You’ve probably seen the Insta stories of moms with freezers stuffed full of breastmilk storage bags. It’s easy for a new mom to wonder how some mamas can produce so much milk.
First things first: You don’t need a freezer stock of breastmilk to feed your baby, even if you’re planning to return to work full time. You only need enough expressed breastmilk to last for the next day, perhaps a couple days if you’ll be away for a weekend.
But we understand increasing breast milk supply is on the mind of a lot of breastfeeding moms — in fact, it’s one of our most frequently asked questions. Some mamas just feel more secure with a little extra on hand. Others want to build up their supply so they don’t have to rely on formula.
So if you’re trying to learn how to increase your breastmilk supply and build a stash for your squish, read on for a few tried-and-true tips.
Watch baby, not the clock
Sometimes called responsive or on-demand feeding, this means breastfeeding whenever baby shows signs of being hungry. This helps your body figure out how much milk your baby needs to produce, especially early on.
So watch your baby for early signs of hunger:
- Opening and closing mouth
- Turning head, rooting around
Whether this happens every 30 minutes or every couple hours, follow baby’s natural cues. Trying to get your baby on a strict feeding schedule too early could actually hurt your supply.
Who doesn’t love baby snuggles? Cuddling skin-to-skin has so many great benefits for baby, and it can help increase breastmilk supply, too. Skin-to skin contact helps you release prolactin and stimulates oxytocin, two important hormones in making breastmilk. Undress your baby down to the diaper and hold him or her against your bare chest. A blanket can keep everyone warm and cozy.
Always check baby’s position to make sure his or her neck isn’t bent too far forward and that the nose and mouth remain uncovered.
Pump after feeding
While the best way to establish a strong supply is to breastfeed on demand from the start, after about 4-6 weeks, you can add pumping sessions to increase your breastmilk supply. Breastmilk production follows the rule of supply and demand: The more milk you release, the more you will produce. So upping the amount you remove from your breasts will tell your body that baby needs more to eat. This teaches your body to make more milk.
Adding a pumping session after breastfeeding can help increase breastmilk supply. The best time to pump is 30 minutes to an hour after baby breastfeeds — and hopefully, when they’re content or sleeping! For more advice, check out our article on adding pumping to your breastfeeding routine.
Practice hands-on pumping
Nothing empties a breast better than a baby, but there are things you can do to pump more efficiently. Enter the art of massage!
Massaging before a pumping session will stimulate the milk ejection reflex. Continue to massage your breasts during pumping to keep the flow going. This also helps to increase your milk’s fat content, which supports baby’s brain and nervous system development. Milk may come out through your nipples but it’s actually produced way further back in the breast tissue, so massage or compression of that tissue may improve pumping results. (A hands-free pumping bra can help here.) Finally, using hand-expression after a pumping session can help you release even more milk.
Try power pumping
Familiar with “cluster feeding”? Power pumping is like that, but with your double electric pump. By emptying your breasts a few times back-to-back, you trick your body into producing even more milk.
Find an hour to pump without interruptions, preferably in the morning when your supply is likely at its peak. Pump for 20 minutes, then rest for 10. Pump for another 10 minutes, rest again for 10. Finish with 10 minutes of pumping, then resume your normal pumping or feeding schedule for the day. You should start to see results after two or three days.
Note: Power pumping is best for moms with low milk supply, so check with an IBCLC to see if it’s right for you. This short-term solution should fit into (rather than replace) your regular pumping routine.
Use a breastmilk collector
While pumping is a great way to increase your breastmilk supply, it’s time-consuming. A simpler way to extract a few extra ounces is to use a breastmilk collector or silicone breast pump.
When you’re breastfeeding, oxytocin helps push the milk down the milk ducts and out of the breast, on both sides. This normally results in a wet nursing pad and wasted milk from the side baby’s not feeding on. A breastmilk collector applies a gentle suction to silently collect milk from one breast while baby latches on to the other. It’s hands-free, easy, and allows you to focus on baby while getting bonus milk to use later!
Make the mind-body connection
Moms’ brains are on overload. All. Of. The. Time. And that mental load can affect your milk production. In fact, studies have shown a link between high stress and reduced milk production and lower milk transfer (i.e., baby gets less milk during a feeding session). The reason may be that stress hormones hinder the release of oxytocin.
The good news: Several studies have shown that meditation before or while pumping can increase breastmilk supply. So take a little time to consciously relax and visualize whatever brings you calm. It can be hard to give yourself permission to break away like this, but trading the multi-tasking for a few moments of meditation could have a positive impact on your supply – and give you the energy you need to tackle the next thing on your list!
Take care of yourself
We can all agree: Breastfeeding is pretty much a superpower. Your body is sustaining an entire other person (as if doing so during pregnancy wasn’t enough!). And that takes a lot out of you — about 300 to 500 extra calories each day, in fact, though caloric needs will vary from mom to mom.
All the more reason to take care of yourself, especially through good nutrition. Make sure you’re eating enough food to provide those extra calories, and stay hydrated too. Listening to your body is a great start. For example, you may feel hungrier during a growth spurt when baby is eating more, causing your body to make more milk. And while drinking more water doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll produce more milk, dehydration can definitely reduce your supply.
We get it: As a new mom, you want to be able to feed your baby as much as he or she needs, and prepare for times when others get to do the honors. With a good understanding of how breastfeeding works and a few tricks and tools, you can increase your breastmilk supply and save some for later — and enjoy that peace of mind.
For more help maintaining your supply, check out our lactation smoothie recipes for breastfeeding moms.
UP NEXT: Tips for storing breastmilk
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