How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply

When you begin breastfeeding, you may wonder if your baby is getting properly nourished. If you notice your baby is not gaining weight or getting through nappies, it could be that she’s not getting enough breast milk. This can happen if your baby is not latching on correctly or, in rarer cases, if your milk supply is running low. It’s very rare that women don’t make enough for their babies, but it can take a while for you to feel confident your little one is getting enough. It's always wise to talk to your health visitor, nurse, or breastfeeding specialist if you have any concerns. If you are worried about your milk production levels, read on to discover ways to increase your milk supply naturally, and learn why you may be lactating less than you would like.

Signs Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk

Instead of trying to gauge the quantity of your breast milk production, it’s more important to keep an eye on the signs that your baby is getting enough milk. Think about these questions:

  • Is your baby gaining weight? One of the most reliable signs of successful feeding is your baby’s steady weight gain. Keep in mind your baby will likely lose a little weight within the first two weeks, but this should be regained after the first couple of weeks. Take a look at this growth chart, which will help you track your baby’s development along with your midwife or health visitor.

  • Is your baby getting through nappies? The number of newborn nappies your baby goes through is a good indicator of whether she is getting enough milk. Expect to change six wet nappies per day from day five onwards, and check that your baby has two soft, yellow poos a day for the first few weeks from day four. The stool will be dark and sticky in those first days after your baby is born, but will become loose and yellowish afterwards. The colour of the urine should be pale yellow – not dark yellow or orange in colour.

  • How often does your baby breastfeed? Newborns tend to feed 8 times or more a day for the first few weeks. It’s fine to feed your baby whenever she is hungry or when your breasts feel full.

  • Does your baby seem happy between feeds? If your baby seems satisfied, happy, alert, and active (not cranky or fussy) when she’s awake, chances are she is getting the nourishment she needs.

If your baby isn’t getting enough milk, you may also notice that she is sleepy all of the time or most of the time. Be sure to call your baby's GP if this is the case.

What Affects Breast Milk Production?

If your newborn isn’t getting the nutrition she needs, it’s more likely to be because she is not latching onto your breast correctly as opposed to you not producing enough milk. Read up on how to get her to latch on correctly for some extra tips. Nevertheless, there are some factors that can cause your breast milk production to decrease, including:

  • Waiting too long to start breastfeeding (ideally you may aim to start breastfeeding about an hour or so after giving birth, however, in some cases this may not be possible)

  • Not breastfeeding often enough (experts recommend breastfeeding about 8 or more times a day)

  • Using certain medications, such as those containing dopamine, ergotamine, and pyridoxine

  • Your baby not latching on correctly and therefore not prompting the production of milk

  • Having had breast surgery

  • If your baby was born prematurely.

How to Produce More Breast Milk

The good news is there are ways to boost your milk supply. These ideas may help:

  • Breastfeeding as soon as you can. If you can, try not to wait too long after the birth of your baby to begin breastfeeding and holding your little one skin to skin. However, in some cases, for example, if you’re recovering from a caesarean section, you may end up starting to breastfeed later. Don’t worry if this is the case for you, because below we have even more tips on boosting your breast milk supply.

  • Express breast milk or use a breast pump regularly. The more you can express breast milk by hand or with a pump, the more breast milk you’ll produce. This is also a good option if you’re breastfeeding and returning to work.

  • Breastfeed often. Your baby will probably want to feed 8 or more times a day. If your baby feeds often, you use a breast pump or express by hand between feeds, your breasts will be stimulated into making more milk.

  • Make sure she’s latching on properly. It’s important your baby has latched on correctly and swallows while feeding. If in doubt, a breastfeeding specialist, midwife, or your health visitor will be able to help you confirm your baby has latched on and is swallowing properly.

  • Feed from both breasts. Remember to alternate between breasts. Both need to be drained to produce more milk. You can also use a pump to express any built-up milk.

  • Don’t skip feeding times. You’ll want to keep your feeding schedule up. If you’re working while breastfeeding and you’re pumping breast milk, try not to miss any sessions, as this can affect your milk supply.

  • Talk to your GP or health visitor about medications. Some medications can decrease milk production. Discuss your medication options with your doctor, as solutions may be available that are suitable to take while breastfeeding.

  • Seek help from a breastfeeding specialist. If you’re still unsure whether you’re producing enough milk for your baby, talk to a breastfeeding specialist, midwife or your health visitor for personalised guidance.

So don’t worry! Even if you feel your milk supply is on the low side, there are steps you can take to boost your breast milk production. By following these tips and talking to your health visitor or doctor, you can make sure your baby is getting the nourishment she needs.