One of the topics I get messaged about the most is how to increase milk supply while breastfeeding. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind during your journey!
1. Stay well hydrated. I’m going to say this again because of how important it is. STAY WELL HYDRATED. You cannot make milk if your body is low on fluids. Drink a glass of water before each time you feed your baby. If you struggle to drink water regularly, try adding some lemon, cucumber or fresh berries to your water to make it more appealing to you. Another option is to drink coconut water. Coconut water is great for hydration because it is full of beneficial minerals that restore electrolyte levels in the body. Look for coconut water that doesn’t contain any artificial flavours or additional ingredients. Herbal teas are a great way to stay hydrated too. Just be sure to check with your primary care provider about which herbal teas to consume and which ones to stay away from. There are many herbs can either reduce milk supply or could potentially harm mom or baby. Just because herbs are ‘natural,’ does not mean they are all safe for everyone!
2. Eat adequate protein. Add protein rich foods to all of your snacks and meals. Some great snack options are: nut butter with apple slices, hummus with fresh veggies, goat’s cheddar cheese with dried fruit, trail mix, hard boiled eggs, rice cake with mashed avocado and hemp hearts, and greek or skyr yogurt with chia seeds and berries. You also may consider taking a collagen powder daily. It is a good source of protein and will also aid in postpartum recovery, by helping to repair damaged tissues. Taking a vegetarian protein powder is another great option. Genuine Health makes a fermented organic vegan protein powder that I like because it is easy to digest.
3. Feed on demand. A lot of people say to only feed the baby every 2-3 hours to get them on a good schedule. I’ve never followed that guideline with either of my kids. I feed my baby whenever he wants to eat, and I did the same with my daughter 2 years ago. Whether it’s been 2 hours, 20 minutes or 2 seconds – if that growing mind and body is showing signs of hunger, then Mama’s milk they will get! Especially in those early days when they are nursing for more than just sustenance. You and baby have to work as a team to make sure hunger and supply form a beautiful harmony. Yes, this can be incredibly draining when it feels like the entire day is spent feeding your baby. This stage will not last forever. Once your supply is well established and your baby’s stomach grows, they will become more efficient eaters, and feeds will naturally shorten in duration and frequency.
4. Eat supply boosting foods. Consume foods like oatmeal, fennel, fenugreek seeds, brewers yeast, garlic (unless it bothers baby), carrots, spinach, nuts & seeds. These foods have been shown to increase milk supply based on their own unique characteristics. Try to incorporate these foods into your regular diet. Avoid caffeine because as much as possible. Caffeine is a diuretic which means that it draws fluids out of our body at a faster rate than usual, which could cause dehydration. Some people also find that too much caffeine upsets baby’s tummy or stimulates them. If you do drink caffeinated beverages, drink one glass of water before and after the caffeinated drink. I do not recommend drinking more than 1 cup a day if you are exclusively breastfeeding in the first 6 months.
5. Eat often. Your body requires an additional 500 calories a day to maintain an adequate milk supply in the first few months if you’re exclusively breastfeeding. That’s even more calories than your body requires during pregnancy, which is only about 300 additional calories per day. To put calories into perspective, 100 calories is equal to about 13 almonds, or 1 apple, or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1/3 of an avocado. We are so focused on feeding our baby in the early days, that we sometimes forget to nourish ourselves first. A healthy baby starts with a healthy mama.
6. Relax Mama. Nothing takes a toll on milk supply like stress does. I know that it’s hard to say “don’t stress,” because then you will stress about being stressed out – it’s a vicious cycle. A few things that I found helpful in the early days with both of my kids, was to sit or lay with my baby in a dark, quiet room to nurse (which was much harder to do with my second baby!). I would close my eyes after my baby latched. With my eyes closed, I’d repeat to myself in my head over and over, “milk flows through me like a river to feed my baby; my supply is abundant.” I would also try to take 10 long deep breaths at the beginning of each feed. I was often relaxed and calm before I could even get to 10 breaths. Avoid looking at your phone or other distractions during a feed because it could interrupt the hormonal signalling. Try to look at your baby or close your eyes and focus on your baby.
I don’t think it’s said enough that breastfeeding is very hard for a lot of women. It is physically demanding and can be mentally draining. It’s also beautiful, fascinating and incredible that we can nourish and provide for our baby using just our body! But, it’s OK to think it’s hard and think that it doesn’t feel “natural.” You are not alone. I see you – you are doing great, Mama. I’m sending you strength to work on increasing your milk supply and continue your breastfeeding journey if that’s what you desire and what is best for you and your baby. I’m also sending you courage to know when you’ve tried hard enough and that something needs to change. At the end of the day, all that matters is that baby has a full belly to grow and thrive, and that you are well enough (mentally and physically) to care for your baby.
What helped you increase your milk supply naturally? Let me know in the comments below!
*There are several reasons why a woman may have low milk supply, so it’s important to speak to your midwife, OB or lactation consultant if your baby is not gaining weight on track.