With formula supplies continuing to run low, nursing moms are looking to maintain and increase their milk supply. Moms are looking to either create a stash for future use or simply be able to meet their babies’ nutritional demands without having to supplement with formula. Likewise, new moms are being encouraged to establish a healthy milk supply and avoid having to supplement.
The added pressure to breastfeed or pump can be stressful for moms who are left feeling like there is no back up plan if they can’t produce enough milk. However, more than 95% of moms are physically able to produce enough milk for their babies. The actual milk output varies greatly from one mom to another and from baby to baby, so it’s best to avoid comparing yourself to other moms.
In general, Moms are able to produce milk for their babies when they are well rested, eat a healthy and varied diet and fully empty their breasts often, either by breastfeeding regularly or frequent pumping.
Increasing milk supply while breastfeeding
If you are an exclusively breastfeeding mom looking to increase your supply, many experts recommend that you stay in bed with your baby and nurse as often and for as long as possible. All while taking full advantage of the endless and very relaxing cuddles and snuggles. This gives moms lots of nipple stimulation as well as some much needed rest. It’s easier said than done, but you can still strive to take things easy, especially in the first couple of weeks postpartum.
This will lead to your supply being in perfect sync with your baby’s needs. As long as your baby is having plenty of wet and poopy diapers, while meeting its growth and development milestones you need not worry. You are producing enough milk.
If you still feel you need to produce a little extra milk or you want to create a freezer stash for a rainy day or to plan for when you go back to work, add a pumping session at a time when your baby is usually asleep and save that milk. It can be after the first feed in the morning, when prolactin levels are highest, or right before going to bed at night.
At first your breasts will feel empty and you might feel like you are not producing any milk, but don’t despair. Remember that as an exclusively breastfeeding mom any milk you pump is extra and stick to your pumping schedule. After a few days your body will get the message that it needs to produce a full extra feed for your baby and your pumping output will yield as much as a regular feed at the breast.
Increasing milk supply while breast pumping
The above advice is applicable for breastfeeding moms, it can be frustrating for exclusive pumpers who are acutely aware of their pumping output after every pumping session. If you are pumping less than your baby needs or want to create your stash, here’s some advice from CLC and fellow exclusive pumper Amanda Glenn from ExclusivePumping.com.
First,identify what is causing your supply issues. Is it a problem with milk production or milk retrieval?
To produce enough milk, it’s recommended to:
Stay hydrated, water will do just fine.
Eat a healthy and varied diet. Now isn’t the time to restrict your caloric intake since you need an extra 500+ calories per day.
Sleep and rest. While hard with a newborn, try to rest and sleep as much as you can.
In terms of milk retrieval, your breasts should feel light and soft after a pumping session. If this is not the case, your pump is not removing milk from your breasts effectively or your body is not responding well to the pump’s stimuli. Most pumps work with suction only. Your baby provides more stimuli than any pump can offer.
If milk is not properly removed, you run the risk of getting clogged ducts or mastitis, and you are not signaling your body to produce more milk.
Make sure that:
Your pump flanges fit correctly. Flanges that are too big or too small will not retrieve milk properly and will probably be very uncomfortable. You shouldn’t feel any pain while pumping or find any marks on your nipples once you remove the flanges.
Compress or massage your breasts with your hands while pumping so that you can help move the milk towards your nipple and empty the breasts more fully. Our Lilu Massage Bra is designed to do exactly this, so that you can pump completely hands-free, while increasing your milk output by up to 50% each session.
Replace your pump’s parts often, especially valves, regularly so your pump’s suction is always at its best.
Check your pump’s settings or try a manual pump. Some moms find it easier to retrieve milk from their breasts with longer deeper suction, while others find it better to use shorter shallower suction settings.
Once you’ve made sure that your pump works for you and your body, make sure that breastfeeding and pumping works well for your situation. Stress is a new mom’s worst enemy in terms of mental health and milk supply. The AAP recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding throughout your baby's first year, we know that isn’t always possible.
Every mom (and baby) has a different situation. If you are a mom in need of formula, contact your pediatrician to learn what options are available to you, and check out The Free Formula Exchange. They may be a good resource for you at this time.
* A previous version of this blog post cited Amanda Glenn as an IBCLC, she's actually a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) not an IBCLC.
Lilu is a Women’s Health company building tech-enabled devices to empower new moms. Our first product, the Lilu Massage Bra, mimics compression massage, so you can empty your breasts fully to establish, increase and maintain your milk supply. Pump up to 50% more milk each session, all while going hands-free.
Introducing the revolutionary Lilu Lactation Massager Bra - designed to make your pumping sessions more efficient and comfortable than ever before. With our lactation massage cushions, you can experience the benefits of hands-on compression motions recommended by lactation experts, without using your hands. Our bra holds the cushions securely in place, massaging both breasts while you pump, helping to increase milk flow and maintain your milk supply.