How Can I Increase My Milk Supply?
While breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural process, it can be more difficult for some women than others. Getting a good latch is usually the first hurdle to overcome*, followed by supply issues. Women can experience low milk supply for a number of different reasons, most of which can be overcome. It’s a great idea to familiarise yourself with this information before giving birth, as it will help give you confidence in your body and its abilities.
*Please, please seek support if you struggle with this, information is provided at the end of this blog.
Increasing Milk Supply After Labour
It’s important to remember that during the first few days after having a baby, you produce colostrum, which is incredibly nutrient-rich and thicker than normal breastmilk. The colostrum gives your baby a kickstart of antibodies and is produced for around the first five days. Because colostrum is thick, your baby has to work a little harder for it and there’s less of it, compared to later when your milk “comes in”. It’s the (seemingly constant) suckling that gives your body the signal to kickstart milk production, but it’s these first few days during colostrum production that worries some new mums, so they begin to formula-feed, which means that baby is suckling at the nipple less, further delaying milk supply.
Colostrum develops during pregnancy. It's the first milk you produce when starting breastfeeding. Colostrum is yellow and thick and incredibly nutrient-rich.
If you do choose to supplement with formula during those early days, the best thing you can do for your milk production is to make sure you’re still regularly getting your baby to suckle, at least as often as they’re receiving formula.
Increasing Milk Supply In The Early Weeks
Your milk has come in, but you worry that there’s still not enough of it. Queue, panic. This is the point at which many new mums speak to their well-meaning friends and family, who advise them that some women just don’t make enough milk and suggest swapping to formula.
Now, this is absolutely your choice, and hopefully you know by now that we’re a judgement-free zone, but we also believe in mums having the information to make the decision that’s best for them. So, with that being said, it’s worth knowing that only 1-5% of women cannot physically make enough milk to feed their child. There are many, many more who have had to stop breastfeeding due to supply issues, but these women were generally not given the right support at the right time by medical professionals.
Keep in mind that when your baby is 1 week old, their tummy is the size of a cherry and can only hold up to 2oz of milk, that’s ¼ of a cup. That tiny little stomach doesn’t hold much, and it empties fairly quickly. Some days, it will feel like you’re breastfeeding almost constantly - these days will pass.
By feeding frequently babies stimulate milk production. Newborns might feed 8-12 times per day during the first few days. Once milk production is established and baby starts to grow, frequency and duration of feeds will drop.
If you’re still concerned about your supply, the La Leche League offers these suggestions:
- Make sure that your baby is well-positioned and attached at the breast. This will include checking for any reason the baby might not be able to attach and feed well (e.g. tongue-tie).
- Hold your baby skin to skin as much as possible.
- Offer the breast as soon as your baby shows any signs of interest in feeding, at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, waking baby if necessary.
- Switch sides and use breast compressions to increase milk flow.
For ongoing support from other breastfeeding mums, check out boobingit.com which offers resources, a podcast and a great community of parents sharing their experiences.
If you’re experiencing breastfeeding difficulties, you’re not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence. Contact your midwife who can point you in the direction of local support, or contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 (9.30am to 9.30pm, daily).
Want to read more about the days following childbirth? Check out Postpartum Self-Care.
Originally from New Zealand, Sarah is a mother to two boys and has lived in the UK for the past 10 years. She is a home-educator, freelance writer, Netflix-binger and has a penchant for strong black coffee.