Dietitian Sheila Varshney’s guide to improving your breast milk supply and production.
For parents who opt to breastfeed their children, getting educated about nursing is a wise way to prepare for your breastfeeding journey and ultimately have a successful breastfeeding experience. The results of a national survey show that while 84% of babies receive breastmilk at some point, by 3 months of age only 47% are fed breastmilk as their sole source of nutrition. This statistic indicates that breastfeeding rates drop off over time, which isn’t surprising considering the challenges and steep learning curve of nursing. Most parents aren’t experts in this domain, and there is a lot of on-the-job training - which is absolutely ok! Having a sense of the hurdles that may come up throughout your breastfeeding journey can head off struggles. One common hurdle that many nursing parents face is a low milk supply. If this is an issue you face, here are three tips to boost milk production.
3 Tips to Boost Milk Production
- Make sure you’re getting enough calories. According to the CDC, the average woman who is breastfeeding needs 450-500 more calories per day compared to a woman who is not breastfeeding. The daily grind of caring for a young infant and adjusting to parenthood can upend your usual eating regimen, which may translate to less eating over the course of the day. Take stock of your postpartum eating routine to see if you’re eating enough, and if you aren’t, consider adding one or two nutrient-dense snacks to your day.
Read 13 Superfood for Fertility, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding for a research-based list of foods to add to your diet.
- Check your hydration level. The fluid requirement while nursing is 16 cups per day, about 25% higher than the requirements during pregnancy. Fruit, vegetables, and other food sources of fluid all count towards the requirement, but these typically aren’t enough to cover your daily fluid needs. Consuming liquids, like water, is the best way to hit the 16 cups/day requirement. If you received a mega water bottle from the hospital, now is the time to put it to good use. One useful tip is to commit to drinking a glass of water before and after you feed your baby.
For more tips on how to stay hydrated, click here.
- Talk to a lactation consultant about a galactagogue. Lactation consultants have the expertise to help you troubleshoot any breastfeeding struggles, including low supply. Based on their guidance, you may benefit from adding a supplement to your diet that promotes milk production. Galactagogues can be naturally occurring (like in fenugreek or milk thistle) or synthetic and typically work by increasing the production of prolactin, a hormone critical to breastfeeding. Getting advice from a lactation consultant is recommended before adding any type of galactagogue to your routine so that you can rule out other factors that may be impacting your supply.
If your supply doesn’t come back to a level you’d like, there’s no need to stress. Reflect on the positives of your breastfeeding journey, and remember that your journey is exactly what it is meant to be for you and your baby.
Last Reviewed by Dr. Sheila Varshney on January 26th, 2022
- 2020 Breastfeeding Report Card. (2021, November 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm
- Diet considerations for breastfeeding mothers. (2021, September 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html
- Institute of Medicine, Board, F. A. N., Intakes, S. C. O. T. S. E. O. D. R., & Water, P. O. D. R. I. F. E. A. (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. National Academies Press. https://www.nap.edu/read/10925/chapter/1