Are you worried about your supply of breast milk? Are you anxious because your baby doesn’t seem to want to do anything except eat? Does he or she never seem to settle fully between feeds or only settle for short periods? This can all be normal behaviour for very new babies, but no matter how old your baby is, there are some things you can do to increase your milk supply. That way you’ll know that if there is a problem, it doesn’t lie with your breast milk supply.
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Supply and Demand
Your body produces milk on a very simple supply and demand system. If all of your milk is removed, hopefully by a baby, your body produces even more for the next feed. This enables us to strategically increase demand artificially to increase your supply.
- You may have thought or heard about expressing or pumping milk. This is an excellent way to increase the amount of milk your body produces and can produce results fast.
- There are many ways to express milk. Some people like to hand express, others will use a hand pump, others prefer an electric pump. You can even get a double electric pump. Yes, you can feel a bit like a milking machine, but let’s be honest, pregnancy isn’t all that great for dignity or glamour. This is for your baby, right? You’ll do anything to keep them well fed. That includes attaching yourself to an electric pump several times a day. For suggestions of good quality double pumps, trying this search on Amazon.
- The key to expressing or pumping to bring in more milk is to do it after the baby has fed. That way you know that the baby is getting everything they want before you collect the remainder or put in the order for more.
- Try expressing or pumping for 10 minutes on each side after every other feed to begin with. Obviously, a double electric pump will be finished in 10 minutes, whereas hand expressing or a single pump will take 20 minutes to do the same. However, some people may get a better let down reflex from hand expressing and end up collecting more milk than they would using a pump. That might be because they feel more comfortable hand expressing – the milking machine analogy can certainly make some women feel uncomfortable enough to slow production. There is no right or wrong way to express and sometimes only trial and error will show you what your body prefers.
- You may not collect a lot for the first couple of sessions but this is very normal. It simply means your body will be getting clear signals that the supply needs to increase. Just keep going and over the next 24-48 hours you will find the amount you collect increasing.
- If you don’t want to spend extra time expressing after you’ve fed your baby, you can get your baby to make the demand for more milk. Sometimes babies will get so very comfortable and relaxed during a feed that they don’t eat everything they could before they fall off to sleep.
- If your baby seems to fall asleep after only a short time at the breast, why not try switch feeding?
- Start feeding the baby on one breast. When you notice the baby slowing down take them off and put them onto the other breast. You need to switch breasts before baby gets sleepy if possible. This means they may only feed for 2 minutes before the sucking and swallowing rhythm slows down. That is the time to switch breasts. Do this 3 times over the feed if possible so that both breasts have been fed from twice. This will definitely remind your body that there is a big demand for milk!
- When you take the baby off the breast to switch onto the other one, try talking to them before you put them on the second breast. Lift them so that they are facing you vertically and try to catch their attention with soft encouraging words. This may help them wake up a little more.
- Another classic midwife trick for waking up a rather sleepy baby in order to put them on the breast is letting them hang. Holding the baby securely with both hands under their armpits, lift them up into the air so that their legs are no longer supported by the bed or your lap. Although the baby is perfectly safe, they don’t like the sensation of having their bottom half unsupported, so it may wake them or even make them a little upset. I don’t recommend doing it for long periods! Just use it as a 2-second thing to wake them up enough to put them back on the breast. And tell them it was the nasty midwife’s idea if they complain!
Passive milk collection
- Have you noticed that your breasts are leaking milk? Does that feel like a waste of the good stuff? There are ways to collect this leaking milk so that it can be used to feed your little one, rather than getting lost in a muslin cloth or your favourite nursing top.
- Try using a silicone breast pump. This is a pre-formed silicone cone which is shaped to fit onto your breast and collect the dripping milk without any pumping action, manual or electric, required!
- I like this one at Amazon:
- Nipple shells can also collect the dripping milk if you don’t feel you have such great quantities. Shells are also great for wearing even when you aren’t wanting to collect the milk. If your nipples are really sore, nipple shells can help reduce the pressure on them from your bra or top.
- Amazon has this twin pack with great reviews:
Keep to a schedule
- The easiest way to boost your milk supply requires no extra money to be spent, which is great news since babies are very expensive little creatures! It’s such a good job they’re so cute!
- The simplest technique is simply putting the baby to the breast more often. Babies are definitely the most efficient at removing milk from a breast. You may find you get nothing when you use a pump or hand express but your baby is getting plenty of milk when they feed at the breast. That’s absolutely fine!
- Keep sleep periods short if you want to increase your milk supply. For healthy babies, demand or baby led feeding is recommended. That means as long as the baby gets at least 8 – 10 feeds of 10 minutes or more in 24 hours, we don’t mind how long the gap between feeds is.
- However, if you think you need to increase your milk supply, try planning for a feed every 2.5 – 3 hours maximum. Gaps of 4 hours or longer might be normal in healthy babies who feed 8 – 10 times in 24 hours, but they won’t stimulate an increase in milk supply.
- You can be kind to yourself and try waking the baby more frequently for feeds during the day. Let him or her have longer sleeps during the night. Don’t make your sleepless nights even harder by waking yourself and baby every 2.5 hours overnight!
Keep watching for hunger cues
- Sometimes we miss an opportunity to put the baby on the breast because we haven’t noticed that they are hungry.
- Keep your baby close to you, preferably in the same room. You can then notice the signs of hunger which come before crying, such as licking their licks, searching with their mouths open and sticking out their tongues. If you have left your baby in a safe place in another room you may want to consider bringing them back to your side when the 2.5 hour point comes, as they may already be beginning to stir.
- Don’t use a pacifier all the time. Pacifiers can be really useful as a baby gets older or if your newborn just seems to be a very sucky baby who wants to suck even though they’ve fed well.
- However, if you want to increase your milk supply, then the baby needs to be using your breast as its pacifier instead. You can still use the pacifier overnight if you would rather have that help for settling the baby to sleep. Just consider avoiding using it during the day.
IF YOU THINK YOUR BABY IS UNWELL BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH MILK, SEEK ASSISTANCE FROM YOUR DOCTOR, MIDWIFE OR HEALTH VISITOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. DO NOT WAIT TO TRY THESE TECHNIQUES AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.
THE TECHNIQUES ON THIS PAGE SHOULD ONLY BE USED BY MUMS WITH HEALTHY BABIES WHO WANT TO INCREASE SUPPLY FOR CONVENIENCE OR PRACTICAL REASONS.