Maintaining your Breastmilk Supply

Suggestions for maintaining and improving your milk supply.

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1. Get enough rest and eat regularly.


2. Drink plenty of water, herbal teas, and other liquids throughout the day.


3. Drinks that increase milk supply:

  • Fennel, fenugreek (in a tea or capsule form).  Mother’s milk tea (Traditional Medicinals or Yogi brands). 
    Teas made from nettles and raspberry leaf.
  • Dark/stout beers, especially Guinness.
  • Amazake rice shakes in almond and hazelnut flavors (available in the refrigerated section at the Coop and Back to the Land).
  • The book Wise Woman Herbal recommends the following herbal infusions:  comfrey, alfafa, red clover, and borage leaves.
  • ennel/barley water (prepared by soaking 1/2 cup pearled barley in 3
    cups cold water overnight or boiling 25 minutes, then pour 1 cup boiling barley
    water over 1 tsp fennel seeds which you steep no longer than 30 minutes.
  • "I also read that red gatorade helps so been drinking that."
  • "Drink copious amounts of water, it seems so simple but it can have a real effect on production."
  • "You can drink some mother's milk tea or take some fenugreek capsules to help matters."
  • "Weleda nursing tea--and More Milk Plus
  • "My doctor gave me the okay to start introducing cow's milk after 9 months. When my supply would get low at that point I would mix cow's milk with my pumped milk for my daughter's bottles. It might be something to ask you doctor about."


4. Foods that increase milk supply:

  • Helpful foods include beets, leafy greens, shrimp, oatmeal, whole grains, brown basmati rice, and black sesame seeds.
  • According to the book Wise Woman Herbal, other good foods include apricots, asparagus, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, pecans, parsley, watercress, and dandelion leaves. 
  • "I ate oatmeal religiously when I was pumping. It gives me 1/2 oz more per session. You might want to try that." and "Eat lots of oatmeal, add in flax seeds, or brewers yeast, and avoid stressing out" and "eating steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast really helped me. Instant and rolled oats don't seem to have the same effect."
  • "I also experimented with herbs. blessed thistle was the one I took. there's also the other one, fenugreek, but that didn't agree with me and for a couple of days I thought I had food poisoning until I realized it was probably the herb and as soon as I stopped taking it I felt better, so it's not for everyone.
  • "Fenugreek pills (I order the nature's way pills from amazon) and oatmeal cookies (either homemade using a lactation recipe or these (DELICIOUS)) have done wonders for my supply. it's just popping some herbals and eating some cookies, so nothing too crazy. along with pumping at regular times, i think these have done the trick."
  • "There is only one fenugreek supplement that had an effect on me, and it's Yogi Nursing Mother's Support tea. If that's not the one you tried, it might be worth experimenting with. You are welcome to stop by and pick up a few bags (I live in P Heights) if you don't want to buy a whole box.
  • "With both of my kids I took fenugreek pills to increase my supply. You take 2-3 pills 3x a day so between 6-9 pills. Most people take it for a few days and notice an increase, while for others it may be a week or two.  Once you see the desired increase, you don't need to continue. You just need to ensure you are regularly emptying your breasts (via nursing or pumping). Note: it doesn't work for everyone, but I would say it's one of the most popular galactagogues that women take.  Given that a bottle is $10, there's pretty low risk. I've been told when you start smelling like pancakes, that's when you know it's working, but I think my breastmilk smells like syrup generally."
  • Mother's Milk tea was really really effective for me in increasing supply. It was dramatic and instant.
  • "I had veggie juice and saw a difference. Could be coincidental."
  • "The thing that worked for me was oatmeal. I ate a large bowl for breakfast (with protein of some kind -- sausage or an egg on top) and made lots of oatmeal cookies."
  • "My milk supply took longer than usual to come in after L. was born (her latch was weak and therefore wasn't getting enough to eat). My LC suggested I take a supplement called Goat Rue. It is hard to find, so I had to order it from Amazon. It definitely helped! I did, however, stop taking it once my supply was established.  Although L.'s latch never improved, I have been exclusively pumping ever since."
  • "My LC recommended two different drops as galactagogues, both fenugreek based  "Let there be milk!" By birth song botanicals And "More milk plus" by motherlove   Both available on amazon. I saw a slight increase, tho I never started smelling to maple syrup, as I've been told to look out for."


