Worried about increasing breast milk supply? Need ideas for how to pump more at work?
You might have heard the recommendations: take X herb, pop Y capsule, eat this, drink that…..
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all the teas, herbs, and galactagogue (milk increasing) foods that people swear by are not going to save a truly suffering supply. They might help in a very short term situation, but they’re not meant to be used for increasing milk supply over the long term.
I’m a big believer in placebo effect. If someone feels like something is helping them feel better, I’m for it.
But what I see in these cases is typically that people are killing themselves drinking the teas and taking the pills and eating the cookies and making themselves more stressed out.
Guess what will immediately tank your supply… Stress.
So you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Then what CAN help with increasing milk supply?
1. Know the norm.
A breastfed baby will feed every 2-3 hours on average. They will seem obsessed with breastfeeding, especially in the evening when your prolactin (milk production hormone) is lowest.
An average woman will pump 2-4 oz combined from both breasts if she’s pumping in place of a feed, like while at work. If she’s pumping after feeding her baby, .25-2 oz combined is expected.
2. Still not sure? Contact an IBCLC and get assessed for whether there’s truly a supply issue going on.
Sometimes there’s plenty of supply, but the baby isn’t transferring the milk from breast to belly properly. Sometimes it’s a misunderstanding of cues. Sometimes it’s a true supply issue.
In any case, an IBCLC will be able to help. And IF you need to take/eat/drink something to help with your supply, they can give you safety information and help you get the correct supplement from the correct source.
3. If pumping output is your concern: remember that despite “guidelines”, pump output isn’t an indicator of overall breast milk supply.
You may need to utilize a different pump brand, a different pump style, or become familiar with hand expression.
An unfortunate reality in some cases, there are people who will not be able to express milk adequately to feed their babies fully from their own breast milk. Donor breast milk or formula supplementation may be necessary. Remember, a fed baby is the most important thing.
4. Check your pump.
Be sure the flanges fit properly, any membranes are strong and intact, hoses are free of visible or micro cracks, and that you’re using it on an appropriate setting.
5. Increase frequency of feeding and/or pumping.
It’s the truest, most effective way to increase your supply. Power pumping can help. Pumping one side while feeding baby from the other can help. More demand at the breast will cue your body to produce more milk. If you’re away from baby for long periods, be sure to pump as often as they would normally eat.
6. Eat, drink, and be merry.
Make sure you’re hydrated to thirst (typically an 8oz glass of water every time baby nurses) and eating adequately. After all, it takes 300-500 calories just to make breast milk. Lower your stress as much as is reasonably possible in your world. Increase your sleep. Have more orgasms. The things that make you feel good are the things that can help protect your milk supply from the detriment of stress.
The bottom line is this:
If you think your milk supply is low, it’s best to seek a professional to find out the root cause and address it effectively instead of reaching for the nearest trendy ways to boost milk supply that may or may not help you.