one most commonly used; I’m not a huge fan of it but some really like it, so I’m here for it but I’m not living for it! Mostly because it shouldn’t be used by just anyone for a plethora of serious health reasons. Blog coming soon “WTF?! What the fenugreek and other lactogenic herbs”. Stay following!
Eating a bowl of oatmeal, if nothing else, is healthy. Sometimes it can increase milk supply.
Oatmeal is a good source of iron. It is known that anemia/low iron levels can result in a decreased milk supply, so it makes sense that eating something high in iron might increase milk supply in some. Oatmeal is warm and comforting, anything that increases relaxation can encourage let-down, and hence improve milk supply/flow. Oatmeal, oat bran as well as fenugreek and alfalfa are known to decrease cholesterol. Oats are not associated with any adverse effects. Those with gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) should eat oats with caution.
No scientific evidence regarding oatmeal and milk supply, oatmeal does seem to work for some. In some countries, it is traditional folk medicine to eat oats for milk production.
Malunggay (Moringa) – A Super Food
Malunggay – also known as moringa, moringa oleifera, “miracle tree” – has traditionally been used to supplement the necessary minerals (iron, calcium, potassium, zinc), vitamins (A, C, E, and the B complex), and protein in pregnant and breastfeeding folks. It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India, and widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas all over the world. This tree is miraculously packed with 90+ vitamins, minerals, vital proteins and amino acids, antioxidants, and omega oils, and is often used to treat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing people. Delivers anti-inflammatory support, promoting healthy digestion, increasing energy, and helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and circulation. It has also been used to reduce swelling and as an antibacterial agent. Specific to breastfeeding, people have used it for generations to support healthy lactation. As malunggay is comparable to other dark leafy greens, its incorporation into a lactating diet is safe for both lactating person and baby. Evidence shows that malunggay can act as a galactagogue, even among mothers who give birth to preterm infants. Moringa capsules are available in a liquid herbal extract and are vegetarian.
Quantitatively, malunggay (moringa) provides more micro and macronutrients per gram of plant material than many other plant species. Gram for gram, malunggay leaves (fresh and dried) contain:
● 17x the calcium of milk
● 15x the potassium of bananas
● 9x the protein of yogurt
● 10x the vitamin A of carrots
● 7x the vitamin C of oranges
● 25x the iron found in spinach
All around the world, various cultures have foods that they give to newly lactating and postpartum parents after childbirth. These lactogenic foods may help promote healthy lactation. While using foods to boost breast milk production is generally considered safe, according to my ancestors, talk with a healthcare provider before using herbs or medicines while pregnant or breastfeeding.
When added to healthy well-balanced eating habits, these foods are believed to boost breast milk supply and promote healthy flow of milk production for the baby:
Green leafy vegetables
Many plants, herbs & spices are also used as galactagogues, although scientific clinical evidence is lacking. These are a few herbs used in the form of teas, herbal supplements, etc. have been used since the beginning of time, shoutout to Eve, for improvement of human milk production:
As an adult, I’ve been pouring myself into learning the history of my African American roots, the things they don’t teach us in public school, SMH. ‘Working The Roots’ is an outstanding book, I highly recommend it. This book full of Black & Red healing practices that "enslaved Africans brought from their homeland blended with knowledge of the healing arts already present among the indigenous people of America". It is just a small testimony to the use of galactagogues within a historical context, explaining the use of specific herbs and plants in our culture for healing purposes.
Sometimes galactagogues don’t work for medical issues such as underdeveloped breasts or previous breast cancer treatments, prevent the production of a healthy breast milk supply, and the body is just not able to respond to galactagogues. It is important to speak with a doctor or a lactation consultant before trying any medications or herbs. Your provider will provide the proper dose of herbs and help you determine which herb or combination of herbs will work the best for your situation.
A medication is a drug used to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. Drugs are classified in multiple ways. When necessary, a trusted competent doctor can prescribe medications to induce or increase supply. Medications are often the last resort after all other options have failed.
Prescription drugs to induce lactation are most helpful if you'd like to feed an adopted child or child through surrogacy or bonus parent for sharing feeding responsibilities, or even if you want to start breastfeeding again after you have stopped for a while also known as relactation. Yes, all this is really possible!
