Supply feeling a bit low?
Sometimes it seems like your breasts aren't working and need a boost. There are lots of ways you can make more milk.
In the early weeks, you and your baby are getting to know each other. You work together to build your milk supply. Feeding your baby whenever they need it will help them get all the milk they need to grow and develop.
Every baby is different. Your baby’s needs won't be the same as the needs of your sister's baby or your neighbour's baby.
Many mums worry whether they are making enough milk for their baby, so you're not alone if you are having some concerns about this. Fortunately there are some reliable ways to check how your milk supply is going.
If you do need to increase your milk supply, the following information and tips will help.
Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis. The more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk your breasts will make. There are many ways you can increase your milk supply.
Offer your baby more breastfeeds
Feed more often. This is the simplest and most effective way to increase your baby's milk intake. Most babies need at least 8 feeds in 24 hours to take in enough milk and some will need more than this.
Feed according to your baby’s needs rather than following a feeding schedule. Some babies will naturally feed every 3 to 4 hours but most will need more frequent feeding.
Feeds don’t need to be very long, just more often. In each 24 hours some feeds may be only 5 to 10 minutes long, others may be 30 minutes or longer, particularly when your baby feeds to sleep slowly and contentedly.
Try offering top-up breastfeeds after your baby's normal breastfeeds.
If your baby is awake, you can offer little ‘snack’ feeds without waiting for baby to cry for them.
Offer the breast to soothe your baby instead of using other comforts such as a dummy. Many babies have fussy periods when they want to breastfeed more frequently. Just follow baby’s lead and feed more often. This usually settles down in a few days.
More frequent feeding also means your breasts are relatively 'emptier' (they are never completely empty), which means that your breasts will speed up milk production, increasing your milk supply.
Is your baby sleeping longer at night? Long night sleeps (and therefore missed feeds) can also decrease your baby's milk intake and weight gain. You might consider waking your baby during the night to feed or fit in extra daytime feeds.
Feed both breasts
In the early days, your baby may be content with only one breast. But fairly soon, most babies will need more. Now may be the time to offer your baby the second breast.
Let your baby finish the first breast before switching to the second.
Some mothers worry that their breast might not be drained well if they put baby onto the second side too early. If baby feeds until they come off the breast by themselves, then it is usually time to swap sides.
Alternatively, you can change sides several times during a feed, whenever your baby's sucking slows. This can stimulate your let-down reflex and encourage your baby to suck more strongly.
Help your baby get the milk
A baby who is well attached is more able to drain the breast well.
- Can you notice your baby’s deep sucking at the breast?
- Is baby sucking and swallowing rhythmically?
Help your milk to flow
Getting your let-down to work well can help your fussy baby to feed. Try:
- Relaxation, deep breathing and warmth
Massaging your breast. Stroke it towards the nipple on all sides as your baby feeds. Take care not to disturb the nipple in your baby's mouth.
Breast compressions to help your baby get more milk.
Cut out or cut down on other fluids
If your baby has been having top-ups of formula or other foods, you might like to reduce these so baby is hungrier for your breastmilk.
Offer baby both breasts, then after a short break, 'top baby up’ by offering the first (and even the second) breast again. You may find that your baby is then satisfied and doesn't need any formula.
Most mothers are able to provide their babies with all the milk they need. However, if your baby is not thriving as they should, you can increase your supply.
This video from Global Health Media gives steps to improve your milk supply and your baby’s feeding.
Occasionally there is a medical reason why a baby may have a poor sucking action or that a mother may not make enough milk. Call the breastfeeding helpline and have a chat with a breastfeeding counsellor.
Struggling with a low milk supply can be very upsetting and frustrating. Remember that any amount of breastmilk you provide your baby is valuable.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022
Breastfeeding: and your supply
35+ pages of evidence-led info and practical tip from our Breastfeeding Information Series