Want to know how to boost your breast milk supply naturally? Forget about medications, superstitions and miraculous recipes —check out these *scientifically proven* tips to naturally stimulate lactation.
In the past, when a new mother went through childbirth, she would often be advised by her mother, grandmother, and women neighbors to “eat chicken soup” or “eat hominy” regularly in order to increase breast milk production. Perhaps you’ve heard this advice yourself; after all, these ideas haven’t really disappeared yet.
And, to be fair, it’s not that they’re profoundly wrong: we have to admit that these recommendations go far beyond mere hearsay passed down through generations. There’s a lot of empirical and lived experience from women who continue to advise and even bring hominy and chicken soup themselves to new mothers to support her in her new breastfeeding journey.
However, it’s neither the corn in the hominy nor the chicken in the soup that genuinely helps increase breast milk production. It’s simply the intake of fluids, in this case; something that hominy and chicken soup have in common (and abundance).
In this article, we’ve gathered evidence-based tips and recommendations from experienced breastfeeding professionals to naturally increase breast milk production. Take a look!
How to tell if you have “enough” breast milk?
By observing your baby’s body signals, you can tell if they are satisfied or hungry still. For first-time mothers (or even for an experienced mother, as each pregnancy is different), one of the challenging things to tell is whether we are producing enough milk for the baby. Whether we are breastfeeding as much as they need or if our milk is “insufficient.”
Unfortunately, in America, breastfeeding rates fall far below the ideal scenario. Most mothers receive little to no guidance at all, or they receive incorrect guidance on breastfeeding. This makes the process significantly harder! It’s common for babies to leave the hospital with a pacifier and bottle or to be “supplemented” with artificial milk from his very first day out here, even if the mother’s breasts are engorged with colostrum and milk.
Here are a few signs that your baby is well-fed, meaning they are receiving enough milk:
- Consistent weight gain of 120 to 200 grams per week in their first few months of life (note: it’s normal for the baby to lose weight in the first 3 weeks instead of gaining).
- Your baby appears satisfied after nursing.
- You feel your body completely relax after breastfeeding.
- In the first week of life, your baby changes about 6 wet diapers and has 3 soft yellow stools within 24 hours.
How to tell if my baby is full?
- Baby keeps hands open instead of clenching fists.
- Baby refuses or pulls away from the breast when offered.
- Baby consistently takes the mouth off the breast or nurses without interest.
If you don’t recognize these signs and think you are not producing enough breast milk, see the tips below!
How to Naturally Increase Breast Milk Supply
Maintain a healthy diet
Include whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats), a variety of fruits and vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3 (tuna, salmon, flaxseed) in your daily diet. Avoid processed foods with saturated fats and refined sugars.
Increase fluid intake
Drinking plenty of water is crucial to stimulate milk production. Ideally, keep a water bottle handy whenever you breastfeed (also for convenience, as breastfeeding can make you very thirsty!) and remember to drink throughout the day. Natural juices and teas are also good allies!
Rest whenever possible
It’s challenging for most mothers to get a good night’s sleep with newborns, and this can significantly affect breast milk production. Producing milk also requires a lot of energy from our bodies, and a tired and fatigued body cannot do it optimally.
Therefore, whenever the baby sleeps, if you’re torn between checking Facebook or sleeping: sleep. Between eating and sleeping? Sleep. Between taking a shower and sleeping? Sleep. Proper sleep and rest are essential for successful breastfeeding.
Work on reducing stress
Stress has an immediate negative impact on milk production. To increase breast milk production, it’s crucial to reduce stress levels. If there’s too much noise or activity in your home and it bothers you, try organizing a “breastfeeding corner” where you can be more comfortable without interruption. Dim lights, semi-closed curtains, a calm atmosphere—anything to make you comfortable.
You can also try relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing (there are free smartphone apps for that), meditation, or yoga.
Delegate as much as possible
Don’t be shy about asking friends and family for help to get some rest and feel well. After all, you need to take care of the caregiver for everything to work. If you live with your partner, this is the time for them to be more supportive than ever and take care of as many household tasks (dishes, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, and bathing) so you can focus on the baby. After all, breastfeeding is indeed the only task that cannot be delegated (at least at first).
Breastfeed whenever possible
Breastfeeding works, basically, on a supply and demand system: the more the baby sucks, the more milk your body produces to meet that demand. This was actually one of the best pieces of advice I received from my doula postpartum: breast is the answer to everything. Crying? Breast. Fell? Breast. Woke up? Breast. Sleepy? Breast. This helps the baby and helps the mom (to have peace and more milk!).
Pump milk when you can’t breastfeed
If you’re away from your baby and can’t breastfeed for long periods (such as at work or school), try expressing milk to maintain production.
The idea is not to let your body interpret these long periods without breastfeeding as a hint that it should reduce milk supply because some feedings were “skipped,” but rather that breast milk suply during that time should continue. You can do this manually or opt for a breast pump to assist.
This decision is yours and yours only!
Finally, it’s worth emphasizing once again that the benefits of breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding, i.e., after 2 years old) are enormous for both the mother and the baby. There are various professionals who can help you on this journey if you’re decided to breastfeed, such as lactation consultants.
However, it’s important to stress that breastfeeding is a mother’s right, a decision that rests entirely on her, and no one else. No one is “more of a mother” or “less of a mother” for X or Y. The most important thing is that you are receiving all the support you need (we all need!) to be able to pursue your goal in a healthy way.