1. Increase the Frequency of Breastfeeding and Pumping Sessions
Milk supply is based on supply and demand. The more demand for milk, the greater your supply. Skipping feedings, supplementing with formula (and not pumping to accommodate for that feeding), or going longer stretches between feeds can negatively affect your output of breast milk.
Add in an additional feed once or twice a day to keep supply up. Many mothers have more milk during the morning due to the hormone prolactin produced at night. Pump after a morning feed when you breast milk is typically greater, or add in a nighttime pump to keep your body producing.
How does prolactin affect milk supply? The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains:
“Prolactin is necessary for the secretion of milk by the cells of the alveoli. When a baby suckles, the level of prolactin in the blood increases, and stimulates production of milk by the alveoli. The prolactin level is highest about 30 minutes after the beginning of the feed, so its most important effect is to make milk for the next feed. During the first few weeks, the more a baby suckles and stimulates the nipple, the more prolactin is produced, and the more milk is produced. This effect is particularly important at the time when lactation is becoming established. Although prolactin is still necessary for milk production, after a few weeks there is not a close relationship between the amount of prolactin and the amount of milk produced. However, if the mother stops breastfeeding, milk secretion may stop too – then the milk will dry up.”
2. Incorporate Hand Expression with Pumping
This technique is also called Hands-On Pumping. Hand expression aims to make the most of a pumping session by fully draining the breast of milk and releasing all of the fatty hind milk. Think in terms of “pull” and “push.” An electric pump pulls the breast milk from your body while hand expression pushes milk out.
Start with hand expression before pumping. Use two fingers to make small circular motions around your breast. Concentrate on the outer edges and work your way in towards the nipple. Then, cup your hands into a C shape and stroke in a downwards motion to release your milk letdown.
Pump both breasts until milk goes from a stream to a trickle and then turn off your pump. Remove the flanges and repeat the steps above. Pay extra attention to any areas that might feel like small knots underneath your skin. These are ducts that still have milk built up in them. Massage those areas carefully to release the additional milk.
Put the flanges back and pump for an additional five minutes while you continue to massage the upper area of the breast.
3. Try “Power Pumping” for One Hour
Power Pumping aims to jumpstart your breast milk production by upping the frequency of feeds. “Frequency is more important than overall time spent expressing,” says Lindsey Shipley an IBCLC-certified Lactation Coach.
To power pump you simply pump for 10 minutes, and rest for 10 minutes, and so on for an hour. While you are power pumping it is safe to keep milk at room temperature in the bottle. Try doing this twice a day for two days and see how your breast milk supply changes.
4. Add Galactagogues to Your Daily Diet
Galactagogues are any food, beverage or supplement that are used to increase or boost breast milk supply. While further research is needed to study galactagogues, mothers for generations have used these foods to boost breast milk supply. Common galactagogues include:
- Rolled Oats
- Brewers Yeast
- Flax Seed
And what about eating lactation cookies to increase breast milk? Most recipes include healthy ingredients that are canceled out by tons of added sugar. For a healthier alternative, try Milkful bars. Milkful Lactation Bars are packed full of galactagogues and designed specifically to help breastfeeding mothers who are experiencing a dip in supply without adding sugar to their diet.
5. Speak to a Lactation Consultant
Lactation Consultants train and teach mothers how to breastfeed and feed their babies. These professional breastfeeding specialists help women address the root causes of milk supply issues. While women often consult with a Lactation Consultant at the beginning of their breastfeeding journey, many mothers need additional support during a schedule change or new developmental stage.
Common times to work with a Lactation Consultant for low milk supply include when your child begins teething to adjust their latch, when you are preparing to return to work to master pumping techniques, or when your child is older and breastfeeding habits evolve. They can also walk you through all of the steps for safely storing and unthawing frozen breast milk.
Looking for a lactation consultant? Try the International Lactation Consultant Association or ask your OBGYN or hospital to provide you with a recommendation. Your child’s pediatrician could also be a good resource for connecting with an experiences professional to help with low milk supply.