When it comes to boosting your breast milk supply, it might feel like a never-ending battle. You’re definitely not alone. Many women find it challenging to produce enough breast milk for their babies.
Fortunately, there are many different solutions, including changes in diet and various techniques, that help stimulate milk production. You may also switch to formula-feeding or rely on a combination of breast milk and formula.
If you do decide to give breastfeeding and breast milk pumping a try, read on for helpful tips and advice.
How to Decide Whether Breast Feeding is the Right Decision for You
Breastfeeding is a healthy, natural option when it comes to feeding your little one. But it’s not always the best choice for every woman. To help you decide, ask friends or family members who have breastfed their opinion about the pros and cons. Also, talk with your obstetrician or gynecologist or consult a lactation specialist. Online databases can help you find a breastfeeding coach in your hometown; just search for “breastfeeding specialists” on your browser.
The Nature of Breast Milk
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Anita Pee explains, “The view in TCM about breast milk is similar to conventional medicine. It is the most natural source of nutrition for babies and its benefits cannot be replicated by powdered formula.”
She also explains that babies are able to absorb the nutrients in breast milk easily and breastfed babies are less likely to fall sick and tend not to suffer from constipation. In addition, many vitamins and fatty acids that are important for infant brain development, along with other compounds that regulate the immune system, are found in breast milk.
“Human milk consists of 87% water, 1% protein, 4% lipids, and 7% carbohydrates. It also contains many minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and sodium,” says physician Pee.
The choice is yours, but breastfeeding is undeniably a healthy option for both you and your baby.
How to Make Your Breastfeeding Journey as Enjoyable as Possible
To make your breastfeeding journey as easy and enjoyable as possible, it’s important to understand the optimal techniques. You also need to come up with an approach that works for you. Breastfeeding frequency, amount, and suckling times are different from one woman to the next.
1. Stimulate breast milk production
Pumping breast milk may help stimulate breast milk production; so can breast compression during the feeding because it helps drain the breast. Milk production is affected by how well the breast is drained.
University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, suggests that you pump immediately after breastfeeding during the day. Rest at night. Some mothers find that they get more milk if they pump for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes, and pump for another 10 minutes. It is called power-pumping or cluster pumping.
In addition, you should try to nurse your baby for at least 15 minutes at each breast. Do not limit nursing time. If your baby falls asleep after one breast, wake him or her and offer the second breast. And you want to feed your baby 8 to 16 times in 24 hours — less frequency reduces milk supply.
Physician Pee urges mothers to breastfeed on-demand as frequently or as long as the baby wants. “The more the baby can empty the breast, the more milk can be produced,” she explains.
Providing “skin-to-skin time” after breastfeeding for an additional 20 minutes has also been shown to increase milk production. Simply hold your infant next to your bare breasts.
2. Breast massage
One report shows that gentle breast massage in combination with breast pumping can stimulate milk expression. A gentle breast massage also can relieve pain and engorgement, making it more comfortable to feed your baby when needed.
3. Foods that boost breast milk production
Successful breastfeeding depends on the mother having a nutritious, balanced diet. A diet full of junk, fried foods, and refined sugars can have negative consequences.
Instead, try eating a diet with plant-based and lean animal proteins, complex carbs, fiber, and healthy fats. By doing so, both you and your child will get all the nutrients and vitamins to grow.
Physician Pee suggests that you should, “avoid cold food and drinks, as they hamper digestion and absorption of nutrients.”
She adds, “Food-wise, pig’s trotters are good for nourishing blood and to boost breast milk. Pig’s trotters can be cooked together with natural herbs to make a nourishing soup that is beneficial for breastfeeding mothers.” She also recommends other foods such as, “oatmeal, green leafy vegetables, red dates, brown rice, and black sesame seeds to help increase breast milk production.”
4. Natural herbs that stimulate breast milk production
TCM herbs and supplements are especially useful for new mothers during the first 28 days after labor, whether they plan to breastfeed or not. Coupled with plenty of rest, herbs and nutrients contained in post-natal confinement soups and supplements can help nourish and re-energize your body in the days after giving birth.
In TCM, low milk supply is due to insufficient qi (life force) and blood in the body, caused by prolonged labor or excessive blood loss during labor or related to the mother’s body constitution.
Herbs that will help you increase your breast milk supply include Codonopsis root (dang shen), Astragalus root (huang qi), Angelica sinensis (dang gui, and Ophiopogon root (mai men dong). In addition, green papaya and dang gui essence drink is a common TCM remedy to increase lactation and enhance body shape post-birth.
5. Lifestyle changes and tips
The single most important lifestyle adjustment that is needed to increase breast milk supply and promote the health of your child is to de-stress.
If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try practicing deep breathing or meditation. Take breaks when needed, and ask for help from your family or friends. Exercise regularly to keep your immune system strong and dispel stress and depression.
It is also important to avoid drugs and alcohol when breastfeeding, as these things may affect milk production — and pass through breast milk to your baby. Check with your primary care provider to learn how you might be able to enjoy alcoholic beverages from time to time while practicing “pump and dump” or testing your breast milk for alcohol content.
Consistency, Commitment, and a Positive Attitude are Key
Everyone’s parenting and breastfeeding journey looks different. If you do decide to breastfeed your baby, you should be patient with yourself. The beauty of motherhood is that it is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Your choice about how you nourish and love your baby is ultimately up to you.
You also want to nourish and love yourself. Cut yourself some slack and repeat positive affirmations to yourself when you’re feeling discouraged. Give yourself time to rest and recuperate, snuggle your baby, then try again on those tough days. Regardless of whether you decide to breastfeed or not, the goal is to effectively bond with your newborn.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2011. Barriers to Breastfeeding in the United States. [Accessed on 10 December 2021]
- Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing. 2012.
Principles for Maintaining or Increasing Breast Milk Production. [Accessed on 10 December 2021]
- JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2019. Effectiveness of breast massage for the treatment of women with breastfeeding problems: a systematic review. [Accessed on 10 December 2021]
- Frontiers in Nutrition. 2020. Helping Mom Help Baby: Nutrition-Based Support for the Mother-Infant Dyad During Lactation. [Accessed on 10 December 2021]
- University Hospitals. n.d. Educating Breastfeeding Mothers on How to Boost Milk Supply. [Accessed 13 December 2021]