Natural ways to boost breast milk supply

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One of the most common reasons for discontinuing breastfeeding is low milk supply – real or perceived. Dwindling breast milk supply can be caused by a variety of factors including ineffective latch, not nursing often enough, hormones, certain medications, stress and nutrition. The good news is many supply issues can be overcome with a little help.

The Fundamentals

Before throwing in the towel on breastfeeding, speak with your pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant. They can help you decide if your baby is getting enough and if your milk supply is truly dwindling. A lactation consultant will help ensure your baby is latching and nursing effectively and is in the proper position during feedings. If you’re pumping, they can provide guidance on proper size of flanges as well as suction and speed of the pump.

Once you’ve ensured the mechanics are in proper order, nurse and/or pump often. The amount of milk your body makes is based on supply and demand – i.e., the more milk that is removed (via nursing or pumping), the more milk your body will produce. In addition to nursing more often, fully drain both breasts at every feeding to signal your body to produce more milk (hint: this isn’t always as simple as feeling for breast fullness).

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Keep Your Milk Flowing

After addressing the above front-line strategies, if you feel like your milk supply still needs a boost, other natural approaches may be enlisted.

Eat Enough

Making milk is hard work and your body needs an additional 300-500 calories per day to pump out that liquid gold. Therefore, eating regularly and getting enough calories from a variety of nutrient dense foods is key to maintaining milk supply. Grab a healthy snack when nursing or pumping in between meals to help with the increased calorie needs.

Hydrate Often

Water is a key component of breast milk. While breastfeeding, water needs are increased, so aim for 10+ cups of water daily to quench thirst and help support milk supply. If you drink 1 large cup of water every time you nurse or pump, you’ll be well on your way to achieving this goal. Keep a water bottle (or 3) within arm’s reach so you can sip on it throughout the day. (I kept several bottles strategically placed around the house and office.)

Sleep!

Prolactin and oxytocin, key hormones involved in milk production, increase when you sleep and lack of sleep can have a negative impact on breast milk supply. Even a quick power nap can boost levels. So it turns out the age-old advice to “sleep when baby sleeps” really is important. While I realize this is not always realistic, make it a priority to get adequate rest. Plus, a little extra shut eye is a pretty luxurious way to maintain milk supply!

Manage Stress

Stress, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, causes a rise in cortisol levels which can have a negative impact on oxytocin and other hormones that regulate milk production. Stress can also hamper the let down reflex. Take a few moments every day to unwind and destress. Take a bath, read a few pages in a favorite book, do some deep breathing or meditation while nursing or pumping, practice yoga or stretching, etc. – whatever brings you peace, calm and happiness.

Incorporate Milk-Making Foods

Lactogenic foods, also known as galactagogues, are foods, spices and herbs that support lactation. It comes from the Latin word ‘lac’ meaning “milk” and ‘genic’ meaning “producing.”

While more research is still needed to prove the efficacy of lactogenic foods, they are often used by breastfeeding women with success. However, what works for one person may not work for the next, but it’s worth a try! And remember that without adequate and frequent removal of milk (via nursing or pumping), no combination of lactogenic foods will work.

Stick with fresh versions of lactogenic foods as much as possible. If you opt for a supplement, check with your provider or lactation consultant first to determine safety and appropriate dosage.

If something seems to be working, once you have achieved the desired milk supply, slowly cut back on the lactogenic food(s) so you won’t overdo it. Oversupply is another issue that could lead to an entirely different set of problems you don’t want!

Brewer’s Yeast

Fenugreek

Flax Seed

Ginger

Oats

 

Do What Works

At the end of the day, fed is best and both baby and mom need to be healthy. There is no one right way to achieve this. Hopefully you’ll be able to continue on the feeding journey you planned for, but if it ends up looking different or changing before you anticipated, that’s okay. Whatever feeding decisions you make is the right one for you and your family – remember this!

 

Strawberry Banana Lactation Smoothie

Makes 1 Serving
Recipe Adapted from Exclusive Pumping
PRINT RECIPE

This smoothie contains 3 lactation boosting ingredients - Brewer's yeast, flax seeds and oats - to help keep your milk flowing. Plus, it's a meal or snack you can enjoy with one hand, leaving the other hand free to care for baby 🙂

Ingredients

¼ cup rolled oats, dry (not cooked)
½ banana
4 frozen strawberries
½ cup milk
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp Brewer’s yeast
1 tsp flax seed
1-2 tsp honey (optional)

Directions

  1. Put oats into blender and process until well ground.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  3. Add more liquid, if needed, until desired consistency is achieved.

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About Author

Ashley Bailey, MS, RDN, LDN

Nutritionist

Ashley is a Nutritionist at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Biofeedback Instructor, and has a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys spending as much time as possible at the beach, running, cooking and crafting. Follow @abaileyRD on Twitter.

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