Maintaining your Breastmilk Supply

Suggestions for maintaining and improving your milk supply.

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1. Get enough rest and eat regularly.

  •  "Sleep whenever you can."


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. But as one parent notes: "Use fenugreek as a last resort. It is very potent and most likely will give your baby massive gas."
  • 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 help 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."
  • "I drank a combination of teas... the recipe is to combine one tea bag of fenugreek tea, one bag of nettle leaf tea, and one bag of raspberry leaf tea."
  • Another recipe my lactation consultant gave me is actually pretty tasty. She recommended I make it and drink it fresh 30 min before needing to breastfeed or pump. Frest oat milk: put one cup of oats, one cup of water, some ice in a blender and blend. Drain and drink the fresh oat milk."


6. Get a lactation consultant:

  • "My best advice four weeks in is get a lactation consultant you trust (fits your style/philosophy) asap. I met with the lactation consultant at the hospital 24 hours in and my nipples were already a mess. She was helpful in showing me some different positions and how to hand express and spoon feed colustum to give my sore nipples a break. The game changer though was going to see a consultant who gave me a care routine to heal nipples (olive oil after each feeding, bacitracin three times a day, and pump for 30-90 seconds prior to feeding to get milk coating on nipples and get them in shape). In addition she prescribed series of exercises for baby to improve his specific latch issues (he was a forceps baby) and stayed in touch constantly taking all the anxiety out of preparing for my overnight kidney stone surgery last week. During stay for surgery I received an onslaught of conflicting medical advice about breastfeeding and medications so was happy to have one voice I trusted. Her fee was about $200 which is some of best money spent."
  • "Working with an IBCLC can help you to define your own success and will help you to know if your baby has an anotomical issues that are interfering with breast feeding and how to manage building up your supply."
  • See PSP member reviews of laction consultations here >


7. 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." similarly: "Pump for 20 minutes after every feeding session using a hospital grade pump."
  • "I learned that at the end of the day one usually produces less milk... especially around 5 or 6pm. Knowing this was very helpful, and I was told not too pump after 3 or 4pm so as not to lessen my already dwindling supply. (Conversely, at around 3am one usually has a peak in milk production, so I would try to wake up and pump around then.. :)


8. 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."


9. Is over supply your problem?

  • "Only feed off of one breast for 4-6hrs then pump off at least half of the milk off of the other side before feeding." 
  • "Ice under armpits for 4-5 minutes after feeding 4 times a day for 1-2 days. (Slowing blood flow slows milk production.)"  
  • "If breast feels to full, pump 1 minute before offering."  
  • "Burp baby prior to, in the middle of, and at the end of a nursing session to help relieve gas."
  • "Beware of the pump, it will make an oversupply problem worse. If you have a massive, massive oversupply, like me, you may end up throwing in the towel and both bottle feed and nurse to make sure your child gets hindmilk without making the oversupply worse (i.e. give the child the pumped milk).  This is what I am doing with my son.  He gets both.  He's doing much better than my daughter.  And the times he nurses are actually relaxing.  It's not ideal, but there is so much less stress involved.  My plan is to go back to breastfeeding more once my hormones are less responsible (although I'll be working by then anyway)."
  • "In addition to block feeding, you can try complete drainage and block feeding, although this approach should be used with caution.  None of this worked for me.  24 hours of block feeding and one side still wasn't remotely empty.  My hormones had a good laugh at my expense."


10. If you are dealing with vasospasms: 

  • "Cover constantly (I like to use felt squares), especially right after feeding and after a shower." 
  • "Take 1500 mg of evening primrose oil and 500 mg of magnesium daily to help with circulation."  
  • "I just heard (but haven't tried) massage can help get blood back in the nipple quickly."


11. If you are dealing with thrush:

  • "Lotrimin and olive oil applied to nipples after every feeding (wipe or wash off prior to nursing)."
  • "Gentian violet applied once 4-7 days (OTC)  
  • "Diflucan once a day (prescription; doesn't work as well for me as gentian violet)." 
  • "Follow a candida diet (no sugars, low carb fruits and veggies, no moldy foods I.e. Peanuts, cured meats."


Other things to try:

  • "The Lanisoh heating pads are terrific to help get all of our milk out."
  • "Awitch sides every 7 minutes to encourage new letdowns."


More resources:

  • Join pumpmoms on yahoo groups - that group had a ton of suggestions, including all of the above
  • Park Slope La Leche group - "I found the Park Slope La Leche leaders incredibly helpful. They never once made me feel bad about supplementing."