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Methods to Increase Breast Milk Production

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Several measures can help mothers in increasing their breast milk production. Find out the correct way to breastfeed through this article.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At September 19, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 9, 2024

Introduction:

Breastfeeding is crucial for infants' growth and development. It fulfills their nutritional needs and creates an emotional dependency of the newborn on the mother. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns for at least six months. There is no known substitute for breast milk despite research on making various formula milk. It is of utmost importance to develop a smooth bond between the mother and the newborn to build prolonged breastfeeding. Maintaining a close association with the newborn can help to promote breastfeeding.

What Are the Reasons for Low Milk Supply?

Several reasons can contribute to a low milk supply. It is also called the reason for the drying up of breast milk production. The reasons for the low milk supply or breast milk dries up include:

  • Cannot Develop a Good Latch: A mother should get support from a lactation counselor to learn the correct latching techniques and position for breastfeeding.

  • Dependency on Formula Milk: If the mother is feeding the baby more with formula milk and breastfeeding the baby less, the mother will have a low milk supply, leading to early breastfeeding cessation.

  • Early Weaning: Weaning is the phase when a newborn is first introduced to solids. If the mother approaches early weaning for the baby, the breast milk may dry up.

  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations during breastfeeding may lead to low milk supply.

  • Smoking: A mother with smoking and drinking habits will produce less milk.

  • Lactation Mastitis: Lactation mastitis is the inflammation of the breast that affects breast milk formation.

  • Stress: High stress levels may affect milk production. Adequate rest is essential to maintain a good milk supply.

  • Certain Medications: A hormonal medicine and oral contraceptives containing estrogen cause a decrease in milk supply. Some other causes are a history of breast surgery, premature birth, and pregnancy-induced blood pressure, which are known to affect breast milk formation.

Is There Any Food That Can Support Breast Milk Production?

Some studies on the food habits of lactating mothers suggest that consumption of certain foods can promote milk production and supply in the ducts of the mammary gland. These foods are:

  • Fenugreek seeds.

  • Spinach.

  • Fennel.

  • Oats.

  • Brewer's yeast.

A mother must eat a balanced diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding as; “A healthy mother can make a healthy child."

What Are the Signs of Low Breast Milk Production?

Usually, a mother produces enough milk to meet the nutritional needs of their infants. The lactation period is a troublesome period for most mothers all across the globe. Almost all mothers worry about their breastfeeding method, the amount of milk secretion, and nutrition for their newborn. The secretion is low during the postpartum period when the mother is undergoing physiological changes. This is the time when the mother and their babies are adapting to breastfeeding.

Some signs that can be mistaken for low milk supply include:

  • Babies desire to breastfeed often.

  • The baby is waking up for milk.

  • The baby feeds for a shorter time.

  • The baby is not pooping regularly.

  • The breast is becoming soft, without engorgement.

However, there are some symptoms indicative of low milk supply; they are:

  • The baby is not showing weight gain.

  • The baby is not using enough diapers as breastfeeding babies poop more than those babies dependent on formula milk.

  • The baby shows signs of dehydration like low urine formation, crying without tears, and a prolonged sleeping period.

How to Increase Breast Milk Production?

Breast milk is a biological fluid secreted by the mammary gland. The secretion is regulated by the hormones of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Oxytocin and prolactin are the main hormones responsible for breast milk production. The first milk secreted by the breast contains colostrum, which protects newborns from infections and helps build the immune response. The milk composition keeps on changing as per the child's needs during the initial days after postpartum. The sucking ability of the baby and the emptying of the breast are the main factors regulating the milk flow. There are numerous ways to increase milk supply naturally.

Some of them are:

  • Practicing a Good Latch: The baby's attachment to the mother's breast is called a breastfeeding latch. Establishing a good latch is essential to promote sucking and a regular milk supply. The mother may try all the latch positions to determine the most comfortable position for the mother and the baby.

  • Massage of the Breast: Massaging the breast before, after, and sometimes in between the feed boosts the milk volume and can help a mother to develop a proper milk flow.

  • Breastfeed Often: When the baby sucks nipples while breastfeeding, it triggers the hormones responsible for breast milk production. This is called the "letting down reflex," which contracts the breast muscles and establishes proper milk flow through the ducts of the mammary gland. Hence, when the mother feeds more, it produces more milk.

