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5 Effective Ways On How To Increase Breast Milk Supply

Published: March 10, 2023

Contributed by Orchard Clinic

Ask any new mother about breastfeeding, and she will likely launch into a lengthy conversation about her struggles. Breast milk is touted as the gold standard of nutrition for newborns up to 6 months of age, yet the term ‘Breast is Best’ remains highly contentious.

A study of 500 new mothers suggests many stop breastfeeding at the 6- week mark due to fatigue associated with breastfeeding (73.6%) or perceived low milk supply (21.6%)1. Mom guilt often creeps into many women’s minds at this point. Most want to provide the best for their babies, but the demands of parenting a newborn often lead to fatigue, subsequently affecting milk production.

Breastfeeding

Featured Interview with Lim Peifen

Local radio DJ and personality Lim Peifen shares about breastfeeding and her journey of getting back into shape. As a public figure and working mother of two, Peifen wanted to share her experience and reach out to her fellow mums.

One challenging part of her postpartum journey was her recovery from Diastasis Recti. Solving this issue effectively helped her regain core strength and return to her exercise routine.

Find out more about Diastasis Recti.

To help you with your breastfeeding journey, here are 5 effective ways to increase breast milk supply while prioritising your well-being.

#1 Invest in a Good Quality Double Breast Pump

The faster the breast empties of milk, the more milk it produces. Therefore, experts recommend breastfeeding 8-12 times in a 24 hour window2 to ensure supply is steady and consistent. This advice places a lot of pressure on mothers to breastfeed around the clock with some losing much needed sleep over it. It becomes even more difficult if their babies are ‘slow’ drinkers, with some babies taking up to an hour to feed.

An efficient double breast pump ensures both breasts are efficiently drained of milk regardless of whether the baby is a fast or slow drinker. If a mother chooses to breastfeed exclusively, she can still use the pump after a round of breastfeeding to ensure any remaining milk empties from both breasts.

#2 Sleep More, Stress Less

According to Shivani Patel (M.D, Obstetrics and Gynaecology) of UT Southwestern Medical Center, stress is the No. 1 factor affecting breast milk supply3. Stress produces hormones such as cortisol which can negatively affect milk production.

New mothers are frequently told to rest more and ask for help as much as possible. While it is easy advice to dole out, adequate rest is often elusive for most new mothers. Tips to overcome stress and achieve better quality sleep include:

  • Sharing The Workload
    Getting your partner to share the responsibilities of infant caring is a huge step towards ensuring that you are less stressed out and more well-rested. It is acceptable to receive as much help as others are willing to offer. From accepting home cooked food from a friend or having a relative come over to watch the baby, every little bit of help goes a long way.
  • Having A Consistent Bedtime Routine
    Creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it ensures your body is prepped for a good night’s sleep. A warm bath followed by a short 5 minute meditation helps the body ease into a good night’s sleep. As watching TV or scrolling through electronic devices delays REM sleep, it is good practice to turn off all electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime4.
  • Taking Early Morning Walks
    In a recent sleep study of 700 participants, researchers found morning light exposure equates to longer and better quality sleep5. As sunlight releases serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood, sleep, appetite and learning ability6, taking a morning stroll with your baby is beneficial for both mum and bub.

#3 Nourish Yourself with Milk Boosters

Galactagogues are foods, herbs or medicines that can help to increase milk production. While not necessarily effective as a standalone solution, they work very well with frequent breastfeeding or pumping to boost supply.

The following foods help to boost milk supply and are highly nutritious for both mother and baby7:

  1. Whole grains such as oats and barley
  2. Dark, Leafy Greens, Kale, Spinach 
  3. Ginger
  4. Fennel
  5. Almonds

Herbs such as Fenugreek and Thistle can also increase milk supply. However, it is best to consult a doctor before taking herbs as they may cause unwanted side effects such as nausea or diarrhoea.

#4 Breast Compressions

The more milk a baby drinks, the more milk your body produces. Breast compressions are a helpful way of creating a stronger flow of milk, enabling the baby to remove more milk from the breasts and increasing milk supply.

Here is a simple 4-step process to perform a compression8:

  1. Place your fingers and thumb on opposite sides of your breast (e.g. your thumb on top and fingers underneath) not too close to the areola and nipple.
  2. Gently squeeze your breast when your baby is not actively sucking.
  3. Hold the compression until your baby stops actively sucking or stops sucking altogether.
  4. Repeat.

#5 Keep Hydrated

A breastfeeding mother should drink 128 ounces (=16 cups) of fluid daily9. Breast Milk is 80% water and consuming adequate amounts of fluids in the form of water, vegetable and fruit juice, or even nutritious soups counts towards adequate hydration.

If you are experiencing difficulty breastfeeding or feel that you have a low milk supply despite trying various methods to boost milk production, it might be beneficial to speak to your doctor or a registered lactation consultant. While a baby usually gets the most care and attention during the postpartum period, a mother’s overall health and well-being should not be compromised.

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  1. Brown, Catherine R L et al. “Factors influencing the reasons why mothers stop breastfeeding.” Canadian journal of public health = Revue canadienne de sante publique, 2014.
  2. Littleton, Kristen and Richardson, Jamila H., “Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often”, Kidshealth Org, Accessed: 20th February 2023, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html
  3. Patel, Shivani, “4 factors that can decrease breast milk supply – and how to replenish it”, 16 May 2022, https://utswmed.org/medblog/decrease-breast-milk-supply/
  4. Pacheco, Danielle, “How Electronics Affects Sleep”, Sleep Foundation, 15 December 2022, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-electronics-affect-sleep#:~:text=Blue%20light%20can%20also%20reduce,devices%20that%20emit%20blue%20light.
  5. Marshall, Lisa, “Get Morning Light, Sleep Better At Night”, WebMD, 23 March 2022, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/morning-light-better-sleep
  6. Lloyd, William C III, “What is serotonin, what does it do?”, Medical News Today, 5 October 2022, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232248#:~:text=Serotonin%20has%20a%20wide%20variety,cycles%20and%20the%20body%20clock.
  7. Murray, Donna, “Foods to Increase Breast Supply”, Very Well Family, November 8 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/foods-that-increase-breast-milk-supply-431598
  8. “Breast compressions.” Australian Breastfeeding Association, https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/resources/breast-compressions. Accessed 17 February 2023.
  9. White, Jennifer, “How Much Water Should I Drink While Breastfeeding”, Very Well Family, October 19 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/does-drinking-more-water-affect-breastfeeding-284285

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