How Do I Increase Breast Milk Production?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Providing infants with breast milk is a choice that many mothers make in order to give their children a healthy start at life. Many mothers have problems producing an adequate amount of milk to satisfy their babies' hunger. In order to increase breast milk production, mothers have many options available, including dietary changes, engaging in specific nursing techniques, and other activities.

A breast pump, which can help induce lactation.
A breast pump, which can help induce lactation.

The two best natural ways to increase breast milk supply are to drink lots of water and to nurse frequently. Lactating women should drink at least 13 cups (one and one-half liters) of water daily in order to produce enough breast milk. Whether pumping milk manually or breastfeeding an infant, producing milk more frequently will increase breast milk output over a period of time.

Breastfeeding mothers may use vitamins or teas to try to increase milk supply.
Breastfeeding mothers may use vitamins or teas to try to increase milk supply.

Women who are nursing should also be consuming an extra 500 calories per day. In order to make breast milk supply increase, women should avoid dieting to lose pregnancy weight until after the baby is finished nursing. Some mothers find that specific foods, such as oatmeal, may help increase breast milk production, though studies have not proven this.

Nursing frequently will increase breast milk production naturally.
Nursing frequently will increase breast milk production naturally.

Relaxing is another good natural way to increase breast milk production, as stress can hinder milk production. Postpartum relaxation techniques may include napping, having friends and family help with the new baby, bathing, light shoulder massage, or engaging in a favorite pastime, such as reading or listening to soothing music.

A hot water bottle may help stimulate the mammary glands.
A hot water bottle may help stimulate the mammary glands.

Related to relaxing, sleep patterns can affect breast milk supply. Women who do not get sufficient sleep often produce less milk. In order to increase breast milk production and receive adequate rest, it is often recommended that new mothers sleep when their newborns sleep.

Increasing breast milk production can also be achieved through alternating breasts during nursing. A baby can usually consume enough milk through a single breast. During initial breastfeeding, however, alternating between the two can help the body make more milk.

Mothers who are apart from their babies due to prematurity or other reasons may find it especially difficult to produce milk at the breast pump. These mothers may wish to try stimulating their mammary glands with hot water bottles, warm showers, or simulating the baby's fingers on the breast by gently patting with the fingertips. Attaching a photo of the baby to the breast pump may also help.

Some specialized vitamins, herbal teas, and other remedies are available for increasing the production of breast milk. The safety and effectiveness of these concoctions vary. A physician should be consulted prior to consuming mother's milk tea, herbal remedies such as fenugreek and blessed thistle, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter vitamin and herbal supplements marketed at mothers.

Many people claim that brewer's yeast, or beer, will help increase breast milk production. Though some research indicates that this somewhat controversial practice may work, babies typically do not like the taste of alcohol in their mother's milk. This can lead to a lack of desire to nurse, which will diminish milk supply rather than increase it.

Blessed thistle is said to increase milk supply two to three days after consumption.
Blessed thistle is said to increase milk supply two to three days after consumption.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments

Fa5t3r

@pastanaga - It's difficult because I think that people advocating breast feeding are doing the right thing in applying some pressure about it. It is superior to formula in many ways.

But the last thing a new mother needs is extra anxiety over breast feeding. It's one of the reasons I think the fact that so many women are choosing to pump breast milk now is great, because it takes away a lot of the problems with breast feeding.

pastanaga

Something that is very important for new mothers to remember is that it's important not to panic about things like this. I think there is a lot of pressure on women to be perfect and as natural as possible when it comes to feeding their child and it can lead to a lot of anxiety, even if there is no need at all.

It's difficult to really measure how much milk a child is getting, so if anything goes wrong it's easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. But it might not be your milk production at fault. And if your production is low no matter what you do, then that's OK too. Breast might be best, but everyone has to do what works best for them and their child.

clintflint

I've heard that women can produce breast milk when they hear a baby cry as well, even if it isn't their own baby, so if you are away from your own child, it might help to try and find a recording of a baby crying to help increase breast milk production.

I wouldn't listen to it for long though, as I'm sure it can quickly become upsetting, especially if you are missing your own child.

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