Any Suggestions to Increase Milk Supply?

Updated on January 16, 2017
K.M. asks from Orient, OH
34 answers

I gave birth to my first child just over 5 months ago and have been struggling to keep my milk supply up!

I went back to work when my daughter was 8 weeks old and was hoping to exclusively breastfeed her for several months. My supply seems to be adequate, most of the time, when I nurse her, but when I pump at work (3 times/day) I only get about 1-1/2 - 2 ounces each time. My first several weeks back to work I was pumping at least 3 ounces each time.

I've been told the more often you pump/nurse, the more milk you'll produce. I haven't found this to be th case for me. I even added an extra time of pumping at night after she goes to bed.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Am I simply "drying up"?

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So What Happened?

Wow! Thank you for all your responses, advise and suggestions!

I wanted to go with the most natural way possible to increase my milk supply and decided to try oatmeal, which a few women suggested. It seems to be working! I searched and searched for a way to produce more milk and never came across this, but I'm glad I asked. Things are going much more smoothly now. I really appreciate everyone's help and will recommend this to anyone I know having the same problem!

Thanks!

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T.R.

answers from Grand Rapids on

I am a mom who pumped exclusively for an entire year. I used the Medela brand pump. My biggest piece of advice that I have given to friends and it has worked for them is to get the XL or 30mm breast shields if you have a medela pump. That is also the other thing I recommend a higher end pump that costs more because it really makes a difference if you don't have one. The 30mm pulls more of the nipple into the sheild giving you more of a baby suckling effect. I do not have large breast what so ever so don't let that help you decide what size sheilds to buy.

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A.W.

answers from Canton on

i agree with lisa, the mother's milk tea is awesome. and it taste really good. another thing is Fenugreek (FYI it smells like celery and maple syrup). i went to a breastfeeding class and the lactation consultant recommended it. they both worked for me.

also, get plenty of rest. i noticed around the holidays that my milk supply dropped and it was because of running around and not getting enough rest. good luck! i breastfed my youngest daughter until she was 2.

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E.S.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi Sarah,

Fenugreek works, it can also cause havoc with your blood sugar and appetite so be careful if you notice decreased energy or desire to eat. What my doctor prescribed for me was Reglan or metoclopramide (generic). It's for acid reflux, but boy did it ever increase my milk supply! Some hospitals have lactation consultants that can give your doctor information on how to prescribe if your doctor is hesitant.

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M.G.

answers from New York on

Hi Sarah, I am a NICU RN, working on my lactation consultant cert! You are right, the more you feed/pump the more you should produce -- increased stim = increased production. Don't pump too much, definitely no longer than 20 minutes at a time, when you pump (you probably know) pump till you see the last drop then pump for 2 minutes longer. You can power pump (maybe you did this before) for 24-48 hrs and basically that means you breastfeed your daughter, then pump for 10 minutes immediately after or in between and possibly pump a little more frequently is you can. You know stress usually is the biggest factor in decreased supply, so try to incorporate some relaxation into your daily routine and while you pump. There are also herbs you can take -- Fenugreek is found in most pharmacy's you take 3 capsules, 3 times a day (a total of 9 capsules) you will know it is working when you smeel like maple syrup. Also Blessed thistle, same directions, 3 capsules, 3 times a day. If those don't help you can call your OB and have them write a prescription for Reglan. It is a drug for GERD, but it increased prolactin levels too! Email me [email protected]____.com with any questions, best of luck
M.

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J.B.

answers from Cincinnati on

Oh do I understand this dilemna! I worked full time and nursed my daughter exclusively for 10 months and I have done the same for my son who just turned 9 months. Here's what I know. drink LOTS of water. Additionally you can take fenugreek. This is an herb that comes in capsel form and you can take up to 2 capsels 3 X a day. I saw a dramatic increase with this and could never have continued nursing with out it. Also do yourself a favor and make the investment to get a hospital grade pump. it makes all the difference in the world. There is nothing in the less expensive models that compares. Lastly I always keep a picture of my babies with me when I pump. seeing their sweet face helps the let down.

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J.H.

answers from Dayton on

Good for you, Sarah! Breastfeeding your little girl will benefit her in so many ways.Hang in there with the breastfeeding, you'll get through the bumpy time. It's almost like "blind faith" cus you can't see what's going on (no measuring required!). Is your daughter happy? Growing? Then she's getting what she needs.

