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8 ways to increase low breast milk supply

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How do I know my baby’s eating enough?

It’s a common question for breastfeeding moms, especially when they’re feeding their babies every two hours— or more —and their friends who formula feed can wait three to four hours in between feedings.

Many women think they have a low milk supply, but experts say only about 5 percent of women actually do. For these women, it’s usually due to inadequate glandular tissue, an underlying medical condition or breast reduction surgery.

As long as your baby is growing and gaining enough weight, you can be confident that your milk supply is perfect for him. But if you’re still worried that you’re not producing enough, here are eight things to try.

1. Feed, feed, feed.
“Breastfeed as often as that baby wants to,” said Irene Zoppi, an internationally board-certified lactation consultant and clinical education specialist for Medela. The more often you feed him and completely drain your breasts, the more milk you’ll produce.  If your baby will take it, you can also try feeding him twice on each breast during each session.

2. Pump it up.
Many women say their milk supplies decreases when they go back to work and it’s usually because they’re not pumping enough. If you can fit in one additional pumping session before your baby wakes up, during the day or at night— especially if your baby has dropped a nighttime feeding— it will help. You can also pump right after you breastfeed, or if your last session was more of  a “snack,” pump to make sure your breasts are completely drained.

3. Check your latch.
If your baby’s latch isn’t right, then he won’t be able to take in enough milk and your supply can dwindle. Double check with your lactation consultant in the hospital or when you get home to make sure your latch is correct.

4. Drink water, but only when you’re thirsty.
A common myth about breast milk is that the more water you drink, the better your supply will be, but that’s not the case.  

“Only increasing your fluids won’t do anything to your milk volume unless you’re removing it,” Zoppi said.  

Drink enough water to quench your thirst, but there’s no need to go overboard.

5. Avoid the pacifier and bottle.
Introducing a pacifier or bottle right after your baby is born won’t create nipple confusion, but you will be missing opportunities to feed your baby and maintain an adequate milk supply. What’s more, a pacifier or bottle interrupts the normal physiological process of breastfeeding, Zoppi said. Instead, wait at least three or four weeks until your milk supply has been established.

6. Cope with stress.
Stress can definitely affect milk supply, especially for moms with babies in the NICU. If issues arise like your baby has a sudden health problem or needs surgery, you could see a sudden decrease in your milk supply, Zoppi said. Yet simply becoming a new mom or having another child can be stressful too. So try to sneak in some extra sleep, use relaxation techniques and try to find ways to deal with stress.

7. Go on a nursing vacation or pumping holiday.
Take advantage of weekends or two to three consecutive days where you can feed and pump around the clock. Carry your baby in a nursing sling or get into bed with your baby nearby. “Power pumping,” or pumping for 10 minutes after every breastfeeding session, and after breakfast, lunch and dinner can also help, said Cindy Shelton, a registered nurse and an international board-certified lactation consultant at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

8. Ask about herbal remedies and prescription medications.
Herbal supplements like fenugreek can help boost your milk supply. Talk to a lactation consultant first because they’re not FDA regulated and the quantity of the herbs can vary between brands. There are also prescription medications that are safe but talk to your doctor about potential side effects.

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.