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How To Increase Breast Milk Supply

Updated on October 19, 2010
Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson is a mother and writer who is passionate about healthcare and education for women and children.

Women are built for breastfeeding. Your age, weight or cup size don’t affect your breast milk supply. If you ask the experts at La Leche League, they will tell you it is very rare for the female body to not produce enough milk – even if it’s practically starving, the body will rob from its reserves in order to make the milk for a baby. It’s been going on since the beginning of time.

Stressful Modern Lives Affect Breast Milk Production

However, times have changed. Our diets, lifestyles and stress levels are obviously drastically different compared to the Stone Ages, or even compared to the 1950s. Although according to nature, our bodies can make the milk our baby needs, we might have to do a bit more these days than just offering it up.

As a nursing mother, stress is quite possibly the worst thing for you. Stress can decrease milk production and make it taste bitter. Before nursing (and preferably all the time), do what it takes to relax. Drink a cup of tea, do a few yoga poses, or listen to music. Then just sit down and chill out!

Choose Your Position

How you sit, hold, and offer the breast all affect lactation. If you’re having trouble, calling a lactation consultant is your best bet, but here are a few tips:

You may vary the breastfeeding positionsyou use from feeding to feeding. Then, get the proper latch. Be sure that the entire areola, not just the nipple, in the baby’s mouth. Make sure the baby’s upper and lower lips are turned out. Make sure his chin is touching the breast. And relax.

If all of these things are done upon the first few feedings, the odds are baby will be off to a good start.

What to Eat For Optimum Breastfeeding

Although it is said that the body will rob from reserves if you don’t eat enough, your diet does matter, a lot, while nursing. Nursing mothers are told to get 500 extra calories per day, and drink tons of water. What you’re eating matters, too. Obviously, you want to eat the most nutrient-dense food – just as when you were pregnant – and not foods that affect the baby adversely. Foods like garlic or hot peppers are notorious for upsetting babies’ stomachs. Other foods can simply make your milk taste bitter. To determine which ones those are, you just have to observe your baby.

Frequent Nursing Promotes Milk Production

Other ways to produce more milk are: Nurse frequently. Offer both breasts at each feeding and be sure to empty both breasts, even if means pumping the other side. And, if your production is really low, go to bed with your baby and do nothing but nurse (and eat and drink!) for two or three days.

Myths About Breast Milk Production

There are a couple myths about what stimulates milk production. Beer has been said to help, but its been found that, actually, it might stimulate the production at first, but if drank routinely will make the milk taste bitter, thus making baby drink less. Baby drinking less then slows milk production. It’s tricky.

Caffeine has also been found in some studies to increase production, but again, it might stimulate production of milk, but it also stimulates the baby. No one wants that.

Pacifiers, Bottles, and the Breast

Most people agree that using pacifiers and bottle feeding can slow down production, especially in babies under six months, since the mother nurses less, and the baby satisfies her sucking urges elsewhere. However, if you replace any missed feedings with pumping, it will help. However, because the hormone Oxytocin is released during breastfeeding and creates milk production, the body will produce much more with actual nursing over pumping.

The La Leche League is a wonderful source of breastfeeding help and information. But be forewarned, they’ll have you breastfeeding that kid until he’s twenty!

Image Credit: Melissa Stampa Photography, Flickr


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