If you are a nursing mom (not, Exclusively pumping) and you are struggling with supply, please see an IBCLC immediately! If your baby is nursing well, then pumping occasionally should not be anything to worry about. There are tips below on how to get more milk out when you do need to pump, but your supply as a whole should be just fine. If it is not, you need to see an IBCLC! The main cause of supply issues in a nursing mother is a feeding issue- the baby is not removing milk adequately from the breast.
This can be due to a tongue-tie, lip-tie, latch issues, misaligned jaw, a baby in need of body work, etc. I’m sure there are probably more issues that can contribute that I am not even aware of! That’s why you should see one pronto if your baby is nursing.
If you are an exclusively pumping mom because that is the lot that has fallen on you, then this page is definitely for you!
Milk Supply is something that many exclusively pumping mom’s fret about (including me). Here are some things that I’ve come across that may help:
1. Take Care of Yourself
- Reduce stress
- Get adequate rest (don’t laugh, I’m serious)
- Heal your gut – this one can be very involved, but it well worth the needed lifestyle changes. More details in the following section.
- drink plenty of water (yes water, no soda or sweet tea… water)
2. Heal Your Gut
Your body is concerned with you first and the baby secondary. If your digestive system is ill and unable to collect and process the needed amount of nutrients for yourself, it certainly won’t have much to spare to create milk for your baby. So your first course of action is to heal yourself. Many of the herbs that increase milk supply do so because they are herbs that heal your digestive track.
- Consider limiting/eliminating dairy and gluten. Both cause inflammation in the body, leading to sickness, pain, etc.
- take probiotics
- eat fresh fruits and veggies several times a day
- eat at least 3.5 tablespoons of coconut oil a day. It will heal your gut and enrich milk
- eat an avocado every day. There is a special fat in it that restores communication between your gut and your breast.
- For detailed information that will change your life, take Jennifer Tow’s “Webinar on Gut Health and Healing”. The information is on the left side of the page, under “Description of Services.”
- Go-Lacta contains the super food Malunggay. I take two capsules at each meal. I noticed a huge difference within 24 hours. It increases supply by providing the body with an abundance of nutrients. The extra nutrients allows your body to be able to produce milk, dense in nutrients, without needing to rob your own body of the nutrients you may already be deficient in.
- You may have to order it online. The closest store that I have found that carries it is in Tallahassee. I ordered it from The Honey Tree Natural Foods.
- Occansionally you may be able to find frozen Malunggay leaves at an Asian food store. This is a better option as the nutrients will be more bioavailable due to considerably less processing. This may also be a less expensive option as well.
- Pure Abundance Tea and More Milk Plus
- The herbs contained in these products can help increase your supply because they help to heal the digestive system. A healthy digestive system will allow you to better absorb and use your nutrients, and thereby pass those nutrients onto your milk. This works because the more nutrients that are available, the more milk your body will be able to produce more easily!
- Pure Abundance Tea made by Elisabeth Taylor. You can email her at email@example.com to order it. It costs $30.
- It contains Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, Alfalfa, Blessed Thistle, Goat’s Rue, Oatstraw, Fennel, and Fenugreek.
- Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicines has a few of these herbs in it. But this tea is much more complete. It is worth the extra money to get this tea instead of Mother’s Milk Tea.
- More Milk Plus by Mother Love. The liquid drops may not be very tasty, but they are absorbed better than the capsules.
- I stopped taking this when the Pure Abundance Tea arrived in the mail because the tea has the same herbs in it, plus more. But if you are unable to get the Pure Abundance Tea, More Milk Plus can be used instead.
- Shatavari – take two 500mg capsules in the morning and two more at night.
- Shatavari is an herb from a root. It helps the body to be able to produce prolactin The hormone that creates milk). Typically you won’t see results until you have been taking it about two weeks.
- Hops helps to increase supply by increasing your body’s ability to produce Oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for creating letdowns. This is increases your supply by allowing you to more efficiently remove milk from your breasts. Especially useful for EPing (Exclusively Pumping) moms sense it’s much more difficult to have adequate letdowns while pumping.
- Found in dark beer. If you are not comfortable drinking this (I personally don’t drink), you can get the same benefits from Hops tea. Hops is EXTREMELY bitter so you’re supposed to brew it allow with OatStraw to help cut down the bitterness. Oatstraw does cut down the bitterness considerably. However it is still extremely bitter. So I added a ton of sugar. And it’s still nasty! Finally I just gave up and stuffed it into capsules. It had the same affect as drinking it.
