How to Increase Breast Milk Supply

As natural as it is, breastfeeding also comes with some stress for new moms, who often worry about their breast milk supply. Unlike bottle feeding, where you can see exactly how much your baby eats, breastfeeding often seems like a guessing game. The good news is there are some easy ways you can tell that your baby is getting enough, and that you are producing enough.

Chances are your milk supply is fine. But certain things, like supplementing with formula, can affect your breast milk supply. Here’s how to know if you’re making enough and how to increase breast milk naturally at home.

Are You Making Enough Breast Milk?

Your body produces breast milk on a supply and demand basis. The more often your baby feeds, the more milk you’ll make. Most newborns will feed eight to 12 times every 24 hours because their tiny tummies only hold small amounts at each feeding.

Your baby will tell you if you’re producing enough breast milk and if they’re drinking enough. Not in words, of course, but by their signs and actions. Look for these indicators that your baby is happy and well-fed:

  • They have at least six wet diapers every day by the end of the first week.
  • They’re producing loose, mustard-yellowish poop at least three times a day by day four or five.
  • You can hear or see your baby swallowing when they’re feeding.
  • They seem content, relaxed, or sleepy after feeding.
  • They’re gaining weight — about four to seven ounces per week after their first week.

It may take up to four weeks for your milk supply to sync with your baby’s needs. It should gradually increase as your baby’s appetite grows and they feed longer or more often. But sometimes, certain factors can limit or reduce your milk supply.

This might happen if you:

  • Have a hormonal condition that interferes with milk production, like PCOS.
  • Have had breast surgery that affects your milk ducts.
  • Develop mastitis (an infection in your milk duct).
  • Drink alcohol or smoke.
  • Aren’t getting enough sleep.
  • Take birth control pills or other medications, like antihistamines.
  • Supplement breastfeeding with formula.
  • Introduce solid foods before your baby is four to six months old.
  • Cut your baby’s feedings short instead of letting them decide when they’re done.
  • Pump breast milk but express less milk than your baby would normally take.
  • If your baby has feeding or latching problems that prevent them from emptying your breasts, your milk supply can also begin to diminish.

If your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk, they may seem fussy or unsatisfied after eating. They may also want to nurse more frequently.

Fortunately, you can often boost your milk supply. But if you’re wondering how to increase breast milk in a day, it probably won’t happen that fast. It may take up to five days to restore your milk supply if it’s dropped off.

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How to Increase Breastmilk Naturally at Home

To increase your milk supply naturally, encourage your baby to feed frequently and for as long as they like. Avoid supplementing with formula or using a pacifier. Look for these signs, which might indicate that your baby is hungry, and offer them your breast:

  • They’re awake and making little sounds.
  • They seem restless.
  • They turn their head toward you and open their mouth.
  • They lick their lips or put a hand in their mouth.

Having skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby can also help increase your milk supply. This close cuddle time helps your baby relax so they may feed longer. It also relaxes you and stimulates hormones that release milk from your breasts.

Self-care is also vital because if your body is struggling to stay balanced and healthy, you may produce less milk. Self-care tips for new moms include:

  • Get enough sleep. Try to nap as much as possible when your baby is sleeping or in between feedings.
  • Make sure you’re eating enough. To produce adequate milk, you’ll need about 500 extra calories a day (compared to your pre-pregnancy diet), so grab some healthy snacks. Easy, nutritious options include overnight oats with Greek yogurt, veggies with hummus, or peanut butter and sliced bananas on whole-grain toast.
  • Stay hydrated. While breastfeeding, you’ll need about 13 cups of fluid each day to produce enough milk for your baby. Hydrating fluids include water, milk (regular or non-dairy), and herbal tea.
  • Take time for yourself. Set aside time each week to exercise, attend a yoga class, go shopping, or have your hair done. Enlist help from friends or family whenever possible so you can take time to relax and destress.

How to Increase Milk Supply When Pumping

A breast pump is helpful if you’re returning to work or will be away from your baby and unable to breastfeed them. Using a breast pump can also help increase your milk supply if you do it correctly.

Pumping works the same way as breastfeeding, so the more often you pump, the more milk you’ll produce. These tips can help increase milk supply when pumping:

  • Use the right pump. Manual pumps are portable and less expensive, but a good electric one can mimic your baby’s suck to extract more milk. A hospital-grade double electric pump can be a useful tool when trying to increase supply.
  • Pump from both breasts at the same time if you can.
  • Pump frequently, aiming for at least 15 minutes every two to three hours.
  • Use a breast pump to express more milk after or in between breastfeeding sessions.

When to Ask for Help

Whether you’re breastfeeding for the first time or your fifth, each experience is different, so it’s normal to have questions or concerns. Lactation consultants are a breastfeeding parent’s best ally. They are valuable members of your healthcare team with expertise and special training in all aspects of breastfeeding.

It’s always wise to talk to a lactation consultant if you have health issues that might limit your milk supply. They can offer advice on ways to stimulate milk production or supplement breastfeeding. A lactation consultant can also watch your breastfeeding technique and help correct if your baby isn’t latching on or feeding correctly.

Most importantly they can reassure you that you’re doing a great job feeding your baby. Sometimes, that’s just what a breastfeeding parent needs to hear.

USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support. Low Milk Supply. LINK

American Pregnancy Association. Do I Have a Low Milk Supply? LINK

Frontiers in Psychology. Mother–Infant Skin-to-Skin Contact: Short and Long-Term Effects for Mothers and Their Children Born Full-Term. LINK

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.