Just because breastfeeding is natural doesn’t necessarily mean it comes naturally. Many women struggle with producing enough milk, which can be confusing and frustrating. So, we’ve rounded up all the tips, products and natural supplements that can boost your supply and keep that liquid gold flowing.
We also recommend talking to your ob-gyn and a lactation consultant for more personalized guidance, and to run your milk-boosting plan by them.
Food, Drinks & Supplements
Galactagogues (pronounced gah-lak´tah-gogs) is a fancy word that means a food, herb or supplement that can help increase breast milk supply. Add it to the things you never heard of before you embarked on motherhood but is all of a sudden an essential! Here's a list of the most common and helpful galactagogues:
Fenugreek seed. It has been used since the 19th century and is probably still the herb most associated with increasing milk supply (some say it can increase flow by 900%). It's a common ingredient in Indian dishes and is similar to clover. Steep a teabag of it to get full benefits and a sweet maple syrup taste.
Fennel. It's your choice how you want to take this sweet-smelling, highly nutritious herb: Cook with it, toss it into a salad, or take it in the form of a supplement. It's said to be an excellent, natural way to increase breast milk production. It’s also available in an essential oil form.
Flaxseed and flaxseed oil. Flaxseed has phytoestrogens that can influence breast milk production. Flaxseed also contains essential fatty acids.
Oatmeal. This common breakfast food is fantastic for building and maintaining your milk supply; it's also high in iron, which helps new moms who are anemic. Any oatmeal should work—rolled, old-fashioned, steel-cut, even oatmeal muffins.
Alfalfa. Known for its ability to increase breast milk production, alfalfa also provides the body with essential vitamins and minerals. Many midwives encourage their clients to supplement with alfalfa for six weeks before birth and several months afterward.
Brewer's yeast: This healthy nutritional supplement contains B vitamins, iron, protein, chromium, selenium and other minerals. Not only can it help you make more breast milk, it may also give you more energy and have a positive effect on your mood (yes, please!).
H20: Staying hydrated is important for everyone, but especially while breastfeeding. The milk nursing mothers produce is 88% water; when a baby feeds, the mother will lose bodily fluids. Apart from that, you also need to make up for the fluids needed for the body to produce milk.
Techniques to Try
Milk production is all a supply and demand game—the more milk your baby consumes, the more milk your body makes. It sounds simple, but it is oftentimes not. So here are tricks and techniques to encourage your body to produce more milk so you can meet baby's nursing needs.
Breastfeeding on-demand. In the first few weeks after birth, your goal should be 8 to 12 nursing sessions in a 24-hour period. After that, pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues (like lip-smacking, finger sucking and rooting) and feed your babe as often as needed. This number will gradually reduce once your baby becomes more efficient and can drink more milk at each feeding.
Skin-to-skin contact. Research shows that holding your baby skin-to-skin helps increase milk volume by boosting your levels of the milk-making hormone oxytocin—the hormone responsible for milk ejection. Oxytocin is nicknamed the love hormone, and your levels go up when you snuggle up skin-to-skin. Here's to that overflowing love (and milk!).
Power pumping. If your baby isn't with you or has a hard time latching on, try power pumping. To do it, you’ll want to sit down and pump on and off at an interval for about an hour. You can choose the interval that works for you—you can do 20 minutes first and then 10 minutes off and on, 12 minutes on and 8 off, 15 and 5, etc.
Apply heat. Try taking a warm bath or applying a warm compress to your breasts before nursing, as it's an easy way to increase milk flow.
Breast compression. Before pumping or nursing, massage your breasts using the palms of your hands and finger pads. This helps move more milk forward and increases your output. It also helps the rich, high-calorie hindmilk release more efficiently. In addition, with so many milk ducts on the breasts, massaging can help allow for better milk flow when you begin pumping.
Switch sides. It's common for one breast to produce more milk than the other, but it is important to switch sides regularly to increase overall production. The movement of changing sides, plus the change in the flow of breast milk from one breast to the other, may encourage babes to keep breastfeeding. Demand goes up; supply goes up!
Products for Purchase
Search for products that help stimulate milk production, and you'll find quite a few. We've rounded up ones that are consistently praised by my moms-in-the-know.
Milkmakers. A company that knows how to get a new mom's attention! Milkmakers sells delicious cookies that include ingredients known to increase milk production, like oats and brewer’s yeast. They also contain flax seeds, which provide an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids that pass through the mother’s milk to support proper brain development. In addition to their sweets line, they sell lactation teas and drink supplements.
Legendairy Milk Pump Princess Lactation Supplement. If you're looking for a one-stop supplement, try Pump Princess, which contains a blend of organic ingredients (including black cumin seed, fennel, and dill) designed to optimize breast milk production and support milk flow.
Pink Stork Lactation Sweets: Individually wrapped sweets with a watermelon flavor support breast milk supply with essential herbs. Perfect for on-the-go moms.
Boobie Bar Superfood Lactation Bar: Created by a board-certified lactation consultant, these tasty bars include six organic superfoods that keep the milk flowing.
—Aimee Della Bitta