How to increase your milk supply

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A dozen times a day, Edie pulled off my breast, screaming. She was going hungry. Again.

A lactation nurse confirmed my suspicion that my milk supply had dropped, and Edith had gained almost no weight in two weeks. I was devastated. And I didn’t know how to increase my milk supply.

Over the next weeks I did whatever I could to make more breastmilk.

How to increase your milk supply for pumping and breastfeeding - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

I’m happy and grateful to be able to say that my milk is back!

Edie no longer cries when I’m running on empty, and I don’t have to try to feed her every hour or less.

Here is a summary of what I tried to increase my milk for breastfeeding and pumping.

How to increase your milk supply

Hydration Making milk takes a lot of water, so drink up. Keep a water bottle wherever you nurse (and check out my post about creating a perfect nursing station here)—or better yet, stash full bottles of water throughout the house so there’s always one on hand.

Side note: A friend of mine swears she noticed a big jump in her milk supply when she started drinking a Powerade every day.

Food Oatmeal, almonds, flax and brewer’s yeast are all reported to increase milk supply. I ate oats with almonds for breakfast, sprinkled brewer’s yeast on tofu or hid it in smoothies, and snacked on lactation cookies baked by a friend. I recently found a company that will ship cookies to you and even has a monthly cookie subscription service. (Does anyone have a recipe for cookies she likes?)

Tea For a while I choked down lactation support tea. I steeped 2 bags per cup for ten minutes and drank three cups a day. Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk tasted less foul than Yogi Nursing Support, though it was more expensive. Then a nurse told me I’d have to drink eight cups a day to make much of a difference and I gave up.

Beer An occasional brewskie has been shown to increase milk production and levels of prolactin, the breastfeeding hormone. The six-pack of amber I bought sat in my fridge for a week, though, because when my levels were low Edie wanted to eat every hour. It takes about two hours for you to metabolize the alcohol in one drink, so I didn’t feel able to have a beer. La Leche League gives the green light on light alcohol consumption during breastfeeding.

Once my supply started to return, though, I did drink a beer occasionally. The mornings after I drank I woke up with anime boobs and had to wake Edie to nurse her. I definitely noticed more milk when I pumped after her first feeding.

If you’re going the beer route, I recommend drinking one in the middle of the day, if you can. I did this one day and noticed the increase in supply before I went to bed, which meant more milk for Edie that same day and I wasn’t so ready to pop the next morning.

Supplements I take one Vitanica Lactation Blend supplement daily. The brand was recommended to me by a nurse at my midwife office. It includes borage seed oil, fenugreek, milk thistle, blessed thistle, hops, red raspberry leaf and other herbs traditionally used for lactation support.

I originally bought fenugreek supplements but several nurses have told me it’s not very effective on its own. I have a bottle of it still, though, so I take it as well but don’t exceed the recommended total dosage.

Side note: When my supply has tanked in the past—like when I had the flu or was out of town and pumping (but not as often as my baby eats)—I take two lactation supplements twice a day. My supply increases within a day or two.

Pumping I’ve struggled with pumping since we had Peeper. I hate it. Pumping was even worse when my supply dropped: Having a machine pull at your most sensitive parts and being rewarded with only a dribble of milk was demoralizing and depressing.

I pumped once a day when my supply was low. I didn’t bother doing it any more often than that because Edith wanted to eat all the time. That said, pumping more should increase your milk production because of supply and demand: Your body will ramp up production to meet the pump’s “need.”

Now that my supply has returned, I pump once after she goes to sleep at night and once first thing in the morning after her initial feeding. It gives me enough milk to have on hand in the fridge if I need to leave the house for a few hours. I have also restocked my freezer a bit after having to thaw most of my stash when my supply dropped.

The idea behind pumping is that the stimulation tells your body it needs to make more milk. So pumping can help especially if your baby isn’t a vigorous eater.

Two-sided feedings I missed the memo that by Edie’s age, she should probably nurse from both breasts at each feeding. After I tried to get her to eat from both sides, at the suggestion of her pediatrician, I noticed that slowly my milk supply increased and she could eat more at one feeding.

Nipple shield I stopped using the nipple shield. Some women find that using one decreases their supply—probably because it protects the nipple and so decreases stimulation, tricking the body into thinking it needs to produce less.

I don’t regret using it at all, even if it did decrease my supply. The nipple shield allowed me to continue feeding Edith the way I wanted to and allowed me to heal.

I use it occasionally now, usually in the morning. After a night’s rest, I flow like a fire hose, and the reservoir helps Edith keep up with the deluge.

Domperidone When Edie wasn’t gaining and more than a week of all the other attempts hadn’t boosted my milk enough, a nurse mentioned Domperidone to me. It’s a prescription for gut movement that also happens to increase lactation.

The FDA advised against using Domperidone about a decade ago after some sick patients (not breastfeeding mothers) taking the drug intravenously had cardiac problems. As a result, it can be hard to find a doctor to prescribe it, and only compounding pharmacies sell it. It was classified as L1, safe, for breastfeeding mothers.

Update: The FDA completely cleared domperidone from pharmacy shelves, citing concerns that the drug may do cardiac damage.

Metoclopramide (Reglan) is also prescribed to increase prolactin levels, but it crosses the blood-brain barrier (unlike Domperidone) and causes depression in many women who take it. Because I’ve been borderline depressed a few times during the postpartum period, I wanted to steer clear of it.

Domperidone, I think, was the factor that truly amped up my supply.

Trying hard to boost milk supply

I’m nowhere near a doctor, nurse or lactation specialist. I don’t know the physiological reasons behind any of it, but I know my own experiences.

Not having enough milk to feed your baby feels miserable. There’s nothing like feeling like you can’t provide for your child’s most fundamental need.

If any of this information helps someone boost her supply even by a half-ounce a day, that’s enough improvement to make this post worthwhile. Good luck, mamas!

Do you have any other suggestions? What has worked for you? What didn’t work?


If you liked this post, check out my other breastfeeding articles:

How to respond to coworkers who are unsupportive of pumping at work

How to build your perfect nursing station

11 reasons why I love breastfeeding

Why I love breastfeeding my toddler 

Why I dumped my pumped milk down the drain

Six awkward things only moms understand

6 thoughts on “How to increase your milk supply

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  • December 28, 2015 at 10:48 am
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    How much do meperidine were u taking?

    Reply
    • December 28, 2015 at 2:06 pm
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      Hi Abbey, It’s been so long that I don’t remember the dosage now. I took one pill a day but I can’t recall the mg. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      Reply
  • November 28, 2016 at 7:06 pm
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    Hello,
    My LO has quit breastfeeding at 4 months and he is now almost 7 months. He still doesn’t want breastfeed, my milk supply has gone down alot. Please help me. I’m not sure what I am able to do increase my milk supply back up to what I used to have.

    Reply
    • November 28, 2016 at 8:07 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Lilya, do you still pump to feed him milk from the bottle? A lot of women who exclusively pump find it’s hard to keep their supply up—you are not alone at all. If you’re pumping, doing it more often is one way to keep up with your LO’s demand. I’d also strongly recommend taking a lactation supplement (Vitanica is my favorite). Have you tried these other tips, like hydration, milk-boosting foods and the like? Also, keeping your baby nearby—within sight—while you’re pumping can help you get the most milk from the pump session.

      Reply

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