How to Increase Breast Milk Supply

by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP

This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. It is meant for educational purposes only. Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health, and Nature’s Sunshine Products accept no responsibility for results you get, whether good or bad, from using this information. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

Note: More information about the products mentioned can be found at the end of the article.    

I get calls from new moms, especially first-time moms, who are panicking about their milk supply. Sometimes there’s a genuine problem. Sometimes there’s not.

The first thing we need to do is assess two key points: 1) if baby is at least a week old, is he having six to eight heavy wet diapers per day? 2) has he regained his birth weight, and is he continuing to gain?

How to Increase Breast Milk SupplyIf the answer is ‘no’ to one or either of these assessments, we need to dig deeper with a few more questions. How are mom’s nipples doing? Are they sore or cracked? When baby is nursing does it look like he’s taking two or three ‘chews’ and then is there an obvious (sometimes audible) gulp?  If mom’s nipples are sore (beyond the initial latching on) or cracked, or if baby is taking more than three ‘chews’ or is not swallowing often, then we need to check how baby latches on. This calls for an experienced lactation coach.

Breastfeeding Latch

Many years ago I worked with a client whose three-week-old baby had not regained his birth weight. He did not have more than one or two slightly damp diapers per day. He cried a lot and was quite unconsolable. Mom’s self-esteem as a mother was collapsing. Her nipples were excruciatingly sore while baby nursed. Clearly, this little guy was not latching properly. No one had taught mom what the latch should look like or feel like. I spent a couple of hours with this nursing couple, and by the end of our time together mom was doing much better with helping her little boy to latch correctly. A week later they were nursing like pros, and the baby had not only regained all of his birth weight, but had caught up to where he should have been! Mom was truly excited about having to change lots of wet and poopy diapers.

What if the mom really doesn’t seem to have enough milk to satisfy her baby? What then? This is where nutrition and herbs can really help.

Breastfeeding Nutrition

Mom has to remember to eat for two (which means eating about 500 more calories per day than were consumed before the pregnancy) and to continue to sleep more than usual. Making milk and caring for a baby is a labor-intensive activity. This is not the time for mom to try to ‘lose her baby fat.’ Her diet needs to consist of at least six to eight servings of high-quality protein per day. Consider a serving to be the size of half of the palm of her hand. She also needs good fat in her diet – butter, coconut oil, flax oil, olive oil – generously. Anything that she can remotely justify adding fat to should have fat added! Whole grain bread with butter, hot cereal with cream (not skim milk) or butter and coconut milk on it, butter on steamed veggies. The list is endless. Strive for three to four tablespoons  of fat per day. Mom also needs lots of vegetables. These provide the vitamins and minerals she needs for hormone balance. Four to six cups of veggies is a good place to start.  Be cautious with fruit and fruit juice as they can really upset baby’s gut if mom eats too much of them. And of course, mom needs to drink lots of water – in the range of three to four quarts (litres) per day.

Herbs for Increasing Breast Milk Supply

If mom has all the nutrition in place and she is still not making enough milk, herbs can help. Traditionally, blessed thistle, red raspberry leaves, marshmallow root, alfalfa, fenugreek, and chlorophyll have all been used. While all can be used as tea, some of them don’t taste good at all, so I prefer to offer them in capsules.

Breastfeeding practices

Nursing frequently and offering both sides can also help to stimulate milk supply. If someone has talked a mom into nursing every three or four hours on a schedule, mom may have problems establishing a good supply. Baby may get over-hungry between nursings. It is very difficult to get a baby who is crying with hunger to settle down at the breast to nurse. Baby knows when he needs to nurse – just respond whenever he asks! Most babies need to nurse every 1½ – 3 hours, with a longer stretch once in 24 hours.

Sometimes, you’ll find that a mom has a great milk supply, but her baby is a lazy nurser. It can be very discouraging to be nursing a baby who eats for a few minutes and quits before he’s full. Easy ways to keep baby awake enough to nurse include undressing him and letting him get a little cool (not chilly), tickling his toes, changing his diaper after he’s finished taking the first side and then offering the second side, and blowing on his face. (This is early training for when he’s a teenager and he’s sure your life revolves around finding ways to annoy him, LOL.)

Mom can also encourage longer nursing by what she eats. Yes, what mom eats really does flavor her milk. Garlic has been found to be one of the best milk flavors.1 I once worked with a mom who was nursing her second child. It had been a difficult birth, and nursing was a nightmare. Baby wouldn’t stay latched on but would take a bottle with no problem. Mom was frustrated. She would breastfeed first, then would end up giving baby a bottle when he wouldn’t eat enough. As a last ditch effort to end this battle of wills, I gave mom High Potency Garlic late on a Saturday afternoon. The label calls it ‘odor-controlled’ which means it is enterically coated to digest in the small intestines to prevent garlic breath. It is, however, full-strength garlic as anyone who has ever cut a tablet in half knows. Monday morning there was an email waiting for me. Her baby boy loved garlic milk! He was staying latched on much longer and was refusing ‘top up’ bottles.

Breast milk supply issues have many causes and even more solutions. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Seek the support you need to resolve any breastfeeding challenges you encounter. The benefits of breastfeeding to mom and baby are incalculable.

If you are having challenges breastfeeding or just don’t know where to begin making improvements in your health or that of your children and would like some help, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available.

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Products referred to in this article:
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Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).

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