How To Boost Your Milk Supply

Breastfeeding is one of the most daunting yet rewarding parts of becoming a new mother. Many people need support and advice in the early stages and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Breastfeeding is the most selfless thing you can do as a new mum. Most people will turn to their midwife or hospital breastfeeding team for help, but once you go home, you will often find many questions swirling around in your head. 

One of these, which I get asked about regularly as a breastfeeding mum and advocate, is how you can boost your milk supply.

Despite several online cookie companies claiming their delicious biscuits will give your breasts an added boost, science, unfortunately, states that no amount of food or in this case, biscuits will make any difference to your body, so sorry! 

What Will Help Boost my Milk Supply?

Breastfeeding baby at the nipple! Yes, the thing you were already doing or learning to do with your new baby. Sounds simple, I know, but let’s now look at some scientific facts about breastfeeding to better understand what’s happening.

In the hours following birth, women will notice they are leaking colostrum, which is known as liquid gold, and it is filled to the brim with antibodies or germ-killing cells. It is tailor-made by your body specifically for your newborn. 

Not only will it coat your baby’s tummy and stop germs from getting into the bloodstream, it is also highly concentrated, perfect for your baby’s tiny stomach right now. It’s only available in your breast for the first few days and then your proper milk comes in. 

During this time, it is ideal to get help with baby latching and learning to feed, so that when the milk does come in, they have already got the hang of a breast being in their mouth. A mother’s milk can come in any day between day two and day seven post-birth; you can help establish your supply simply by putting your baby to the breast as often as you can.

Did you know? That a baby’s saliva passes into the mother’s body through the nipple during a latch, and receptors inside the breast then tell her body what to make for the baby. 

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A newborn baby will smell your milk and often fuss until they find the breast to latch on to. Other normal behaviours include tugging, shaking their head, hitting the breast with their hands and repeatedly latching on and off. 

These are stimulating behaviours that most babies do at some point, and it means they are attempting to stimulate the flow of milk. These actions can also help with increasing your supply.

So, we have established what a newborn might be doing, but what about when your milk comes in and has settled down, you’re not leaking through your top every thirty seconds and baby’s latch is good? Well, now comes the time for supply and demand. 

Supply and Demand

Imagine your breast is a river as opposed to a water tank. When your baby is at the breast and emptying it, it can feel as though the breast is deflating, but what you aren’t aware of, is that your breast tissue is continually making milk ready for the next feed. And its properties will depend upon the messages your body received from the baby during this current latch. 

Your breasts are like a river with a dam, the dam is opened and the milk is removed, but behind that, more milk is waiting to fill the dam up again.

Something else to consider is the breast itself. If you have a breast full of milk that is not being effectively removed through your baby having a good and deep enough latch, then your body may assume the milk amount is not needed. 

This sends messages to the body to say the breast is still full, so we don’t need to make much more. This is why a good latch is very important and something that positioning and only practice can get right, for both of you are learning together on this. When the breast feels the milk is being removed efficiently, it then increases the supply, thinking a well-drained breast needs more milk and pronto!

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What is a Low Milk Supply?

Let’s talk about things that are not signs of having a low milk supply, like not being able to pump much milk. 

If, like me, you found pumping too hard or got regular mastitis and had to stop, then don’t worry, not everyone’s breasts are designed for pumping.

I breastfed my son every day until he was aged 3 years and 10 months! My supply did dip in the third year but that was more about my own health issues. You can breastfeed for as long as you’d like, but remember this, having small breasts, being unable to express with a pump, not leaking anymore, and your breasts no longer feeling engorged are not reasons to doubt your supply.

You will also find your baby will dictate feeds, some may cluster feed early on and you’ll feed sixteen hours out of a day, others may feed for a long time and then go to sleep for a while. 

Every baby is different, and actually, the majority of feeds are all different too. I remember trying to time them when my son was a newborn, and I would write an R or an L next to the time on my phone so I knew which breast to give first next feed. But honestly, the best thing you can do for your supply is to keep baby close and latch them frequently, and go with the flow, quite literally.

Another thing you can do is skin-to-skin, meaning you are naked on your chest area, and your baby is naked except for a nappy. This skin-on-skin direct contact causes your baby to be more aware of your breasts, they may start to favour one side more than the other too, and this is normal. 

Skin-to-skin can be done at any time of the year, if it’s a cool month, ensure a blanket is close by so that it can be gently placed over the two of you. 

The more often you do skin-to-skin the better for your supply and your bonding; it is also very relaxing as baby will be able to listen to your heartbeat and breathing. Frequent breastfeeding is also ideal rather than waiting for your little one to cry out, try and work out their basic cues, such as rooting, fussing, and the hand gestures they make, indicating they want to be close to you and the breast. 

To summarise, have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as often as possible, and pair that with frequent feeding at the breast with a deep latch so their saliva tells your body how much milk to make.  Keep watching and listening for cues from baby for when to feed them. Feeding at night can help to increase your supply due to your hormones, but frequently and efficiently emptying the breast during a day or a night feed will allow your body to realise that the milk is being used up and that more is needed.

If you want to eat biscuits, then please go ahead, but science and experience will deem them nothing more than a tasty treat. Since breastfeeding burns hundreds of calories, however, I would say eat the biscuit, I preferred a slice of cake!

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