Before we dive into those milk-boosting tips, let’s first talk about how milk production works. Milk production starts off as a hormonally driven process during pregnancy. The birth of your baby and delivery of the placenta triggers the next stage of milk production and what is typically described as “milk coming in.” Prolactin is the hormone responsible for stimulating milk production, and oxytocin is the hormone responsible for the release of milk. Over the days and weeks following the birth of your baby, you will enter into the third stage of milk production, where it switches to purely demand (your baby or hands/pump) and supply (your body responds by making milk). Remember also, that drained breasts make milk at a faster rate than full breasts, so effective and frequent milk removal is key.
1. Make sure your baby has an optimal latch.
The foundation of an optimal milk supply if you are nursing is making sure your baby is effectively and efficiently removing the milk while breastfeeding. If you and your baby are struggling with latch then it’s best to see a lactation consultant for some help. It could just be a matter of getting help with positioning, or there could be more going on such as a baby with a tongue tie.
2. Make time for skin-to-skin cuddles with your baby.
Skin-to-skin has many amazing benefits including a more stable heart rate, encouragement of pre-feeding behaviors, and a calming effect for both you and your baby. This special bonding time isn’t reserved for just those immediate hours after birth. It can be an important piece to helping your baby breastfeed and also triggering oxytocin which is so important for your milk let-down. You can spend this time with your baby doing skin-to-skin in bed or even in a nice warm bath.
3. Make sure you don’t skip breastfeeding or pumping at night.
Prolactin, the milk-making hormone, follows a circadian rhythm and is higher at night and in the wee hours of the morning. A drop in nighttime feedings can also reduce the number of total times per day you are draining your breasts. If your breasts have a smaller storage capacity this reduction in feedings can impact your supply.
4. Add in power pumping sessions for a few days.
Power pumping is basically a way to mimic your baby cluster feeding at your breast. If you are already pumping you would do this session at a time you normally pump, the difference is that you will be pumping on and off for an hour instead of your usual 15-20 minute session.
Sample power pumping schedule; 20 min pump, 10 min rest, 10 min pump, 10 min rest, 10 min pump.
5. Find ways to reduce stress.
Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk let-down, can be impeded by stress. Managing a drop in milk supply or worrying about increasing your supply can be very stressful (not to mention caring for a new baby!). Many parents blame themselves or feel as if they’ve let their baby down. This is certainly not the truth but as parents, we can be very hard on ourselves. Having a non-judgmental support system during this time can make all the difference, especially since working on increasing your supply can take extra time and energy. If you continue to struggle, reach out to a lactation professional who can help guide you and create a specific plan for you.