Breastfeeding moms often have a concern about being unable to meet their baby’s hunger demands. In most cases, milk production increases as demand increases. This means that your body will produce more milk as your baby’s demand grows. So the more you nurse, the better will be your supply. However, many moms have to return to work in a short time after delivery. This might mean pumping breast milk for storage. So, whether you are nursing at home or pumping breast milk; there are a few proven ways to increase milk supply. Let us take a look…
1. Practice skin to skin contact
This is the best way to increase breast milk naturally at home. Your body has a built-in mechanism that triggers hormones which increase milk supply when your baby comes in contact with you. So even while you are in the hospital in the first few days after delivery, make sure you hold the baby frequently. Even if your baby is hospitalized, try to get a skin to skin contact when you visit.
2. Work with a lactation specialist
In the early days of breastfeeding, many mothers are unable to get their baby to latch on. Improper latching can lead to many problems such as sore breasts, blisters, mastitis or clogged milk ducts. Therefore, it is very important to review your positioning. Make sure you hold the baby properly so that it is able to nurse well. This is an important step to increase breast milk supply. A lactation consultant will also help you with tips to increase the supply when pumping.
3. Feed your baby every time she demands it
Infrequent and inadequate feeding are the main causes of decreased milk supply. So learn to recognize hunger cues. Your baby will cry or start sucking her fingers or licking her lips. This is an indication that you need to feed her. In the first few months, your baby will demand nursing every 2-3 hours. Breast milk gets digested easily so you must nurse as frequently as possible. Very weak or premature babies tend to fall asleep during nursing. This could decrease your supply. Make sure you wake the child up and encourage her to nurse for at least 10 minutes.
4. Tips for pumping
At times, mother and baby may be separated. In such cases, mothers need to pump as many times as they would nurse-which means in a period of 24 hours, one needs to pump at least 8 times. Always use the best, highest quality pump available in the market. Collect the breast milk in clean, sterilized bottles and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use. Make sure to pump completely until no milk drips. Always pump milk from both breasts. You can try and target to pump each breast for at least 10-15 minutes each time. Also try hand expressing after using the pump.
5. Avoid pacifiers and artificial nipples
Never use artificial nipples or pacifiers as they confuse the baby and could lead to improper latching. An ineffective latch can even decrease your milk supply.
6. Know if your supply is indeed less
There are a few signs that your milk supply is low. First of all, a hungry baby will be a cranky baby. She will cry constantly. Also there will be issues with weight gain. If this is the case, your doctor might recommend supplemental milk. Do weigh your options carefully. The more supplements your baby takes; the lesser your supply. Instead, try to offer your breasts more frequently and this will increase your supply.
7. Use gentle self massage
A gentle self breast massage while nursing can also increase breast milk supply. Gently compress and stimulate the breasts and rotate your hand to feel for any un-drained, hard or lumpy areas.
8. Get adequate rest
The milk making hormone prolactin is stimulated during sleep. So try to get adequate sleep between nursing sessions.
9. Eat foods that help produce breast milk
Many foods help produce breast milk and increase the supply. Common ones are dill, fennel, caraway, coriander, anise, etc. Ayurvedic supplements like Shatavari also increase breast milk supply. Also take fenugreek in moderate quantities. Talk to your lactation counselor about herbal galactogogues you can take safely without side effects.
10. Drink plenty of water
As you nurse frequently, you will find yourself getting thirstier. So drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Instead, go for herbal teas, juices, soups, stews and broths.
11. Alternative therapies
Many complementary and alternative therapies have helped mothers and babies increase breast milk supply. These include acupressure, chiropractic therapy, acupuncture etc. Always talk to your primary health consultant prior to using them.
Finally, know that nature has provided you with all the tools you need to become a mother. So trust your baby, trust your breasts and most importantly trust your instincts. If you feel something is not right, talk to a lactation consultant to guide you.