One thing I've heard that helps with milk supply is eating almonds. Also, make sure you're getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of water.

Then, stop stressing! Nothing cuts down a supply like worry. Enjoy this time in your life, they grow Soooo fast!

About me: I have two very-fast-growing children, both in their teens. Both were breastfed. If you have any more questions or want more pointers please don't hesitate to e-mail me.

All the best,
J.

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H.M.

answers from Cincinnati on

I tried the fenugreek - it didn't help my milk supply but I always smelled like syrup! From what I've heard about fenugreek is you have to take about 3-4 times the recommended dosage on the bottle, so ask your OB about that. When that didn't work my OB prescribed Reglan, it's a medication intended for GERD (reflux) but a side effect is increased milk production in lactating women. It definitely worked - within about a day or two I was leaking again. Some OB's as I understand it will not prescribe it because another side effect is drowsiness and depression. I did experience the drowsiness and a general unhappy feeling, but it didn't feel as bad as when I couldn't nurse so...you may want to ask your OB what he thinks - mine was very clear that I was to stop taking it and call him right away at the first sign of depression. The pump/nurse more often approach didn't help me either -and I was at home with the baby 24/7. Good luck - I know this is hard!

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D.D.

answers from Detroit on

i tried all the herbs (fenugreek, blessed thistle, mothers milk tea, oatmeal, raspberry, and increasing pump time and water and it didn't work for me; finally i went to the dr. and told them about it and asked about reglan.. (i had a difficult time getting it prescribed for this) but eventually a oby gyn prescribed it for me and i took it 3-4 times daily and oh my lord; i did 4 times a day the first week and i had to cut down to 3 times cuz the milk was just way too much like the first week when it came in after birth; good luck!!

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L.S.

answers from Cleveland on

Sarah, I faced a similar problem when my son turned 6 months. I had been pumping at work just fine before then, but then I got sick with fever and coughing, etc., had to take antibiotics to get better. After this illness my milk supply also went down to 1-1.5 oz a pumping. I was extremely stressed out about not producing enough milk, and in the end switched him to formula.

This is what I found useful to help me pump:
drink a lot, positive mental attitude, eat well, try to get enough sleep, avoid stress as much as you can. Before you go to pump, if there is a possibility, bring any kind of heating pad with you and place it on your breasts for a couple of minutes. Heat helps out a lot. Sometimes I would be pumping for a long time, and nothing, but as soon as I applied heat, the milk would come in very soon. When you are pumping, either look at a picture of you baby, or bring her jammies along and inhale her smell. Above all don't get discouraged when you don't produce enough. Pump as much as you can, take a break (5 minutes) and then pump again.

What I found out is a baby can get a lot more milk out of you then any pump. If it makes sense try to supplement during the day with formula, but breastfeed when you get home. Don't lose hope!

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R.

answers from Detroit on

Have you tried eating whole grains... eating a bowl of oatmeal once a day helped my supply. How long are you pumping at each session? You should be pumping a minimum of 20 minutes each time. Are you completely relaxed in the environment you are pumping in? Is it calm? Do you have pictures of your baby around?

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S.H.

answers from Detroit on

Hi S.,

I had this problem as well when my son was about 3 months old (He's almost 10 months now). I pumped non stop it seemed and could not get enough milk. I actually asked my doctor and he said for cases where it really seemed like the supply was much much lower then it had been he will perscribe something...which he did for me. I really can't remember the name of it (and it's safe for to use of course while nursing)...It is something that is also perscribed for other things (I THINK it was something to do with the stomach??) But ask your doctor maybe?? It actually really really helped get my supply up. There are also herbal pills you can take and there is a tea out there..sorry I can't remember the name of these things but if you do a google search you may be able to find them....I know that is not a lot of specific information, but I hope it helps somewhat! Good luck and congrats on being a new mother! Isn't it the greatest thing :)

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B.D.

answers from Grand Rapids on

When I gave birth to my daughter I asked my doctor the same thing. He said that you produce more milk in the morning. You should pump between the first and second feedings in the morning. Try to do it about the same time each day and your milk supply should go up slightly. Also you could try fervew and fenugreek. Make sure you take them together and at least three times a day. Good luck.

