Struggling with your milk supply but don’t want to stop breastfeeding? Here are some easy and effective tips on how to naturally increase breastmilk at home for you and your babe.
Guest post by Erin Long
My appointments with the NICU lactation consultants usually ended this way:
“This is your third breastfed baby — you’re fine. We’re not worried about you”
Well, I was getting worried about me. My son was two weeks old and my breast milk supply was a fraction of what it was ‘supposed’ to be. I appreciated the lactation consultants’ confidence and encouragement but as the weeks went on it became clear something needed to be done to kick my body into milk-making gear.
My son was born 10 weeks early and at the time was receiving my pumped milk and donor breast milk through a feeding tube. While my biggest issue was that I wasn’t actually breastfeeding him, I was determined to do whatever I could to get my supply to a level that would sustain him and allow us to enjoy breastfeeding for the long-term.
Through working with a lactation consultant, implementing some of my own research, and diligently pumping I was eventually able to get my milk supply up to a level that set us up for breastfeeding success. I learned how to naturally increase breastmilk at home, and I’m so thankful I did!
Here’s what worked for me and what could (hopefully) work for you, too! Find my experience to naturally increase breastmilk with home remedies below, and consult with a trusted and qualified lactation consult to make a doable plan for you and your baby.
What are Natural Ways to Increase Breastmilk Supply?
Whether you are looking for physiological tips and supplements, or quick and easy snacks and drinks, I’ve got you covered. There are a lot of remedies and tips you can try from the comfort of your own home to increase a low breast milk supply so you can stress less and enjoy new baby bonding time.
None of these are necessarily guaranteed to work in your case, of course, so I advise making a plan with a trusted lactation consultant who is also knowledgable about home and alternative remedies for increasing your supply.
Drinks to Increase Breast Milk Supply
Breast milk is liquid so the more liquid you take in the more liquid your body has to make breast milk. Here are some excellent options for highly effective hydration.
While most of your liquid intake should be water, milkmaid tea is made of herbs, primarily fenugreek, that specifically work to increase milk supply.
It’s also super important to know that electrolyte replacement isn’t just for athletes. This DIY Hydrating Electrolyte Drink is simple to keep on hand in the fridge. It helps you quench your thirst and gives you something healthy besides plain water to drink. Coffee, tea, or fruity drinks are refreshing served over ice and you can easily keep the entire family hydrated. (Adding minerals to your water helps your body to absorb the water more effectively rather than just peeing most of it out.)
This detox drink is a gentle way to support your liver, and it’s basically another version of an electrolyte drink too. (Note: typical detoxing is not advised while breastfeeding. That drink is probably fine as it’s essentially just citrus, juice, minerals, and water – but check with your doctor if you’re unsure.)
Homemade Bone Broth can be sipped by the mug or used as a base for soup. Once again this is easy to make in bulk and keep on hand for fast meals. If you’ve got a winter baby, I’ve got a list of 50 Comforting Hot Drinks that will help you rest and relax. Warm milk is calming to mama and will help boost your hydration and in turn your supply.
Try this Bulletproof Milk recipe – I use it to keep my kids from getting hangry because it has healthy fats + protein from collagen – both of which happen to be perfect for a breastfeeding mama too. (And it’s dang delicious! Our family calls it “hot milk”.)
The most important advice? Don’t worry about special drinks if you are too exhausted or can’t handle just one more thing. Simply keeping a water bottle at your side will help. Family will be glad to continually fill it for you while you rest.
(The first baby step beyond that? If I could go back and do it over again – I’d get these and add some to my water bottle each day.)
Food to Increase Milk Supply
Nursing mamas are hungry mamas. Fortunately, there are foods that work to increase milk supply. The foods I found easiest to fit into my diet or just eat more of were: oatmeal, flaxseeds, healthy fats such as coconut oil and coconut milk, flaxseed oil, avocados, garlic, and raw nuts.
I made Beth’s coconut milk smoothie and added a handful of greens and flaxseed oil. As an added bonus because it only takes one hand to drink it was easy to fill up on some healthy fats while baby nurses!
If you aren’t up for a bowl of oatmeal, making homemade granola bars is an easy one-handed way to get a snack in. Snacks are perfect for maintaining supply so keep some near your favorite nursing chair. Baking up some lactation cookies also adds milk-making supplements alongside a treat of chocolate.
Natural Ways to Increase Breastmilk Supply
It’s a good thing that whenever someone suggested I get more rest and not stress about my milk supply, they prefaced it with saying, “I know this is hard, but…” Because if they hadn’t I would have punched them in the face.