  • Maintaining a Skin-To-Skin Touch With the Baby: An emotional bond develops when the mother lives in close association with the baby. The baby desires to breastfeed often, which ultimately promotes milk supply.

  • Removing the Extra Milk After Breastfeeding: The mother should extract the extra remaining milk from the breast after completing the breastfeeding. This helps to clear the duct and maintains a smooth flow of milk.

  • Warm Compression Application: Applying warm compression to the breast before breastfeeding could be helpful for many mothers suffering from low milk supply.

  • Using Both Breasts for Feeding: It is essential to use both breasts for breastfeeding to maintain a gradual milk flow in both breasts.

  • Medication: A lactating mother should take any medication during their breastfeeding period under the supervision of the doctor as it can interfere with the milk supply and may even have ill effects on the infant's health.

  • Nutritional Diet: All lactating mothers need to develop a habit of eating high-dietary food and drinking lots of water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a well-nourished mother needs an additional 330 calories to 400 calories per day, and the overall calorie intake should be 2,000 calories to 2,800 calories per day.

Conclusion

Early initiation of breastfeeding may save newborns from catching infections. Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mothers and infants for the initial six months, and breastfeeding can be continued till the mother and baby desire. The baby's ability to empty the breast regulates the volume of breast milk production. Some emotional instability of mothers, like stress, anxiety, and pain, may also affect breast milk. A lactation counselor or breastfeeding specialist may help a mother educate on the correct positioning and latching.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Factors Stimulate More Breast Milk?

Methods to stimulate more breast milk:
 - Practicing a good latch.
 - Gently breast massage.
 - Breastfeeding often.
 - Maintain a skin-to-skin touch with the baby.
 - Removing extra milk after breastfeeding.
 - Warm compression on the breasts.
 - Using both breasts.
 - Medication.
 - Nutritional diet.

2.

What Foods Help in Increased Breast Milk Production?

The following foods help in increasing breast milk production:
 - Fenugreek seeds.
 - Spinach.
 - Fennel.
 - Oats.
 - Brewers yeast.

3.

How Often Do Breasts Refill?

It takes 20 to 30 minutes to refill to an adequate flow and approximately one hour for a peak flow. In addition, the breasts are never completely empty. The feeling of emptiness is caused by reduced milk flow.

4.

What Factors Cause a Low Milk Supply?

The following factors cause low milk supply:
 - Absence of a good latch.
 - Dependency on formula milk.
 - Early weaning.
 - Smoking.
 - Lactation mastitis.
 - Certain medications.

5.

What Are Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?

The following foods should be avoided while breastfeeding:
 - Fish with high mercury content.
 - Herbal supplements.
 - Caffeine.
 - Highly processed foods.
 - Highly flavored food items.

6.

Do Soft Breasts Indicate a Low Milk Supply?

Soft breasts are not an indication of a low milk supply. Other reasons may include when milk production shrinks and they are replaced by fat. Menopause can also lead to soft breasts. This helps in the easier detection of lumps.

7.

What Are the Factors That Affect Breast Milk Production?

The factors include the following:
 - Waiting too long to start breastfeeding.
 - Premature birth.
 - Maternal obesity.
 - Pregnancy induces high blood pressure.
 - Insulin-dependent diabetes.

8.

Is It Advised to Drink Milk While Breastfeeding?

A breastfeeding mother should have a balanced diet. There is no specification for special foods nor the need to avoid a particular food. But it is advised that the mother opts for a protein-rich diet or a diet with variety.

9.

How to Know if Breastmilk Is Enough?

The baby’s cheeks stay rounded, not hollow, during sucking. The baby will be calm and relaxed during feeding. The baby will come off the breast on its own, and the mouth will be moist. Exclusive breastfeeding is advised for up to six months.

10.

Does Pumping Decrease Milk Supply?

Milk supply is dependent on the frequency of nursing and pumping the breasts. The more the mother breastfeeds or pumps, the more milk the body makes. But some mothers may find that their nipples become sore or irritated.

11.

Does Feeding for 10 Minutes Enough for a Newborn?

Newborns, in the beginning, take 20 to 45 minutes for one breastfeeding session. But these time intervals vary because of the sleeping time. Breastfeeding should be practiced for six months.

12.

What Causes a Low Milk Supply at Night?

When there are no feedings overnight, the milk supply tends to lower. The level of prolactin is also higher at night. The body may produce low or reduced milk when the prolactin levels decrease
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Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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breast milk
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