How To Increase Your Milk Supply When Pumping
By Emily Berger | September 25, 2018
All of us can probably agree: breastfeeding a baby is DEFINITELY a super power. Unfortunately, every superhero has their kryptonite. Low milk supply is one such thing. It’s frustrating, and can definitely be scary and stressful. Good news? Most moms can work through it.
First things first: seek out the expertise of a lactation consultant! Concerns about low milk supply are very common, especially for new moms. A lactation consultant will be able to assess whether your baby is gaining adequate weight at a sufficient rate (the number one indicator of sufficient milk supply). She will also be able to determine if there are physical challenges, like a tongue tie, preventing your child from breastfeeding properly.
If low milk supply is indeed the underlying issue, we’re here with some tried-and true tips to help that milk start flowing.
Nurse on demand
If you currently are following a feeding schedule, consider allowing your baby to nurse on demand. This basically means offering the breast anytime the baby acts like he is hungry (rooting, crying, sucking on his/her hand, etc.) and allowing him to eat as long as he wants.
Nurse more frequently
If you are already allowing your baby to nurse on demand, you may want to consider letting baby nurse even more frequently. Some moms even have a “nursing vacation”, a day dedicated to spending the day in bed with baby, allowing baby to nurse as much as she wants.
Offer the breast often to baby and allow her to nurse as much as possible. Nursing vacations are most effective when done for 2-3 days at a time. It’s a great way to bond with baby and serves as a great excuse to avoid doing laundry.
Pump more frequently
If you are not already pumping, and you are experiencing low milk supply, now may be the time to start. Try pumping after baby’s first feeding in the morning, and then once again in the afternoon after nursing baby. Try to pump at about the same time every day. You can save the milk or offer to baby if he is still hungry.
If you are already pumping, try adding an extra pumping session or two after nursing baby. This can be time consuming, but remember that it is only temporary until you establish the milk supply your baby needs.
Don’t worry if you do not express a lot of milk in these sessions. Remember that you just nursed your baby and he should have removed most or all of your milk from your breasts. Additional stimulation from the pump will typically increase milk supply, if you stick with it.
When a baby is going through a growth spurt, she will often cluster feed, in other words, she will feed much more frequently to stimulate more milk production. Power pumping is a way to mimic cluster feeding with a pump to increase milk supply.
A power pumping session is typically 60 minutes long. For the first 20 minutes, you will pump. Then you will take a 10 minute break, pump for 10 minutes, take another 10 minute break, then pump for a final 10 minutes.
A good time to try this is while baby naps (after nursing) or immediately after putting the baby to sleep for the night (after nursing). Some moms see an increase in as little as three days, while other moms may take a week to see a difference in their supply.
Take a supplement
The most common herbal supplements for increasing breast milk are fenugreek, blessed thistle, and alfalfa.* These herbs come in tablet form and work best when used with other strategies like nursing or pumping more often. *Please consult with your physician before adding any supplements to your diet and confirm dosage amounts.
Additionally, some mothers see an increase in milk supply when eating oatmeal or brewers yeast regularly. Try our smoothie recipe, or look up a recipe for lactation cookies online!
Take care of yourself
Sometimes old adages are true. A happy mom makes a happy family!
- Sleep and rest when you can, even it if it means your house is messy or other chores go by the wayside.
- Use a food delivery system, use the big-batch cooking method, and/or ask a friend to set up a meal train to give yourself a couple of extra hours in your week to rest.
- Take help when it is offered and don’t be afraid to ask for help to friends or family members!
- Keep a water bottle near you at all times and drink plenty.
- Eat whenever you are hungry. Now is not the time to worry about losing the baby weight.
- If you can afford it, hire a night nurse or a mother’s helper to give yourself a break.
- Ask your significant other to take on more household or baby responsibilities.
Be kind to yourself and remember that this is just a season of life. If you are struggling, know that it will get better.
About the Author
As a Medical Documentation Specialist at 1 Natural Way, Emily Berger works with doctors' offices on moms' behalf to get prescriptions for breast pumps, pump supplies and other insurance-covered products. A few years ago, as she prepared to welcome her second child, Emily joined online communities of moms to discuss the joys and challenges of breastfeeding. Grateful for the information and support she received, she decided to pay it forward in posts. In her spare time, Emily enjoys baking and spending time with her family.