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J.C.

answers from Detroit on

Hi K.,
I also have a five month old, am nursing, and pump at work (I work part-time 5 hours/day). Things are going great this time, but I am really focusing on a healthy diet, drinking tons of water, and pumping at exactly the same time each day. I only pump one time at work and get between 5 and 6 oz. However, I also nursed my two boys for 7 and 8 months--I struggled a bit with the milk supply with my first because I was working full-time then, and could only pump once at work. I also know from experience that putting stress on yourself does not help. Be easy on yourself! The fact that your baby is getting even some breastmilk is terrific. Hope this helps!
J.

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J.K.

answers from Saginaw on

Anything with malt in it (like the beer) will help your supply. Ovaltine sells a flavor with malt in it. Like PP said, lots of water! There's herbal supplements like fenugreek...and rx drugs like reglan...I never had luck with the pump. I tried several kinds...I ended up hanging the pump horns up. My supply was adequate for evening/night time nursing, but dd had to had formula during the day.

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M.D.

answers from Saginaw on

K.,
I worked with a Lactation Consultant while I was nursing and she suggested watching two hours of t.v. and only pumping during commercials. Apparently the pumping on and off for that length of time tells your body you need to start producing more. Even if you don't get any milk out, it tells your body to start making more. It worked for me so hopefully it will help you!

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M.

answers from Grand Rapids on

Eat oatmeal! Early on with my second child, I was producing too much milk and my little one was having a hard time taking it all in. One of the first things my lactation consultant asked me is if I was eating oatmeal. I was - every day! She told me to stop eating it every day because that is one of the most natural things you can eat that increases your milk production. Since then, I have slowed my oatmeal eating, but when I know my little one needs more or I have to pump more to store up, I eat oatmeal - it really works! If you like it, you might as well try it - you've got nothing to lose.

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L.O.

answers from Grand Rapids on

make sure you are drinking tons of water, and my doctor said the non-alchoholic beer can help increase the milk production, something about the barley or hops.

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S.B.

answers from Grand Rapids on

Sorry you are struggling so much!! Nursing can be the hardest thing to do some days, but the most rewarding at the same time!!! What I have found is helpful for me is to pump not only in the inbetween times, but also after everytime I nurse. Even at first if you don't get much more, it is telling your body that the baby still wants to eat, and this supposedly will increase your supply. I do not work with this child, but my last one I did, and this seemed to help!! Good luck to you!!!

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E.A.

answers from Detroit on

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! It's frustrating when you're not pumping enough, but one trick you can try is to pump AFTER each time you nurse (not longer than 5 minutes, though). This should increase your supply in 3-4 days. Also, try getting up a little earlier than your baby and pumping at that time. You should have more milk in the morning than at night, and you may find it encouraging to see that you're pumping a lot. You might also try bringing a picture of your daughter to work so you can think about nursing her; your milk will flow better when you're relaxed and thinking about your baby.

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J.R.

answers from Cincinnati on

Sarah:

I know your frustration. I was considered a "bad pump". I had enough supply to feed my child but when I would pump, I would get about 2 oz- and that was from both breasts. The suction on the nipple does help to stimulate supply, but no good if you do not let down. I found what helped me was pump one while he fed on the other and what ever little I could in between. I also found that longer was less successfull than more often. At work I would bring in a picture and something that smelled like him. Sometimes it helped me let down more. Also, the better pumps helped a bit.

Good luck.

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A.C.

answers from Dayton on

Hi Sarah! You're not drying up. The less the baby nurses the more the body adjusts to not produce as much during the time the baby isn't usually nursing. I had the same problem when I was working. I'm not sure if you're a tea drinker, but there's a tea called "Mother's Milk" that did wonders for me. It should be available in a health food stores. I've also seen it in Kroger's in the health/organic food section. In addition to the tea I tried to drink as much water as possible. Best of luck!!!

A.

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C.V.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hey Sarah
First off... CONGRADULATIONS for making it as far as you have. 5 mos is Awesome! Good for you.

But I too have been there. I have a 10 mos daughter. Around 4mos I had the same problem. Remember there are many factors to take in consideration when you nurse/pump. And any one thing could be the reason.

1. Stress - try not to. You're body will do what it needs to do, just try not to think about it too much. I know how difficult it can be to pump at work. Mentally, physically, emotionally its difficult. You feel like your taking "too much"time, people may be tlaking about you, the room is too hot/cold. You're stressing about all the things you can not change. Just relax, take your time, and focus your thoughts on your daughter. Take a piece of her clothing that she wore the day before to work to lay across your shoulder if you need to. This allows you to have her scent near you.

