11 ways to boost your milk supply naturally

It can be very stressful when you’re not producing enough milk for your baby. Especially if your baby is fussing & crying. You’re certainly not alone. Many women face the possibility of insufficient milk supply. I’ve been there. Here are 10 things that you can try:

  1. Make sure that low milk supply is actually the issue. It’s actually a common misconception. Many women fear that is low (it’s hard to tell when your breastfeeding!), but often it isn’t.  Fussy babies can fuss for many reasons, check out 14 tips for colic here.
  2. Breastfeed on demand and express, especially after their first morning feed & after baby’s bedtime.
  3. Look at your baby whilst feeding. I understand that looking at a screen might be preferable at times. But looking at your baby whilst feeding can stimulate the hormones which increase your supply. And can bring you happiness & fill your heart with gratitude. Much more than any screen can.
  4. Eat well. I understand that it’s not always easy, cooking & eating while juggling the needs of your baby. But there are ways. ie. Ask someone to cook something for you. Or stock the pantry with quick healthy foods like fruit, veggies, nuts & seeds. Avoid stocking the pantry with foods of little or no nutritional value.
  5. Lower your stress. The learning curve with any baby is hard enough. Avoid additional stress in the first year if possible, ie. moving house. I had to move house during my babe’s 4 month sleep regression and it wasn’t fun. Unfortunately my Mum was diagnosed with aggressive terminal cancer & subsequently passed in that first 12 months also. So I saw first hand what extreme stress can do to one’s breast milk supply.
  6. Cultivate Calm. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of downtime daily can do for your mental health. Just 5 minutes. No screens, no responsibilities, no demands. Simply breathe, listen to some relaxing music, guided meditation, sit in the back yard & watch the birds, jump in the shower, whatever works for you. You just need to commit to this downtime daily. It’s worth it.
  7. Let your baby nipple fiddle if you can tolerate it. Or your partner. If that’s what they want to do. Or do it yourself. Excuse my bluntness, but it will stimulate milk supply.
  8. Get more sleep. Or just rest. Sleep when baby sleeps. I know you’ve probably heard it before and dismissed it. Look at the state of the house right? Maybe you’ll feel better if you put that load of washing on. Maybe. But if you’re sleep deprived, there’s only one thing that will improve your mental and physical health, including your milk supply. And that is sleep. So go to bed early and sleep during one of their naps. Try it for a day or two. See for yourself how much better you can feel. Then you can do the housework in half the time..
  9. Try Herbal Medicine. There’s a long history of using herbs to promote breast milk. I found blessed thistle & fenugreek to work well.
  10. Try Chinese Medicine. Chinese Herbs such as Si-Wu-Tang was originally listed in the Prescriptions from the Great Peace Imperial Grace Pharmacy and has been used as a basic formula in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of women’s illnesses since the 12th century..¹ However, talking to a Herbalist first for a prescription specific to your situation will give you the best results. And to make sure they’re OK to take with anything else that you’re taking. At Freedom Chinese Medicine, you can have a 30 min Telehealth/ Video consult with one of our experienced herbalists, then have the herbs posted to you.
  11. Make lactation cookies. Better still, get someone else to make them for you. Or buy them, but they tend to be overpriced unfortunately.. They’re simple to make; once you find brewer’s yeast, add oats, ground linseed or LSA & a bunch of other goodies for your nutrition. Limiting the refined sugar is a good idea.

Written by:

Dr Elaine Hickman

B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)

Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China.  She has over 20 years experience in treating many health problems.  Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable.  Elaine has particular expertise in Women’s Health, Children’s Health, Family Medicine and Wellness promotion. She brings extra understanding and knowledge to the table having been through infertility herself.

Elaine is available

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday
Call (03) 9486 5966

Endnotes

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586461/.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 790474. Published online 2013 Feb 14. doi: 10.1155/2013/790474
    Use of Herbal Dietary Supplement Si-Wu-Tang and Health-Related Quality of Life in Postpartum Women: A Population-Based Correlational Study. Pei-Jen Chang, 1 Ching-Chun Lin, 2 Yi Chun Chen, 3 Chao-Hua Chuang, 4 Yu-Ching Tseng, 2 Wu-Shiun Hsieh, 5 Shio-Jean Lin, 6 and Pau-Chung Chen 2 , 7 , 8 ,*

Dr. E’s Top 11 Breastfeeding Tips

Most of you may have heard that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. That breastfeeding reduces the chance of SIDS. That it promotes long lasting health affects in mother and baby..

However, most of us Mums aren’t achieving this 6 month breastfeeding milestone. Not usually through lack of effort. Lack of information and support more likely.  It’s OK of course if you choose not to..

.. Whatever the reason, here are the top 11 things I found most helpful in my breastfeeding journey.. (emphasis here on my journey. Based on my experience. Many other mothers have different experiences and advice).

1. Learn how. Study the dance steps before you try to dance. Read about breastfeeding while you’re pregnant. I found the Australian Breastfeeding Association to be a great resource. Easy to understand info. Most early breastfeeding issues stem from incorrect position. Of mother and baby. So study and practice those positions. Make sure that you’re in a comfortable position before you start feeding.

2. Understand that your baby then needs to learn the dance steps and how to do the dance with you. Be patient. Have faith that it’ll come together. 

