Let me start by saying that I am not a breastfeeding expert. I am simply a mother of two boys who is trying to figure this thing out day by day. And, I was determined to have a better breastfeeding experience with my second baby than with my first child. To give you some context, you can read about the first month of nursing my baby in this post. My youngest is now 4.5 months old, and I am currently breastfeeding exclusively. I am not sure how long I will be able to continue, but I feel that each additional day is beneficial.
My hope is that this post is able to help moms who are able to breastfeed, but feel that their supply is not adequate. Please know that I agree with the “fed is best” approach, and I urge you to feed your child the way you feel is best for him or her. We had to supplement some with formula when Ridge was a newborn, Davis was put on formula at 4.5 months, and I felt completely comfortable doing so.
I have been asked to share some tips about how to increase breastmilk supply, and I am finally getting around to writing it all out!
These pieces of advise are a result of what worked for me and my personal breastfeeding experience. Please do not hesitate to ask your OB-GYN or midwife for their expert opinions. Their care is still available after the baby is born, and they are often a wealth of knowledge!
Here are the foods, supplements, methods, and people who helped me increase my supply.
Brewer’s Yeast | Mother’s Milk Tea | Spirulina | Flax Seed | More Milk Plus supplement | Steel Cut Oats | Nalgene water bottle | Medela breast pump | (comfortable!) Nursing Bras | Disposable Nursing Pads | Pumping Bra | Boppy pillow
I met with a lactation consultant regularly, starting when my son was two weeks old. Ridge was nursing nonstop, but not gaining weight as he should (details in my first breastfeeding post), so I sought professional help. I cannot say enough positive things about this experience. Our insurance covered these visits, and I was welcome to see them as often as needed. If you are having any serious questions or doubts regarding breastfeeding, let me encourage you to seek help before getting too discouraged!
Pumping after nursing was another major factor in increasing my supply. I fed Ridge every 3 hours, including through the night. After nursing him, we gave him a bottle, then I pumped for 15 minutes. Todd always helped when he was home after work and during the night. This was honestly exhausting, but it certainly helped establish my supply. To make this work, you absolutely need a great pump, and a pumping bra. My girlfriend told me about this bra and it made life so much easier.
Before purchasing a pump, check with your insurance company. Most are required to provide a breast pump for new moms! Just make sure that you have an effective one.
Disposable nursing pads will become a necessary part of your wardrobe. As a nursing mom, you lose some control of your body. What I mean is that, your body gets on a rhythm about when it is time for your baby to eat, and your milk will let down. For example, if you’re in Target, without your own baby, and you hear another baby cry, your milk will let down. Or if your baby decides to sleep for a longer stretch than normal, your milk will let down. Or while you are nursing your baby on the left boob, your right boob will let down. All of these scenarios lead to leaking, which can really mess up an outfit! I use Lansinoh disposable nursing pads constantly. I have tried other brands, and these are the best.
Eating oats and flax seed became a part of my daily diet. Each of those things help establish breastmilk supply, so I typically ate steel cut oats for breakfast. I mixed in ground flax seed, a little maple syrup, almond butter, berries, and chia seeds. This meal kept me full for a while, which is tough to do when you’re breastfeeding. I am still starving often!
Drinking double the amount of water you are used to consuming is important. I aimed to drink 4 Nalgene bottles full of water, which is a gallon. I didn’t always meet that goal, but I at least made a conscious effort to drink more water than normal. On the days that I slacked on this, I felt the effects. Breastfeeding is tiring as it is, but being dehydrated while doing so does not help. I would often try to chug water before pumping, too.
Diet can have a significant impact on breastmilk supply. Certain foods should be monitored, and there are some foods that help supply. Here are a few foods that I ate to help my supply:
- brown rice
- raw almonds, almond butter
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- sweet potato
- Mother’s Milk Tea
Mother’s Milk Tea is a simple milk booster that can be consumed daily. It is an herbal tea that helps with milk production. Only one cup per day is recommended, to avoid gassiness in your baby.
Some foods can decrease breastmilk supply, at least in high quantities. Try to avoid large amounts of:
- high mercury fish
Let me be clear. You do not need to completely avoid one single food, unless your child seems to react to something in your breastmilk. But all of these foods can affect your supply, or affect your baby’s tummy, so it is best not to overdo it. The herbs can inhibit supply, the caffeine, high mercury fish, and alcohol can affect the baby, and the gluten and dairy are inflammatory foods.
For an extra boost, and to establish my supply, I took 2 supplements: spirulina and Motherlove More Milk Plus. The Motherlove capsule is self-explanatory – it causes your body to make more milk! It contains fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle leaf, and fennel seed. When I was trying to boost my supply for Davis I took stand-alone fenugreek. It helped some, but the effects weren’t lasting, and I smelled like maple syrup! This supplement is more balancing than plain fenugreek, and it works. When I was first working on my supply, I took four capsules each day. Now I take one every now and then, or as needed.
Spirulina is a superfood that is beneficial for almost any person to take. This article from Wellness Mama, along with this one from Dr. Axe outline the amazing benefits of spirulina. Though it may sound gross, this superfood is actually an algae that packs a serious nutritional punch! While breastfeeding, it is important to eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods, particularly greens. Spirulina is a mega dose of nutrients, protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and it also detoxifies your body.
Brewer’s Yeast is one of the most well-known milk supply boosts for nursing mothers. I was encouraged by my lactation consultant to use it. I heeded her advice and began taking a tablespoon or two each day. Sometimes I mixed it with water or juice and drank it as a shot. The more enjoyable way to eat it is to mix it into a smoothie or in lactation cookies. Warning: most brewer’s yeast is not gluten free! I made the mistake of not checking the label and I did feel the side effects. Please ask your doctor or lactation about this before you start taking it.
During the first 2-3 months, the Boppy pillow was one of my best friends. While your baby is still itty bitty, and you’re nursing constantly, it helps to have some extra support. I have use the other types of nursing pillows, but the Boppy seems to be the easiest and most convenient.
Another necessity with breastfeeding and milk supply are comfortable nursing bras. You certainly will not be able to relax enough for your body to produce milk if your boobs are always uncomfortable. And since you’ll need to sleep in one, I recommend buying something with comfort as the focus. I have one that snaps, which I wear more often now, but when I was nursing and pumping more initially I wore these sports bra style ones from Target. I still wear them to sleep in, and on days that I don’t need a “real” bra.
Mom friends have been a vital resource for me with any parenting question. I compare breastfeeding stories and progress with my girlfriends who are in the same stage as me, and I seek the advice of those with older babies. Having a group of women who I can turn to for tips and tricks, or to vent to or cry with when parenting is hard has been key for me. Every mom has a unique experience, but motherhood binds us together. When Davis was a baby I rarely reached out, because I was embarrassed and I felt like everything should come naturally. This time I have realized that we are all honestly just figuring it out as we go, and that every parent has questions. It has been important for me to let my guard down.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Or if you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comments!