2. Drink LOTS of Fluids!! Water, juice, whatever
3. Remember to Eat! To increase calorie intake.
4. Get plenty of Rest!

I know these laast three can be difficult at times, but its cruicial for your body to produce your milk supply. When you feel like you've drank enough - have another glass. What is a normal amount for you isn't normal when you breast feed. YOu need more. Rest when you can. Nap during the days your off when she naps, go to bed at night after you put her to bed. It really makes a difference. Be sure to eat. We tend to forget or start to think about the extra pounds you want to take off after having her. The weight will come off, you need to eat. Rule of thumb: healthy foods are better than junk, junk foods are better than none.

5. Pump a few extra times when you are home between feeding. It doesn't have to be for very long. Just to get the stimulation to make your brain think "Ok girls, baby needs a larger supply" Just five minutes, or until what your pumping is free flowing.
At work try to pump about the same time you would have nursed her if you were home.

6. Breast Pump may be clogged or not suctioning as well. Be sure to change your filters. Let all your pieces dry between each use. Keep water away and out of the motor or tubes leading up to the motor.

You're doing a great job! Remember you have given your daughter such an amazing head start. If push comes to shove and you feel is just not workingout. You CAN stop pumping at work.
At 6/7 mos I had to stop pumping at work. It killed me, but so much weight came off my shoulders. I stressed so much when I did pump at work, in the last months. So now, I nurse my daughter, as I've done before - BEFORE I go to work, then as soon as I get home from work, and again before bedtime. So she is still getting breastmilk at least 3x's a day when I'm not home. And her grandma or daddy makes her a bottle of formula after she has breakfast & lunch of baby foods and cereal. Then on days off you can always nurse her during each feeding.

Sorry this was SO long. But I do hope it helps. But no matter what, remember you have done an AWESOME job and have given her such an amazing headstart!

Good luck! Take care of you!

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N.W.

answers from Detroit on

Sarah,

I don't know what else you can do... but wanted to let you know I had similar problems. I nursed until my son was 4 mos, which was when I went back to work. I often had to supplement the nursing with a few ounces of formula. My doctor told me sometimes that just happens and that he was still getting the benefits of breastfeeding. I'm convinced that pumping is not as effective as nursing as well, which may be why you are started to get less.

Good luck!

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C.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi Sarah,

I had the same problem. I went back to work and within a week my supply decreased. I tried a different pump but didn't have any luck. I was only able to breastfeed my son for 5 months. I didn't try any of the herbal remedies I see mentioned in other responses. My advice would be to do what you think is best for you and the baby. I do believe that breastfeeding is better for the child but I don't think it's the end of the world if you can't. It won't be good for you or the baby if you stress over this. My son is almost 11 months old and has only had one minor ear infection. For my next one (I am currently 5 months pregnant) I plan on pumping a lot in the first 3 months when my supply seems to be more than enough.

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C.N.

answers from Columbus on

Sarah,

I went through the same thing with my daughter who is now almost 10 months and returning back to work. I tired Fenugreek, that worked for a while. But the best thing I found was mastering the art of pumping both at the same time. Something about the letdown caused from both caused me to be able to pump at least 3-4 ounces a time if not more. Good luck. I know how hard it is.

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E.M.

answers from Detroit on

As each pregnancy can be different, so can nursing each child. I have three children and I nursed all of them. The first for six months and I struggled with supply the whole time. The second I nursed for eighteen months with no problem. The third I nursed for nine months, ending because of a heart surgery for him and a sucking problem. I worked closely with my midwives during each pregnancy and nursing. The very best way to keep up your milk supply is the theory of supply and demand. For some women, pumping is easy and it is enough and for some it is not. I have a friend who pumped exclusively and fed her children for their first year. And yet, one of my midwives who successfully nursed three children, couldn't get even half an ounce out with a pump. From my own experience and from that of those I know, the best advice is to keep the amount you are pumping and nursing and if possible, increase. Also, there are a couple of herbal supplements that may help. I found that they did help me. One is a tea that you can buy called Mothers Milk. Just steep the tea bags in hot water and drink like a nice cup of tea. The other is a supplement you can find in a health food store called Fenugreek. It comes in capsule form and you take it several times a day. I found that it really helped me during the nursing of my first child. You may also find it helpful to call your local hospital to see if they have a nursing consultant call the La Leche League. They often have suggestions that correlate with each individual situation.