5. Things that decrease milk supply:

  • Mint tea – if you are an herbal tea drinker, make sure none of your tea has mint in it.
  • Sage
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol (with the exception of dark/stout beers).
  • Stress/Worrying about your milk supply!
  • "Also, milk supply can be impacted by stress, lack of sleep and hydration, so take care of yourself and don't sweat it. You are doing great, mama."


6. Things to do if you are pumping:

  • "Have you tried switching out the flexible rubber/silicone parts on your pump? A tiny hole in a valve or membrane can make a huge difference."
  • "Pump for longer sessions - if nothing comes out after, say, 10 minutes, I kept pumping for another 10-15 or more while doing other things and I'd get a 2nd letdown. that told my body to up production over a period of time."
  • "Pump in more frequent sessions. longer and more frequent sessions can increase supply."
  • "I got one of those hands-free halter type tops which saved me. then I could go about my business, email, work, web-surf, whatever, and forget about it.""
  • "Make sure the white filters aren't ripped or loose from the yellow part (if you are using Medela.) that will affect your total."
  • "Also, try pumping 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off 3 times on a row (so 30 minutes pumping total) once a day for 5 days. That fools your body into thinking the baby is cluster feeding and will increase supply. Worked like a charm for me!"
  • "Doing one intense weekend where we stayed close to home and I nursed and pumped A LOT. I'd nurse and then pump immediately after, and threw in an extra pump session or two while the baby was sleeping. That seemed to do the trick and got me easily to 12 months which was also my goal."
  • "This is very very common and supply often gets much lower especially if your little one is eating more solid foods. Continue to pump no matter how little produced. On the weekends just nurse as usual. Nursing on the weekend is the best way to boost your supply."
  • "I have heard massaging your breast in the middle of pumping helps..."
  • "Also pumping after feedings to make sure you drain the breast which is supposed to drive supply up as well."
  • "I guess you are supposed to wake up to pump when they sleep long periods (i.e. at night), but that is torture for someone who is majorly sleep-deprived to begin with!"
  • "Maybe this will help you: I pump after the first morning feed if my daughter slept long periods at night and it seems to help my fullness and keep up my supply. My pediatrician said our supply is lowest in the early evenings so I try to add pumping earlier in the day so I'm not frustrated by how little I might get later on."
  • "I've been having issues with low supply in one breast. My LC suggested getting a pump called Haakaa (it's about $20 on Amazon) that can be used on one breast while you're feeding on the other to increase supply. I just ordered it so I can't say if it works yet, but will report back. This is the one I ordered - seems to have good reviews."
  • "You can also do pump power hours when you feel like your supply is dipping. Example:  20 min pump 10 min break 10 min pump 10 min break 10 min pump."
  • "The LC also recommended renting a hospital grade pump, you can get one monthly from yummy mummy or delivers same day in Brooklyn for free."
  • "I too was told to pump 10-15 mins after each feed... which is hard to keep up."


7. Things to check with baby:

  • "This happened to me with my second baby, too, right about the same time. It coincided with me starting my period again, and no longer nursing him in the middle of the night. I blame those two factors for the drop, but who knows? I made sure to be very consistent about pumping three times at work, and I trained him to take water from a sippy cup so that he could nurse and have the water over the weekends. The milk never went back up to previous levels, but it went up just enough to make it worth it to keep pumping until he turned one."
  • "I also wanted to address your daughter's possible dehydration. As long as she is producing the same amount of wet diapers, that's not a concern. Plus, she is old enough that she could have water, if necessary."
  • "If your daughter's solids intake is increasing, it's absolutely normal for your milk supply to decrease, and there's no reason to be concerned. As long as you are letting them nurse on demand, your body adjusts its output and steps it up if necessary, and the baby should be fine during the times they are exclusively being nursed and not getting the bottle. As long as there isn't a marked change in the number or quantity of wet diapers, I think you can relax."
  • "It may be that your baby just needs more time on the breast and less about your supply."


8. Other things to try:

  • "The Lanisoh heating pads are terrific to help get all of our milk out."


More resources:

  • Join pumpmoms on yahoo groups - that group had a ton of suggestions, including all of the above