These methods are also helpful if you're pumping for a premature or hospitalized baby and you have a low breast milk supply from an underlying condition or traumatic birth. Ask your NICU about donor milk and other ways to help with advocating for your baby having your expressed breastmilk to help them grow and get stronger.
Two most common prescription medications that may help increase milk production:
Other drugs such as oxytocin nasal spray, sulpiride, thorazine, TRH, and human growth hormone may also have an effect on breast milk supply, but they are not as commonly used. Ask your healthcare provider or lactation consultant to share more information with you on the benefits, risks, alternatives to these medications if you are interested.
When to Seek Help of a Healthcare Provider:
If you would like to increase the amount of breast milk that you're making, talk to a trusted IBCLC, which is a clinical lactation provider (sometimes covered under insurance). If you have an insufficient milk supply, they can work with you to find out the cause and try to correct it. Be sure to take your child to regular well baby visits with their pediatrician for development and weight checks.
Supplementation tips for the win:
If you are unable to increase your milk supply, you can still breastfeed and remember that beyond nourishment, it’s a unique comfort and bonding experience that only you share with your child! You may make decisions to supplement your child with additional nutrition, such as alternative milk such as formula. When past 6-9 months, complementary foods after often introduced. While supplementation may be a deal breaker to some folks, we must believe that some breastfeeding is better than none.
Supplementation can be a hard reality to accept for some, this may have shattered your goals and desires for your infant feeding goals, it’s ok to be sad about this and it’s normal to feel defeated. You are always doing what you can and providing for your baby’s needs. This sometimes means supplementing their needs, to make up for the difference in any gaps in nutritional needs so they are able to be a healthy growing human.
Supplementation has three options, when your breastmilk production is a bit off from your baby’s intake demands, you can try:
Pump extra milk
Ask for pasteurized (it's safe) human donor milk
Formula. With regards to formula, your options are organic or non-organic. They are all formulated according to the FDA requirements but some have often unnecessary added components like more iron, DHA, etc. Brand isn’t as important, focus on the properties of what’s in it. Consider plant based, vegan, soy or hypoallergenic for allergy or sensitive babies or dietary restrictions/concerns per medical reasons. Do your research and check the label and for recalls often. Don’t feel bad about combo feeding because weaning from formula is very possible with the help of a lactation consultant or pediatrician well versed in breastfeeding.
For alternative methods of milk feeding:
Bottle feeding - practice paced bottle feeding to mimic and preserve the breastfeeding eating rhythm
Spoon feeding - great for newborns and preemies; first 0-5 days
Cup feeding - a good step up / transition from spoon feeding
Syringe/Tube Feeding - SNS (supplemental nursing system) can be used with your own expressed milk, donor milk or formula to keep baby at breast during alternative feeding
Finger feeding - great for adoptive and bonus feeding parents
Some examples in which people consider using a galactagogue:
To increase pumping output, even if the baby remains well nourished with nursing.
Used in combination with increased milk removal by pump or baby with additional sessions of either or both.
Non-birth giving, adoptive, bonus and surrogate parents may use galactagogues to increase the volume of milk to provide for a nursing baby/child.
Keep in mind, the methods for increasing milk supply that are non-herbal and non-medicinal are usually sufficient to provide the desired results, however if this has not worked on it’s own, adding a galactagogue to the mix/routine of increased feeding frequency and milk removal may be even more effective. Some types of galactagogues work better in particular situations and not in others. All of these galactagogues, whether herbal or prescription medication, have potential side effects and drug interactions that must be considered for each individual person and baby.
The average lactating person does not need galactagogues to increase or maintain supply. In most cases, your breastmilk supply will match up with demand, which means that if you regularly feed your baby, your body should produce enough milk to support their growth and development.
At the end of the day, the best way to increase your milk supply is to feed or pump more often. Offer the breast to your baby or pump at least every three hours to develop a routine and become more comfortable & confident with chest/breastfeeding. The process of frequent milk removal from the body is what creates the signal to make more milk. Breast compressions can be helpful–hold your breast between your thumb and fingers, then gently squeeze when your baby is only suckling but not drinking.
Try to keep your baby on one side until your breast has been fully drained of all or most of the milk before switching sides. Some babies will happily take both sides in one session, others are satisfied off one, do what works best for your baby and follow their cues and lead. If you are unsure if your baby completely emptied your breast then you can try pumping about 15-20 mins after the feed to further express it. If you get all the milk out, your body will be stimulated to create a larger amount for the next feeding.
