Are you going back to work? Looking to build a freezer stash? Or are you dealing with a milk supply that is generally lower than you hoped? Whatever the reason, needing more milk is a common experience in breastfeeding...but it can be cause for serious anxiety.
Lots of moms are encouraged to turn to supplements, teas, and dietary changes to increase supply. While these steps can help, some of the best ways to increase your supply involve returning to the basics: Supply & Demand!
Power pumping. It’s a tried-and-true way to increase your milk supply. It’s the top of our list because it’s the best way to quickly see a measurable improvement in your milk supply. The basic concept behind power pumping is to mimic cluster feeding. As we’ve talked about before, breast milk operates as a supply and demand process – the more milk your body believes your baby needs, the more it makes.
How to start? A power pumping routine might look like this:
- Pump 20 minutes, rest 10 minutes
- Pump 10 minutes, rest 10 minutes
- Pump 10 minutes
At least one session a day should be replaced with power pumping. With power pumping, you can see results within a few days, but you should aim to power pump for at least four days in a row.
Find ways to relax
When it comes to enjoyable experiences, most moms don’t rank power pumping up very high on the list. But it actually can be an opportunity for some you time. And it can be an opportunity to boost your milk supply; studies show that stress hormones inhibit oxytocin release and can be linked with lower milk production.
The solution? Find ways to relax during breastfeeding.
While it might not be possible to turn every pumping session into a relaxing spa session, making one or two a day more relaxing can help your milk supply. Try these tips:
- Listen to a meditation app while pumping. Mindfulness meditation can be an especially helpful tool to learn in the stressful days of early parenthood.
- Make yourself your favorite cup of tea or warm beverage
- Use a comfort pack filled with warm flaxseed and lavender on your neck, on your eyes, anywhere that feels good!
- Watch clips of your favorite funny video — laughing can spark the release of oxytocin
An added benefit of relaxing while pumping is that relaxation is shown to support a faster letdown. Faster letdown = get back to your life quickly!
Breast massage is hugely effective when it comes to maximizing your breastmilk output — Studies show women were able to express 48% more milk than mothers using a pump alone by using hands-on pumping. By physically helping your breasts empty out, you can get that much closer to another letdown.
When it comes to breast massage, there are a couple of approaches you can take. First, you can always use a manual massage. Manual massage for lactation has been around for centuries and, while the internet has only been around for a few decades, there are some great tutorials.
Bonus points: Massage can also help increase the fatty content of your milk.
Check your flange size
Your flanges are an important part of your pumping kit. But do you have the right ones? Your breast pump came with standard sizes, but we all know that standard size is a wide spectrum when it comes to our bodies — especially breastfeeding breasts!
Using the wrong size flange on your pump impacts your supply negatively in several ways. It is uncomfortable. It can damage your breast tissue. And it can impact how much milk you remove. And since our breastmilk is a supply-and-demand system, anything that slows our demand ultimately lowers our supply.
Signs that you’re using the wrong size of flange include:
- Nipples rubbing the side of the tunnel
- Redness or irritation
- Large portion of your areola is pulled into the tunnel along with your nipple
- Breasts not fully expressed after pumping
If you’re experiencing any of these issues, make a virtual appointment with a LaVie lactation consultant for a remote flange fitting appointment.
Put a sock on it
Yes, you heard that right. Slip one of those adorable baby socks on the milk bottle while your pumping can help your output. Why? Out of sight means out of mind, which means less worrying and less stress and better milk production.
Heat and vibration
If there was an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actors in a Pumping Production, heat and vibration would be our main contenders. Heat — especially moist heat — improves circulation, opens up your milk ducts, and gets your letdown going; vibration also supports letdown and milk flow. For mamas looking to pump more milk, these are huge benefits because faster letdown and milk flow mean you can start producing more milk quickly once you’ve emptied your breasts.
Don’t skip the MOTN pump
Pulling yourself out of bed at 2 am is hard. It’s also the best time to get pumping because your milk production is highest at night. (And not just night, like 9 pm. Deep sleep nighttime, like 2 am.) Why? Your body produces higher levels of prolactin, the hormone that promotes milk production, during this time. Night feedings or pumping can help keep your milk supply up. (Even if it means an extra cup of coffee in the morning is needed.)
Increasing milk supply is possible for many moms, but please remember that there are situations in which milk supply can't be increased due to medical reasons or other factors. It's always helpful to speak with your medical care provider if you have concerns.
While these may be solutions that can help you increase supply quickly, everyone's experience may be different. If you do feel like you have low supply and are having challenges increasing your supply make sure to speak to a lactation consultant to determine the root cause.