Five Tips for Increasing Your Milk Supply
Updated: Jun 26
Establishing and maintaining a good supply of milk is one of the top worries that many new parents have about breast/chestfeeding. Our society and the prevalence of formula advertising have made us think that this is a very common problem but it's really quite unusual to not be able to make enough milk with the right supportive atmosphere. What is common is to doubt yourself and feel worried and that supportive atmosphere is often a vital component to gaining confidence.
There are some people who have conditions which mean they don't make any or enough milk and if that's you this blog post may not be enough for you. You may also need support from a qualified breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC.
You can surround yourself with a supportive atmosphere by attending an antenatal lactation information session, joining a local support group and considering hiring a postnatal doula if your family don't have the knowledge/interest to support you with your feeding choices.
Should you even be worried about how much milk you're making?
Probably not if your baby is feeding frequently, putting on weight, producing wet and dirty nappies and not causing you pain.
Making sure you have enough milk and getting enough milk into your baby is as easy (and as hard) as following your baby's lead.
Here are our top tips.
Make sure your baby has a good latch and can easily transfer milk from your body. Being well attached makes it easier for babies to get all the milk they need. The more milk they take the more milk you will make. The easiest way to help your baby get a great latch is to use a position that will encourage all your baby's natural instincts. Laid-back nursing positions are perfect for this. Check out Nancy Mohrbacher on YouTube for some helpful videos on this. If you find it difficult to get a comfortable latch even in this position please get in contact with a breastfeeding counsellor or an IBCLC. Often they will be able to help you make small tweaks that have a big impact on your comfort. Sometimes there are physical reasons for that pain (such as tongue tie) that need extra support and care. If possible recruit as much help and support as you can get and delegate all the household and baby care tasks other than feeding the baby to your partner, family and friends.
Get skin-to-skin. When babies are born they are ready and good to go with breast/chestfeeding and the easiest start to that feeding journey and to having loads of milk is to hang out skin to skin as long as you can. If you miss out on this initial skin-to-skin don't panic it's never too late to get skin-to-skin with your baby and you can't do it too much. Hang out with your baby skin-to-skin anytime you like as much as possible for as long as possible. Not only is it great for your milk supply but it's a great way for your partner to bond with and be able to calm your baby so encourage them to get involved too. Loads more about skin-to-skin in our blog post on the golden hour.
Feed feed feed. In the first few days, every moment your baby spends suckling is a moment that's switching on more of the milk-producing cells in your body. In those first few weeks, there are many growth spurts where your baby (who will always feed frequently) will seem to feed constantly. That constant feeding suddenly happening again often makes people worry they haven't got enough milk but it's actually nature's way of putting in the order for more milk in the next couple of days. Even if you think your baby can't possibly be hungry again allowing them to keep swapping sides and feeding more will allow them to build up your supply. You can trust your baby to tell you when they have had enough.
Look after yourself. Making all the food another human needs to survive and grow to double their weight in six months is hard physical work. Make sure that you keep hydrated and well nourished and find ways to fit in any extra sleep you can get. Your body will prioritise milk production over its own well-being so you need to make sure you are looking after yourself because you and your health are also important and you will likely find it easier to cope with the ups and downs of parenting a small person (or people) when you're hydrated and nourished. Planning for how your partner, family or friends can support you with this is a good idea for preparing for your postnatal journey.
If you plan to mix feed in the long term manage it carefully. Some people prefer mix feeding for many different reasons. It can be done and it can suit some families really well. But making sure that your baby's latch and your milk supply are established first is important too. Maximising the time you spend nursing your baby directly in the first six weeks will help your supply become established. After these first few weeks, your supply will be much more flexible. If you do any bottle feeding before six weeks try to use your own expressed milk if possible and if you find baby is still hungry after a bottle feed offer a top-up directly from you, not the bottle. When your baby seems more hungry or wants to feed more often it's likely they are gearing up for a growth spirt. You can help yourself through this by feeding your baby and or pumping your milk more frequently for a couple of days.
What about galactagogues and lactation cookies?
You might like lactation cookies, lots of them are really yummy and there's no harm in munching them if you do. But ultimately you don't need them to make plenty of milk for your baby. Some people find them helpful, especially during growth spurts but eating them is no magic pill and will only help if you're also frequently feeding your well-latched baby or effectively expressing your milk.
Sometimes complex feeding issues may be helped by the use of galactagogues but if you're in that situation you need the expert help of a breastfeeding counsellor or IBCLC who will help you find the right solution for you.