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K.P.

answers from Columbus on

I am a working mother as well. I nursed our first DD exclusively for the 1st 6 months and went on to nurse for the rest of the year. I now have a 4 month old as well. With both of our children, I experienced a decrease in supply after pumping for about a month at work. Breast pumps aren't as efficient as a nursing baby.

Here's what I did/do:
-eat oatmeal
-drink lots of water
-drink Mother's Milk tea
-take Blessed Thistle and Red Raspberry herbs. The herbs are what helps me the most... I never could have nursed the 1st child for a year without it. (I get mine from my mother in law... that's what she said to take. I've also heard of many people taking fenugreek... that is also in maple syrup).

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L.

answers from Cleveland on

There is an Herbal Tea called 'Mothers Milk' it may help...it can't hurt.

L.

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L.W.

answers from Cleveland on

Moms don't dry up :) Like you said, you have plenty when you nurse her, but yourbody isn't responding to the pump. It could be the pump you are using (is it a $50 or a $300 or a hospital rental?), could be you feel stress at work to pump, could be many things.

I'd recommend finding an IBCLC (certified lactation consultant) and schedule a visit - the $ you spend on a visit with an LC will be far less than you end up spending on formula! I'd be happy to recommend a few on both sides of town.

Please just don't give up on bfing your baby - it's not an all or nothing situation - even if you end up using formula you can still connect and nurture your baby when you are home and nursing!

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D.S.

answers from Grand Rapids on

I've had the same trouble since I went back to work full-time myself, a little over a month ago. I exclusively breast-fed my daughter who was born in January. I've done a lot of reading and talked to a lactation consultant and someone from La Leche League because I worried that I was not going to be able to pump enough for her. Like you, I only get 1 1/2 to 3 ounces each time I pump. The first question is to make sure that you've got a good, efficient pump, and then if so, does she seem to be nursing a lot more when you are home and during the night? Some breast-fed babies start to 'reverse cycle' and basically not eat as much during the day when you're gone and make up for it when you're home. I've noticed my daughter doing this and she's been growing and is healthy with only having the 2 small bottles during the day (I come home and nurse her at lunch). Does she seem satisfied with what you're pumping or does she want more? Another thing that can cause your supply to drop is if your period is coming back - I had that happen to me also. Oh, another thing you can maybe try is that there are herbs like fenugreek or blessed thistle that can help boost milk supply, or there's a tea that you can drink too.

Don't give up - the more you pump and nurse, the more you'll keep your milk supply up. The lady I talked to at La Leche League was really helpful - you might want to try calling them or if you want you can e-mail me. Maybe we could keep each other motivated. :)

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K.

answers from Dayton on

Sarah,

I constantly worried that I wouldn't have enough milk, and I pumped three times at work too, with the Medela double pump. The best thing I found was to put a pillow across my lap, lay my baby on it, and have her nurse on one side while I pumped the other first thing after she woke in the morning. A lot of times I got half the milk for the day that way! I also bought the larger shields - they're much more comfortable. Also, when you're pumping at work (hopefully you have a quiet place) try closing your eyes and imagining your baby suckling. If I got myself to relax (and not worry) I produced a lot more milk. I pumped for a year, then am gradually weaning her off. Sometimes I had JUST enough milk for the following day. Oh, I also did the morning-pillow-pump on Saturdays and Sundays too to get a head start for the week, but didn't pump during the weekend other than that.

Best wishes to you and God Bless! You're doing a fantastic job.

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J.N.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hello, I am also a nursing mother and I am wondering what kind of pump you are using because with my manual I can spend a 1/2 hour trying to get something out and get like you said 1-2 ounces. Your pump might not be strong enough for you. My friend had the same problem and when she switched to an electric pump she did a lot better. It might not be the supply, just the pump. I suggest contacting your lactation consultant and seeing if she can let you try an electric to see if it is the problem. If you do have an electric pump then I am not sure what the problem could be but she might be able to help you out. Good luck!

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P.J.

answers from Columbus on

I had the same problem and ended up drying up. I would call our lactation specialist at the hospital you gave birth. But some women it just happens to. Good luck

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B.M.

answers from Providence on

I was taking an herbal tea supplement to increase my low breast milk supply called Healthy nursing tea which helped me a lot and now I am producing enough to satisfy my little one.

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