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Ways to increase or maintain breast milk supply

Person in black shirt holding baby with feet pointed toward camera

Let’s face it, breastfeeding isn’t easy. It might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do as a new mom. No matter how feedings are going it can be difficult for you maintain your breast milk supply.

Newton Medical Center is here to help. NMC has licensed lactation consultants who will encourage and train you on how to keep your supply up.

baby sleeping in mother's arms

How to tell if you have low breast milk supply

Before you dive into ways of increasing your supply, are you sure your supply is low?

Sometimes moms think they have low supply when baby is actually getting all he or she needs. If you’re unsure whether your baby is continuing to gain weight, make an appointment with a lactation consultant.

Checking your baby’s weight and growth is the best way to make sure he or she is getting enough milk.

Check baby’s positioning to make sure he or she is getting a deep latch. Sometimes baby isn’t getting enough milk because they aren’t able latch on properly to nurse. This can sometimes have an effect on your milk supply. Let your child’s doctor know if you are concerned.

Here are some things you can do to help maintain your breastmilk supply:

mother nursing baby

Breastfeed more often and on both sides

You might feel like you’re attached to baby nonstop from the time they’re born through the first several months of their life. This can be a good thing! Your baby’s needs will tell your body just how much milk to make and provide them with the type of nutrients their body needs.

Depending on the age of your baby, he or she should be nursing at least 8-12 times in a 24-hour period.

Before you begin a nursing session, use hand expression (at least six times a day). During feedings, try using breast compressions to increase your milk flow and keep your baby drinking at the breast. You can also use warm packs before or after nursing and pumping sessions.

Let baby decide when he or she is full, and offer your breast as often as needed. Yes, this could mean nursing for 30 minutes straight, taking a 10 to 15-minute break and starting all over again. Cluster feeding can be normal, and can take a lot out of a new mom.

Try to make sure you’re offering both breasts at each feeding, alternating starting sides. Be sure to make yourself comfortable! Have lots of pillows, water and snacks nearby; find your favorite show and snuggle in.

Lactation consultant showing a new mom how to use a Medela breast pump in a private room
Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

Choose the right pump

If you are pumping and nursing or exclusively pumping, you’ll want to make sure you have a pump that will work for you. Just because you heard a certain brand is the best on the market doesn’t always mean that pump is designed to fit your individual needs.

Make sure the flange of the pump fits your breast correctly. A pump that doesn’t fit right won’t express as much milk or keep up your supply as well as one that fits correctly.

To get the best fit, your nipple should move freely inside the flange (that’s the part that suctions on to your breast) without your areola being drawn in with it. Most pumps come with at least two different sizes. You can size it yourself or have one of our expert lactation consultants help you.

Black woman pumping at work with breast pump
Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

Pumping and power pumping

Emptying the breast after each feeding session is crucial to maintaining your milk supply. Especially if your little one is having a difficult time emptying the breast. If baby falls asleep or doesn’t finish nursing, pump.

Pump after the morning feeding and after the last feeding before bedtime to make sure your breasts are empty. During both of these times, make sure you’re pumping for 15 to 20 minutes and messaging your breasts.

If you give baby formula as a supplement, pump. If baby is getting breast milk by bottle and is not feeding at the breast, pump at least 150 minutes in 24 hours.

If you are still struggling to increase your supply, you may try a power-pumping session once daily. Pump 15 minutes every hour for three hours in a row or pump three 10-minute sessions in one hour.

woman sitting in chair with legs pulled up, drinking hot beverage, relaxing

Take care of yourself

This might be one of the most important ways to maintain your breast milk supply. If you’re not getting much sleep, your body won’t have the energy to create milk. If you’re not eating healthy, your body won’t have the nutrients to maintain supply.

It’s important to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.  

You often hear people say to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Taking naps and getting as much sleep as you can between feedings can help maintain your supply. Many feel like they need to clean or do laundry while baby sleeps, but we’re giving you permission to rest as much as possible. The laundry will be there when you wake up.

You’re doing a great job

Don’t panic if you don’t see an immediate increase in your breast milk supply. It usually takes about 24 to 48 hours for you to notice a difference once you start pumping or feeding baby more frequently.

Know that we’re here for you. Being a mom can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. It can also be one of the most challenging, especially for new moms. You’re doing a great job.  If you need any extra lactation support, our certified lactation consultants are here to help.

If you’re struggling to breast feed, just remember that fed is best.

You can schedule an appointment for help with nursing, any breast problems (mastitis, painful feedings) or learn how to return to work and transition baby to bottle feeding. 

To make an appointment, call (316) 804-6177.

The NMC Maternal Child Unit has a Blue Distinction Centers+ Award for Maternity Care and is a High 5 for Mom & Baby facility.

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