Natural Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply

I’m pregnant with baby number 3, and I really want to breastfeed. Unfortunately, I did not produce enough breast milk for my first two pregnancies. Is there anything I can do to increase my supply? And can I start now or do I have to wait until Baby is born?” ~Sydney S.

Congratulations on your third baby bun – and your determination to breastfeed this time. That is the first and most important step in ensuring that the third time is the charm.

That said, you were also determined the last two times. So to give breastfeeding the winning edge this round, let’s add hands-on support to the mix. An IBCLC (a certified lactation consultant) can provide that support, along with knowledge of breastfeeding not necessarily being a common issue, as breasts do. As I always say, breastfeeding is a natural process – but it’s not always natural, and it’s inevitable to go with the flow, especially when the flow seems slow.

There’s no reason to assume that because your body didn’t produce enough milk in the past, it won’t now. There are physical factors that can contribute to a low supply, but they are uncommon — for example, an imbalance of thyroid or other hormones, diabetes, previous breast surgery (with a reduction more likely to affect milk supply rather than enlargement), or lack of developed glandular tissue in the breasts (size doesn’t matter – it’s what’s inside that counts). Mostly, it comes down to breast economics 101: Demand creates supply. Breastfeeding early and often — and getting that support from an IBCLC as early and as often as necessary to make sure you and baby are on target — is almost always the key to making enough milk.

And that’s true even before you’ve made your first drop of milk. Just the baby’s sucking on teaspoons of colostrum takes the breasts to the next level of production, stimulating them to make milk, and then to do so in larger quantities — quantities meant to keep up with the growing baby. appetite and baby’s stomach size.

In reality, demand is not always where it should be right away. After an hour or so of lovely alertness, the perfect time for meeting and greeting but also for eating (that’s where “early” comes in), newborns are usually very sleepy, but not so hungry. They are usually more eager to sleep than to nurse (that’s where “often” becomes more of a challenge). Waking your baby every 2 to 3 hours for feeds — and waking him back every time he nods off — will help ensure he gets the antibody-packed colostrum he needs, and your breasts get of stimulation they will get. he has to make milk that he is about to starve. Once his needs increase (some babies continue to need wakeup calls for weeks to come), feeding on demand – rather than by the clock – will keep the supply where he wants it. and it is necessary. Sometimes, that demand can seem a little over-the-top (so-called cluster feeds, common during growth spurts, can make a mom feel like a diner that’s open 24/7), but that’s increasing supply — and babies. . Power pumping (similar to cluster feeding) can also pump up the supply significantly.

Sound easy? Sometimes it is. Sometimes, not so much — and that’s where lactation support comes in. To check position, latch, procedure, and otherwise troubleshoot and resolve the problem. Fortunately, most problems can be solved.

Something else you and baby should have early and as often as possible: skin-to-skin contact. Snugging skin-to-skin at birth and beyond (especially during feeds, but anytime is a good time) not only promotes bonding and boosts your mood, but it’s linked to a more good chance of breastfeeding success. Plus, it feels amazing (as you already know from previous cuddling experience, Sydney!)

Thinking of Mother’s Milk tea — or some lactation cookies to go with that tea? There’s no shortage of theories and anecdotes on what foods and drinks and supplements can pump up supply, but there’s no reliable research to back them up. Be sure to check with your baby’s doctor or your OB practitioner before you turn to any herbal supplement. Lactation cookies are often packed with healthy ingredients (not to mention, the energy-boosting B vitamins every new mom needs) so there’s no need to get the all clear before whipping them back up.

Other steps you can take before that first feed, besides securing lactation support (start scouting now) include taking a class, reading up on breastfeeding at and at What to Expect in the First Year (knowledge is power, mama!) and learning how to relax. Too much stress can definitely put a damper on breastfeeding success — so download some Calm and get busy. You can start pulling in these exciting skills now, but you’ll find them especially useful in early feeding sessions. No prior preparation is required for your breasts or your nipples (if you’re thinking about pumping early, that’s not only unnecessary and ineffective but can lead to premature contractions). They come to breastfeeding fully equipped, if not fully loaded.

The really, really good news is that the fact that you’ve been there, done that twice doesn’t mean you’re less likely to succeed at breastfeeding – it just means you’re more likely to succeed. Especially if you get the support you need at this time.

And you know I’m always there to help!



Help me, Heidi! is a weekly advice column where What to Expect creator Heidi Murkoff answers your most pressing pregnancy and parenting questions. She covers the things you want to know today — so if you have a question, ask Heidi in Facebook and he might answer in an upcoming column. (Not sure if Heidi answered one of your questions? See other columns here.)

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