3. If it isn’t working out for either of you, reach out to a lactation consultant. They are the best qualified to help you. Some midwifes and maternal health nurses will give you good advice, but some will not. And it can be difficult to sort the conflicting advice, especially when you’re tired or fragile. Talk to the most qualified re breastfeeding. And trust your instincts.

4. Don’t believe the breastfeeding hurts mantra. Yes in the first few weeks there can be tenderness for a moment at the start of each feed. Apart from that, If position is correct, latching is correct, then breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. I bought nipple cream as recommended but never needed to use it. Nipple biting can hurt, sure, but that usually comes later 😉 In my experience 95% of the time, breastfeeding doesn’t hurt.

 

5. Learn about the amazing feedback loop your baby & your breasts are in. Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. Educate your support people so that they can better support you.

6. Have support. Take it when it’s offered. Ask for it. Especially in the first few months when your establishing your milk supply. As much as possible focus on looking after & feeding your baby. Ask your partner or friends to bring you food & water, to fetch you a cushion, to help you be comfortable feeding.

 

7. Co-sleep or bed share if safe & possible. Yes I know clinicians & government departments don’t recommend bed sharing in this country these days. But if you read the research, like I did, (links below) you’ll see that if done safely, bed sharing can actually benefit the health of both mother and child. Safe bed sharing is also linked with higher rates of breastfeeding. Which alone reduces the incidence of SIDS.

“One Australian study found that 80% of babies spent some time co-sleeping in the first 6 months of life.8 We simply don’t talk about it. The fact is that new “babies need to be fed during the night and many new mothers fall asleep while feeding their baby. Co-sleeping helps to minimise disruption to sleep for both a mother and her baby.

Breastfeeding and co-sleeping mutually support each other. The convenience of co-sleeping for breastfeeding at night is the reason parents most commonly give for choosing to co-sleep.9 Mothers who bed-share with their baby tend to breastfeed longer and maintain exclusive breastfeeding longer than those who do not co-sleep.10–12

I didn’t plan to bed share BTW. I bought one of those co-sleepers that you can attach to the side of your bed. Set it all up before the birth. Our daughter however, had other ideas. Even in the hospital, she would not settle to sleep unless she was right bedside me, skin to skin. So in the bed she came. It makes night feeds a breeze. Neither of us needs to fully wake up for her to feed. And waking up to a smiling baby is a lovely experience:).

8. Learn to hand express

Super handy for expressing colostrum, or milk. Boosting milk supply. Working out a blocked milk duct. Here’s a how to video. There are quite a few other videos on Youtube also.

Express colostrum. Otherwise known as liquid gold for your baby. Nutritional and medicinal.
I started at week 36 as recommended by my midwife. Within minutes I had uterine contractions. Freaked out and stopped as I didn’t want the baby to arrive early! So I waited until I was ready, about 39 weeks. And expressed every day until she arrived, finally at 41w+6 ! Here’s some more info about Antenatal expression of colostrum.

 

9. If you plan on going back to work in the first 6 months or would like your baby to be able to take a bottle of expressed breastmilk, which can be a great thing, then get a double electric breast pump. And a hands-free bra like the Arden bra. Makes it heaps easier!

And teach them to take a bottle in the first 4 months, ideally soon after you’ve both mastered breastfeeding. But not before that mastery.

10. Don’t give up. There are bound to be breastfeeding hurdles to overcome. Ask for advice. Do what you can. Persevere. In the first 6 months of my baby’s life, I’ve had to move house & had a parent diagnosed with a terminal illness. Both reduced my milk supply. So I had to prioritise breastfeeding; expressing, resting & working to build it back up.

11. Keep going if possible, even if you need to supplement with formula, which I’ve had to do at times. Every drop of breast milk benefits your baby. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breastfeed as much as you can manage.

Written by Dr Elaine Hickman
B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)

Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China.  She has over 20 years experience in treating many health problems.  Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable.  Elaine has particular expertise in Women’s Health, Children’s Health, Family Medicine and Wellness promotion. She brings extra understanding and knowledge to the table having been through infertility herself.

Dr. Elaine Hickman consults at Freedom Chinese Medicine on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays.

Call 03 9486 5966 or click to book online.

 

References

https://rednose.org.au/downloads/Breastfeeding-Safe_Sleeping-Information_Statement_Nov_2017_WEB.pdf

https://cosleeping.nd.edu/

https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-and-co-sleeping

Ball, H.L 2003, Breastfeeding, bed sharing and infant sleep. Birth. 30(3): 181-188.

Blair, P.S., Heron, J., Fleming, P.H 2010, Relationship between bed sharing and breastfeeding: Longitudinal, population-based analysis Pediatrics 126(5): e1119-e1126.

McCoy, R.C., Hunt, C.E., Lesko, S.M., Vezina, R., Corwin, M.J., Willinger, M., Hoffman, H.J., Mitchell, A.A 2004, Frequency of bed sharing and its relationship to breastfeeding Dev Behav Pediatr. 2004, 25(3),141-114.

Update 6/8/20 Stage 4 lockdown Melbourne Metro- We remain open & here for you..
Chinese medicine is considered an essential service as a registered profession and practitioners are able to remain open to treat patients.
No referral is required. Routine care is NOT permitted. Permitted care must only be provided “if the absence of, or delay of this care, would result in a significant change/deterioration in the patient/client’s functional independence necessitating escalation of care.”
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- To avoid a hospital admission or emergency department presentation
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