Take good care of yourself while feeding, try to have well-balanced eating habits, stay hydrated to thirst, and rest as much as you can with side lying feeding hold. If you can’t get to a lactation consultant, try a breastfeeding support group, there are a ton out there!
The 3 rules to start a successful chest/breastfeeding journey:
Feed the baby - at breast or with a bottle; breastmilk, donor milk or supplemental milk
Protect the Supply - through frequent pumping or feeding every 2-3 hours
Care for body, chest, nipples - by moisturizing and creating a protective layer from increased stimulation; use liberally and often: coconut oil, breastmilk, organic nipple butter, any edible oil safe for baby and ingestion, or medi-honey for severe damage, not real honey which will harm or cause death to a baby under 12 months.
Check Your Baby's Latch
Make sure that your baby is latching on correctly. A proper latch allows your baby to remove the milk from your breast efficiently. If you are not sure if your baby is latching on well, get help from a lactation expert.
Stimulate Your Breasts More Often
The more you breastfeed or pump, the more breast milk you're telling your body to make. You can stimulate your breasts more often by feeding at breast at least every 2 to 3 hours around the clock. Use a hospital grade breast pump to pump in between feeding sessions to increase stimulation. Don’t let the pump fool you, it’s not your indication of your supply being low. You may not pump the same amount of milk out as your baby can get out, which might make you worry that your baby's feedings are that small or smaller than they should be. However, if your baby is gaining weight, has a lot of wet diapers, and seems otherwise to be happy and healthy, they are getting enough milk—you don't need to stress.
A word on pumps:
Single user electric pumps (double or single) can be purchased on Amazon or most big box stores like Target, these are all the same but the motor is not as strong as a hospital grade pump, pick the one you like best and do your research first. You can wait until after birth to purchase a pump, rent one or get one through your insurance or WIC. If you are exclusively pumping, be sure to pump at least every 2 to 3 hours until your breast milk supply is established and regulated. Pumps are tricky, you have to find the one that your body responds to the best. For this reason, I highly recommend working with a lactation consultant to do a flange fitting and help find the one that is right for you.
Caution to my overachievers:
For those who are doing this “pro-actively”, it is ok to increase your frequency to increase the output in a way that doesn’t cause harm to your body or health. However, if your supply is not low, perhaps you have plenty of milk, and you overstimulate your breasts/chests. You’ve now ‘tricked’ your body into thinking there is maybe more than one baby hence production goes into overdrive. With this, you may cause adverse reactions such as, oversupply or plugged ducts and left untreated mastitis, a whole ‘notha beast when we talk about supply struggles.
If you believe your milk supply is low for any or none of these reasons, whether valid or perceived, then it will be extremely beneficial to contact a board certified lactation consultant or certified breastfeeding specialist or counselor, for one-on-one help for your particular situation. In my opinion–there is no one size fits all answer for chest/breastfeeding struggles, which is why you must seek individualized competent support if you have an issue.
Whew Chile that was a lot...more recap, because...#MomBrain:
Increasing stimulation to improve production : More stimulation & output the better your production and increase in supply. The only guaranteed way to increase your supply is to increase your stimulation & effective efficient milk removal or transfer frequently and often as every 2-3 hours
Power pumping : Mimics cluster feeding; natural way to trick your body into doing what it naturally does but sooner & more often to increase stimulation & build or boost supply
Lactogenic Foods can be helpful, eat it if you like it, but don’t go out of your way
Supplements : try it with permission from a doctor, midwife and/or IBCLC, Moringa, Smoothies, teas, tinctures, pills, can be helpful under proper guidance of an IBCLC or medical professional.
Treatments: like massage and/or acupuncture for improving blood flood. Milk is made from blood; so keep it flowing well to keep production going well.
Myths : Don't let these old wives tales or Tik Tok tales, to take your money or play with your mind! Body armor, coconut water, gatorade, lactation smoothie mix or powder, protein powder, any other magic milk pill or substance will not increase your supply!
