You made the decision to breastfeed your baby even before they were born. But now that your little one is here, you’re finding that nursing your newborn isn’t going as you expected it would. In fact, you’re struggling to make enough milk to keep Baby satisfied. Although the thought of your baby being hungry can send you into a panic, there are things you can do if your milk supply is low.
Take Your Delivery Into Consideration
You knew that you would be nursing on demand, but no matter how much you’re bringing your baby to the breast, they’re still star-ving. But it might not be a problem with your milk-making abilities, but rather your body’s response to the whole birth experience. “A question to cover with the mom, even before you talk about different remedies and supplements is, ‘What kind of delivery was it? Was it a vaginal delivery? Was it a C-section, was it a traumatic or stressful delivery? The type of delivery can play into the production of prolactin as well,’” says Dr. Vonne Jones, M.D., FACOG, a board-certified OB-GYN at Total Women’s Care in Houston, TX. “Often what happens after a C-section specifically, is the body goes into fight or flight syndrome and the body is going to be worried about providing blood flow to different organs as opposed to making milk.” Only after your body comes out of that fight or flight mode and things start to stabilize, that can help play a part in allowing breast milk to come.
Ensure That Baby Has The Proper Latch
If you thought that Baby comes into the world already knowing how to breastfeed perfectly well, think again. While babies will instinctively go towards your nipple to nurse, they can still struggle to effectively breastfeed. So your milk supply might not be low, but rather you and Baby are still working on your nursing know-how. “The best way to produce more milk is through proper latch or pumping technique and through appropriate frequency of feeding,” says Jada Shapiro, a maternal health expert and founder of boober. A lactation consultant can offer insight into how your baby can achieve their best latch — and subsequently consume more milk.
Make Sure Baby Is On The Breast Long Enough
Babies are infamous for screaming their lungs out to eat…and then falling fast asleep at the breast only a few minutes into a feed. But even if you don’t want to wake your baby, letting them snooze instead of nursing can impede your milk supply. “Usually if patients come in, we’ll first ask them ‘How often are you pumping?’ or ‘How often are you putting the baby on the breast?’” says Dr. Jones. “Because the problem could be that they’re not actually pumping enough or actually putting the baby on the breast enough, which is not stimulating the hormone prolactin that allows for breast milk.” According to Dr. Jones, you should ideally breastfeed every two to three hours if you can, because that will allow for an increase in prolactin and increase your milk supply.
Eat Foods That Promote Breastfeeding
No matter how often you’re nursing, (or how long Baby’s breastfeeding sessions are), your milk supply might still be low. If that’s the case, your pediatrician or lactation consultant might recommend revamping your diet to prime it for boosting your milk supply by using galactogogues, which are substances that are used to induce, maintain, and increase milk production. “Now when you start to think about breast milk supply and how to increase it, there’s a couple of things in terms of studies that have suggested that ingredients or different herbs that are found in a breastfeeding tea for example, that can increase the milk supply,” says Dr. Jones. “The most common one that I feel like a lot of patients know about is Fenugreek which is an herb that can be found in breastfeeding tea.” Fenugreek can also be found in lactation cookies and it has been shown to increase milk supply. But it can also cause a reaction in some people who have a peanut allergy or with thyroid disease, so speak with your doctor before taking any type of supplement.
While fenugreek is the most popular herb to take to help in breastfeeding your baby, there are definitely others that can work just as well. “Some common foods, herbs and supplements that may have milk boosting properties include oats, brewer’s yeast, almonds, turmeric, fenugreek, blessed thistle, moringa and many more,” says Shapiro. “Moringa is full of essential vitamins and amino acids and is high in iron. Two studies have found positive that the consumption of moringa can increase milk supply.” In addition to being good for you, oats have significant amounts of iron, and it’s thought that low iron may contribute to a low milk supply, Shapiro adds.
As for Brewer’s Yeast, (which is used to make beer), “it has also been shown to help milk supply,” says Dr. Jones. “Brewer’s Yeast has a ton of vitamins in it such as B vitamins, iron as protein, but there have been some studies that suggest that it can also increase the milk supply too.”
“A lot of patients will drink the mother’s milk or mother’s milk tea which will also have basically those herbs in it,” continues Dr. Jones. “That will increase the chances of increasing milk supply.” And if you love cooking with garlic, it’s also been known to boost milk production, too.
Seek Out Supplements
If you’ve adapted your diet and you’re still concerned about your milk supply, you may want to try using supplements to help. “There are a couple of companies that make tinctures and supplements that combine the right amount of herbs and other compounds to give mothers the best chances of increasing milk production,” says Liza Janda, a certified lactation educator counselor. “These can be added to foods, smoothies, and drinks.”
Supplements that increase breastmilk supply:
And just as you might be concerned about what foods can help make milk, you should also know the ones to stay away from. “Breastfeeding mothers should avoid peppermint, parsley and sage,” advises Andrea Tran, RN, MA, IBCLC, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant. “These are reported to reduce milk supply.” And the belief that beer can help boost milk supply? Well, it’s kind of questionable. “Beer has ingredients that help with milk supply, but it can also cause dehydration which can have a negative impact on milk supply,” says O’Connor.
Ask Your Doctor About Medications You Can Take
In addition to herbs and TK to help with your milk supply, there are medications that you can take that can also maximize your body’s ability to make breastmilk. “There are some studies that indicate that metoclopramide and domperidone can be prescribed – these increase prolactin and are best used within three weeks of beginning breast feeding and should be used for about two weeks for metoclopramide and one week for domperidone,” Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, M.D., an OB-GYN and Senior Medical Director with Babyscripts explains to Celebrity Parents. “There may be side effects like diarrhea and depression for metoclopramide and some heart arrhythmia for domperidone.” That’s why you should use these medications with caution and only if nothing else has worked.
It can be nerve-wracking when your milk supply isn’t meeting the demand of your hungry baby. Fortunately, there are so many options that you can explore with your healthcare provider to ensure that your baby has enough milk for each feed. And once you start putting that into practice, things will be flowing again before you know it.
Tabares, F., Jaramillo, J., Ruiz-Cortes, Z. (2014) Pharmacological Overview of Galactogogues, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4165197/
Koletzko, B., Lehner, F. (2000). Beer and breastfeeding, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11065057/
Dr. Vonne Jones, M.D., FACOG, a board-certified OB-GYN at Total Women’s Care in Houston, TX
Jada Shapiro, a maternal health expert and founder of boober
Liza Janda, a certified lactation educator counselor
Andrea Tran, RN, MA, IBCLC, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant
Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, M.D., an OB-GYN and Senior Medical Director with Babyscripts