I (mostly) exclusively breastfed both of my children. I say “mostly” because, like many mothers, I struggled to get my milk supply up at the beginning. Using the strategies I outline below, I was able to get my milk supply up by the time my children were a month old.
The strategies I used with my first child did NOT work with my second child. So, this will be a trial-and-error process for you as well!
Check Your Latch
This would always be your first step. To ensure you have a good latch, I highly recommend seeking a lactation consultant through Public Health or a breastfeeding specialist. If you have a poor latch, they will make suggestions to help your baby feed more efficiently. The earlier you fix your latch (within the first week of birth) the better off you’ll be – otherwise your baby will start to lose weight and not get the nutrition s/he needs, and your milk supply will continue to decrease.
A power pump is when you pump right after a feed, and/or an hour after a feed. The purpose of this is to trick your body into producing more milk. Don’t be discouraged if you are only able to collect small amounts. Over time, with regular pumps, your supply will increase. The goal is to remove milk 8-12 times per day, either by breastfeeding or by pumping. The pump I used is a double electric breast pump by Medela.
Note: This method worked after I had my first baby. However, it did not work for me after I had my second baby – even with regular pumps, the amount I got from the pump was very low.
Fenugreek is an herb, and its seeds are ground, and often used to make curry in many cultures. Fenugreek seeds can be found at most South Asian grocery stores. Fenugreek capsules are sold in most pharmacies or health food stores. However, the way that I consumed it is by grinding the seeds in a coffee grinder, put 1-2 teaspoons in a glass of water and chugging it down. I did this 3-4 times per day. The flavour isn’t for everyone, and it feels like you’re drinking chalk. But it definitely made my milk supply go up with my first child – I was engorged!
Note: This method did not work for me after I had my second child.
Kangaroo Care is when you hold your newborn skin-to-skin immediately after birth on your bare chest (father/mother). It is believed that parents who do this tend to be more successful at breastfeeding and breastfeed longer.
Note: I didn’t do this with my firstborn, but I did with my second. I also continued Kangaroo Care for weeks after we came home. I personally did find that my milk production increased when I had skin-to-skin contact. And eventually, I also noticed that I didn’t produce much milk when I pumped, but I did produce plenty of milk when my baby latched on – it was like an uncontrolled let-down reflex when my baby was nearby or hungry.
Mother’s Milk Tea
Mother’s Milk Tea is an herbal tea that contains fenugreek, fennel, anise, coriander, and blessed thistle. This tea can be found at most drug stores or health food stores. I tried the tea after I had my second child. I did find that it helped me produce milk – I felt a little engorged. I didn’t drink it that often; only as needed.
Note: I consumed this after I had my second child when I realized that consuming ground fenugreek wasn’t working this time around.
This is something that is really important to do – but also hard to do. Let’s face it, as new parents or parents of a newborn, we often forget, or feel like you don’t have the time, to take care of yourself. However, not taking care of yourself can definitely affect the milk supply.
Try your best to eat at least 3 nutritious meals per day – don’t skip meals. Producing breast milk requires energy and your body needs to be fueled! And if you can manage to consume foods that boost milk supply, that would be a bonus! Foods that help boost milk production include whole grains, dark green vegetables, fennel, garlic, almonds, and brewer’s yeast.
Breast milk is made up of mostly water. So don’t forget to drink your 8 glasses of water! Try to stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol, as they can interfere with milk production.
Most parents are exhausted those first few weeks. But stress and exhaustion can reduce milk supply. Take a nap when the baby is napping, or ask for help so that you can have some downtime.
Underlying medical conditions can also interfere with milk production. These include:
- Excessive blood loss during birth
- A history of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), diabetes, thyroid, or other hormonal disorders
- Mammary hypoplasia – a rare condition where there isn’t enough milk-producing tissue within the breast
Best of luck on your breastfeeding journey!