There is no magic pill or fix that will miraculously increase your milk supply in abundance or to the desired effect. Your body will only create the perfect amount and type of milk for your baby or babies. If there is more than one baby, your baby will adapt. If there is only one baby you will 9 times out of 10 be able to produce the right amount of milk for that baby. Given the right support and guidance, you should be able to handle it should you run into any initial problems or concerns.
Lastly, I’m a promoter and advocate for chest/breastfeeding through and through. However, I think choice and options are huge for all families to be confident in their parenting skills. Therefore, here are my tips for finding formula during this shortage if you are choosing to go that route for whatever reasons.
How to survive the formula shortage 2022
Find a IBCLC to Relactate or Induce lactation, even if you never have
Try imports from the UK or Canada
Ask your pediatrician about donor milk or any alternatives you are considering
Try a different brand; if baby is not medically fragile
Consider infant probiotics for gut health; formula is harsh on the tummy
Join a parent support group - to find local suppliers or resources
Address any issues hindering successful breastfeeding - oral restrictions like tongue tie, positioning & latch difficulties, PMADs, low supply due to underlying conditions
Check other stores: small stores, kosher stores and pharmacy’s, mothers stores
Do not make your own formula
Do not dilute formula
Always follow directions - ready to use concentrate vs. needs to be mixed
Liquid cows milk based formula is more sterile than powder formula
Always check for recalls and tampering, check here
Practice paced bottle feeding, try this video
I’m also an elected official on the Board of Education since 2018 for a large local school district in my county, where I oversee 22 schools and the superintendent. Here are my two cents (rant) on this matter as it relates to my passion to support public health, women, infants, children and families:
Where is all the formula they give out readily free at hospitals & boxes that magically appear in your mailbox or door after you create a baby registry or sign up for some app. And why is the country providing $28million in “relief efforts” for that but nothing towards medical care to fix breastfeeding struggles? Especially because most if not all can be solved. Why not give out breast pumps and encourage methods, techniques and supplements that can aid towards increasing milk production?
Capitalism, that’s why, and America is showing it‘s ugly greedy little face with this one while babies out there dying, they worried about rules and keeping borders protected, by that I mean, keep the “others” milk out and avoiding saving the lives of babies who are of human beings no matter where they come from.
This is not a state of emergency, we have plenty of tits with good milk out there. Let’s use them, like the good Lord intended us to do in the first place! So much so that women out here selling their breastmilk to help others and shit, for some of us, marginalized folks, that means we are helping ourselves by serving others with that extra coin from the liquid gold your body produces so well.
Apparently, we have 1.5 million 8oz bottles of formula coming from Switzerland, that was Biden’s “big” idea?! Epic fail. What we supposed to do with that? 37,500 - 50,000 babies fed but that’s only for 1 day! So, what do we do the remaining months? Why not look outside the box, or remove the damn box completely. We have companies here in America (land of the “free”) like one in Pennsylvania, that is a new independent formula producer. Yet, it’s not FDA regulated yet therefore, they won’t push it. Get more shit regulated then government so people don’t continue to suffer any more than we have through nationwide shootings and a global pandemic!
This formula shortage has been predicted to last the rest of the year. Families deserve to be aware that this could potentially lasts months. Unfortunately, as always, marginalized families will suffer the most as the imports cost is too high and we have less options in our food desert like areas. Black women make way less than white women and men, our babies will likely take worse than them due to this simple wage disparity that has yet to be resolved or addressed.
So what can we do:
Buy from online reputable safe vendors
European formulas are reliable
12+ months older cows milk
Plant based milks do not have same level of fat or protein
Toddler formula is not a necessary; babies can’t use it
Premature milk ok for babies full term few weeks old
Do not make formula of any kind; could potentially cause fatality
Do not dilute as you can throw off the electrolytes your baby needs for it’s body to work properly balanced
There is No safe way to do this! TikTok lied to you. Calcium, iron and zinc are important and you can’t add those to homemade. Essential to baby’s development. Can make them sick because it’s not sterile enough to eliminate harmful bacteria.
OK to switch brands unless baby has special medical needs.
Say No to auction sites! They ain’t right.
Babies with specialized problems like allergies, ask your pediatrician.
Pregnant? Book a prenatal lactation consult to ensure you can get off to a good start and try to avoid any supply issues by getting ahead of it. A prenatal consult can check for any preexisting conditions or impairments that may infringe on your rights and ability to breastfeed with success.