4. Empty the Breast
- Fully emptying the breast using a pump can be very tricky if you are an exclusively pumping mom, but it can be done. It is important that the breast is fully emptied to sustain and increase your supply. In my experience, the majority of women don’t know how to pump in a way that the breast is fully emptied. Here’s a video about how to do this.
- Invest in a good pump (I’ve heard Medela Pump In Style Advanced and Ameda Purely Yours are the best), a hands-free pumping bra, and the correct sized breast shields (aka horns).
- The pumping bra usually costs $35. But here’s a video on how to make your own using an old bra. I did this and it has worked great for me.
- Make sure you have breast shields (the funnel or horn part) that fit properly. If you use the wrong size, you can damage your nipples and also not have the best removal milk possible. Here’s a link to help you with fitting.
- Many stores no longer carry size small, so you may need to order it from a website.
- If you live here in Jacksonville, the One Stop Wellness Shop inside of Progressive Pediatrics sells them
4. Adjust the rhythm of the pump.
- Medela Pump
- By increasing the strength of the suck on a Medela pump (I’m not sure about other brands) it also increases the length of the suck. This affects the rhythm. The rhythm at which the breast is stimulated is very important in creating letdowns. By turning the pump down by just a little, it provides a more natural rhythm. This creates more letdowns and helps to empty the breast.
- Ameda Purely Yours
- The purely Yours pump has separate adjustments for suction strength and rhythm. You can keep the suction at it’s strongest and then adjust the rhythm until you find the best spot for you. I found that I need to make the rhyth a little quicker and I get more milk out than if I turn it to it’s slowest setting
- Toggle back to the stimulation phase if the flow of milk slows. This helps to trigger more let downs.
- Other tips to create letdowns:
- find a relaxing scent
- Think about your baby. Watch a video on your smartphone of him/her nursing. Look at a picture.
- Stimulate the Nipple to create letdowns
- Rub, massage, flick, etc the nipple until you feel a tingling. The tingling sensation is oxytocin being released, which causes letdown. You may have to change up the motion from time to time to create the tingling feeling. Stimulate for a minute or two, then pump the milk. When milk stops coming out, stimulate again. Pump. Stimulate. Pump. Repeat until no more milk is pumped out because the breast is empty
- When I started using this trick, I was down to 8oz/day a day. After only doing this for 4 days, my milk supply was already at 15oz/day and still going up!!!!
5. Keep track of what time, how long, and how much you are pumping.
I recently began doing this and it has helped tremendously!
- By keeping track of how often you pump, you become more aware of your pumping frequency. Therefore you pump more often. Write the time you started pumping on a spreadsheet.
- Make this as easy on yourself as possible. I keep track on using a spreadsheet on my iPhone. Or you can keep a written record with your pump bag. Whatever works best for you.
- Write the time you stop pumping/hand expressing.
- By keeping track of how long it takes you, help you to realize that it’s really just 10 or 15 minutes.
- When you’re in the middle of pumping, it feels like it takes FOREVER! When you see that it doesn’t take nearly as long as it feels, you doing dread it as much.
- Keep track of how much. You can see what part of the day you produce less. During those times, try to cluster pump.
- If you have an iPhone, the app “Milk Maid” is excellent to help keep track.
- Pump, wait 20-30 minutes, pump again
- You can repeat this as much as you feel necessary. The more frequently you empty the breasts (even if it’s just a half ounce) the more milk your body will produce.
- They say “pump every time the baby eats.” Except this is very hard to do since you are usually the one feeding the baby. What works best for me to cluster pump is while the baby is sleeping. Naps and after she goes to bed for the night.
7. Beware of taking some allergy medications. They can dry up your milk supply. Here’s a link to an article about what is and isn’t safe to take while nursing.
8. Avoid eating herbs that may dry up your milk supply. Such as peppermint, parsley, thyme, and sage. This includes breath mints.
9. As a last resort, you can take a prescription medication known as Domperidone (Domperidone is the generic. Motilium is the brand name).
- Here’s a link to information on Domperidone. It gives dosage amounts, side effects, etc.
- If you decide to try Domperidone, you don’t have to get a prescription. You can order it online for a very low cost. In House Pharmacy offers 1800 tablets for only $172.00, including shipping (It is listed for $190, but when you go to the order page, if gives you a discount because of the large quantity).
10. Oxytocin Spray
This spray will help you letdown. If you have trouble with letdowns, try hops tea first (see the last point of #3). If this does not work for you, then try the spray. You can find it online by googling “oxytocin spray”.
If you have more suggestions, leave them in the comments and I will add them in.