You may be wanting to build up your breastmilk supply for two main reasons: 1) You have a low supply, or your supply is dropping 2) You want to store extra breastmilk in preparation for going back to work, or a holiday, or to gradually wean baby off the breast and take the bottle.
If you suspect you have low supply, it’s important to make sure that you’re not mistaken, because there are many mums who wrongly perceive themselves as having a low supply when in fact they don’t.
INCORRECT signs of low supply:
- Baby wants to feed frequently
- Baby feeds for a very short or long time
- Baby is waking up at night
- Baby is fussy after feeding
- Breasts feel less full or are smaller
- Unable to pump much milk
All the above are normal signs in a breastfeeding mum and baby and can be caused by many other factors. They do not indicate a low breastmilk supply.
CORRECT signs of possible low supply:
- Baby has lost more than 10% of birth weight
- Baby has not started gaining weight by day five or six postpartum
- A decrease in the number of wet nappies
- Less than two dirty (poo) nappies a day
- Signs of dehydration – dark coloured urine, dry mouth, lethargic and refusing to feed
The biggest telltale sign of low supply is poor weight gain, particularly in the first two weeks after birth. It is normal for newborns to lose weight in the first few days, but they should quickly gain it back and be at their birth weight by 10 to 14 days postpartum.
If you’ve run through the checklist, or have sought professional advice, and are certain that you have low supply – or would simply like to build up extra to store – here are some natural ways to do so.
1 . Power pumping
Does power pumping increase milk supply?
Theoretically, power pumping is the most effective way of increasing milk supply because it mimics a baby’s cluster feeding and thus biologically “tricks” your body into producing more milk because it thinks the baby is going through a growth spurt.
The production of breastmilk is based on a supply and demand relationship with the baby – the more she feeds, the more the body produces. But there is a limit to how much your baby can stomach in a day, or she may be unable to feed properly due to a cold, tongue-tie, or other reasons, resulting in a drop in milk supply.
In such cases, power pumping acts as a “second baby” to stimulate your body into producing as much milk as you and your baby need. However, this is all theoretical, because realistically, the effectiveness of power pumping depends on two factors:
1) The type of breast pump you use
Breast pumps come in various designs and sizes, the shield (or mouth) of the breast pump, in particular, may not fit every type of breast. If the seal it forms around the breast is not ideal, the suction of the pump will not be as effective as it should be.
See this article for a cost and rating comparison of all types of breast pumps available in Australia.
2) How long and often you power pump
Some women take longer to get a letdown, whereas others need to pump for a bit longer to achieve a decent stimulation. The body is also very clever at discerning a machine and a baby sucking at your breasts, so it may not respond as efficiently with a breast pump.
How many times a day should you power pump?
Start with once a day in the morning, giving yourself at least an hour to power pump. You can do so either before or after baby’s first feed, but leave 1-2 hours before or after either way so your body can rest and produce sufficient breastmilk for the baby.
Power pumping schedule for DOUBLE electric breast pump:
- Pump for 20 mins
- Rest for 10 mins
- Pump for 10 mins
- Rest for 10 mins
- Pump for 10 mins
- Total: 60 mins
Power pumping schedule for SINGLE electric breast pump:
- Pump for 10 mins on the fuller side
- Switch to the other side and pump for 10 mins
- Alternate 10 mins each side for another two times
- Total: 60 mins
Can you pump too much while breastfeeding?
Yes, this is definitely possible. If you have incorrectly diagnosed yourself with low supply (when in actuality you already have enough milk), power pumping may backfire and instead cause you to have an oversupply, or lead to engorgement later in the day or during the night.
This is why it’s important to start power pumping gradually, just once a day for a few days to see how much it increases your supply. If you feel that once a day is not making much of a difference, you can increase the frequency to twice a day.
Once you’ve reached a comfortable level of supply, gradually decrease the length of each power pumping session over the next few days to give your body enough time to adjust and avoid engorged breasts.
2. Lactation cookies
What makes lactation cookies work?
Lactation cookies, or breastfeeding cookies, often contain at least one lactogenic ingredient – that is, a food that contains phytoestrogens, plant-based compounds that are similar to estrogen in the body.
Although this isn’t scientifically proven, lactogenic foods are said to help promote and support breastmilk production due to the presence of phytoestrogens and other naturally occurring chemicals.
There is a wide variety of food that is lactogenic, so even if you’re not having lactation cookies per se, just including these ingredients in your breastfeeding diet will be helpful in producing breastmilk.
Breastfeeding Diet – Foods That Boost Milk Supply:
Vegetables: Fennel, spirulina, seaweed, kale, spinach, asparagus, green bean, carrots, yam, sweet potatoes, peas, beet
Fungus: Brewers yeast
Herbs/Spices: Ginger, onion, garlic, marjoram, basil, anise seed, dill, caraway, turmeric
Grains: Oatmeal, barley, millet, brown rice
Fruits: Apricots, green papaya
Nuts/Seeds: Fenugreek, flaxseed, raw almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, legumes
Drinks: Water, coconut water, ginger ale, malt beer
How many lactation cookies should you eat a day?
You can have up to 3-5 cookies a day, depending on your activity level. Lactation cookies are generally high in energy due to the use of grains like oatmeal, so too many per day could add to your calorie count and add a few extra pounds to your body.
Where do you buy lactation cookies?
Surprisingly, there aren’t many ready-made lactation cookies that are commercially available in supermarkets. Most lactation cookies that you can find in Australia are only sold online via small independently-owned businesses.
3. Breastfeeding supplements
Herbs of Gold Breastfeeding Support
Herbs of Gold is by far the best supplement to increase breast milk. Unlike other breastfeeding supplements like Elevit Breastfeeding, which only contains essential vitamins and minerals for a balanced diet, Herbs of Gold is a traditional herbal blend of only fenugreek & blessed thistle – two of the best herbs for promoting breastmilk production.
Mama Body Tea (Breastfeeding Tea)
The most popular and heard of lactation tea in Australia, Mama Body Tea is made in Melbourne and designed specifically to promote breastmilk production.
It is 100% caffeine-free and contains organic lactogenic herbs like fenugreek, fennel seed, aniseed, caraway seed, spearmint leaf, goats rue herb and marshmallow root.
Mother’s Milk Tea (Organic Nursing Tea)
A lesser-known breastfeeding tea produced in the USA, Mother’s Milk Tea is another specialty nursing tea that is certified organic and non-GMO verified.
With medical-grade plant ingredients sourced from ethical and organic farms and trading partners, it contains fennel, anise, coriander, fenugreek and blessed thistle to help promote lactation.