So that’s how I’m going to say it here: I know it’s hard, but the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to rest as much as possible and not worry. Exhaustion and anxiety can sabotage your milk supply and cut back your production levels so do whatever you can to take it easy (at least as easy as you can when you have a newborn).
Strategies to help your nervous system to better handle stress when you can’t eliminate it altogether (duh, of course you can’t – you have a newborn and breastfeeding concerns) include:
- Meditation helps train your nervous system to be better at staying calm (even just 10 minutes a day – there are lots of apps. I like Headspace or Calm.)
- Cold therapy, such as cold showers (but check with your doctor on this one)
- Making sure to go to bed on time, or early. As much as we need that alone/quiet time that’s so hard to get… it’s not doing you much good if you’re shortchanging yourself on sleep to get it. Check out my free Go-to-Bed Challenge if this habit is a struggle for you.
Read my post on Anxiety at Night for more ideas on reducing and managing stress. (Not all of the ideas in that post were written with breastfeeding in mind, but many of them would be great.)
Increase Frequency of Feeding
Nurse often. Your body produces more as more is demanded of it. Nurse your baby frequently, especially as you start to feel your milk come in. Pumping can also help stimulate supply so you can try pumping from the second breast if baby only nurses from the other, or pump between nursing sessions. This is absolutely a huge factor in how to naturally increase breastmilk at home – it sometimes even works well enough without any other intervention!
Home Remedies to Increase Breastmilk
Herbal supplements such as brewer’s yeast, fenugreek, blessed thistle, garlic, anise, and specific lactation blends can give your body the support it needs to get the milk flowing. Here’s a great article with more in-depth info on herbs for breastfeeding moms.
If you’re drinking mother’s milk tea (linked above in the hydration section), you’re getting enough fenugreek so you don’t need to also supplement.
Sunflower lecithin is an emulsifier for foods, and taking it as a supplement can help you avoid clogged milk ducts because of how it works on the fats in breastmilk. If you are working to increase supply you will want to make sure you are also using the tips to get milk out, such as feeding frequently and pumping, so you don’t run into any issues.
But before you take matters into your own hands consult a healthcare professional who is knowledgable about how to naturally increase breastmilk at home. Supplementing should not be taken lightly.
Get Support and Encouragement
Every breastfeeding mom needs a cheerleader and a mom who is persevering though breastfeeding struggles deserves a full cheering squad. Find at least one person who will encourage you to keep trying and work through the hard times. You need to be reminded of why you’re working so hard to give your baby the best food and most nutritious food there is.
Don’t hesitate to get professional help if you feel you need it. A lactation consultant can provide you with fantastic insight and and groups such as La Leche League can give you invaluable support. They are trained in breastfeeding issues of all kinds – not just how to naturally increase breastmilk at home, but also latch issues, and other specialized concerns.
For me, this was the big one. Because my son was so premature he was immediately whisked off after birth and I was only able to briefly hold him several hours later. Fortunately, the NICU we were in was extremely supportive of kangaroo care, or skin-on-skin time, and I was able to hold my son as much as he could tolerate. As he grew older I was able to hold him in his diaper on my bare chest as much I was able and the more I held him the quicker my supply increased.
Having your baby on your breast or chest sends messages to your body, telling it that your baby needs milk. Breastfeeding often creates a need for more milk and a healthy cycle of milk production. Resting at home with baby, especially if it is your first, will help you with skin-to-skin contact. At home, with just family allows you to have more time without worry what you are exposing.
The laid-back breastfeeding position can really help with this. Your baby will be able to latch on comfortably, and it is mostly hands-free for you so you can enjoy a book or other light activity. When you achieve a good latch, baby will draw out more milk and more milk equals less stress and worry!
Give Yourself Grace
You’re not any more or any less of a good mother if you breastfeed or formula feed. Yes, breast is best from a scientific/nutrients perspective and it is worth doing everything you can to breastfeed your baby but it’s not the end of the world if you’re not able to – whether because of supply issues or anything else. Nobody ends up being the perfect parent anyway! Maybe taking the pressure off yourself is just what you need.
If you haven’t yet read Beth’s post My Top Ten Breastfeeding Essentials do yourself a favor and read it right now. I said ‘amen!’ and ‘preach it, sister!’ throughout the whole thing, especially about the Bamboobies – they truly are amazing.
Which of these tips to naturally increase breastmilk at home have you tried before? What other advice do you have for breastfeeding mamas?
While you’re focused on your babe and want a few ideas of quick healthy meals to relieve some stress, check out this post: Quick Healthy Meals Guide