Natural Ways to Stimulate Breastmilk Production
Low breast milk supply is a common concern among many nursing mothers. While most moms produce enough milk to feed their baby, there are natural ways to encourage a larger supply. These include nursing more frequently, staying well-hydrated and consuming foods that encourage milk production. If you continue to have concerns about your baby's growth or your milk supply, speak with your pediatrician and lactation consultant.
Breast milk production is a supply and demand process -- or, more accurately, a demand, then supply process. When your baby completely drains the milk from your breast, this triggers your body to produce more milk. The more often you nurse, the more the demand, and your body will respond with a greater supply. To increase supply, certified lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata recommends nursing every 1 1/2 to two hours during the day and at least every three hours at night.
Because breast milk is a demand, then supply process, the more often you deplete the breast, the greater your supply can become. If your baby has difficulty depleting your stores or does not want to nurse more often, pumping can speed up the supply. As the aim is to deplete the breast completely, keep pumping for two to five minutes after you see the last drop of milk. Keep in mind, though, that the amount of milk you pump is not an accurate indicator of your supply. A baby with a good suck can extract your milk much more efficiently than any pump.
Adequate Nutrition and Hydration
Taking care of yourself is an essential part of breast-feeding success but may be a low priority when caring for your baby. Your body needs a minimum of 1,800 calories per day while lactating. Trying to restrict more than this to lose the pregnancy weight could leave your body depleted, making it more difficult to produce milk. While "pushing fluids" does not directly correlate to a greater milk supply, drinking in response to thirst is important. Drink enough to keep your urine clear -- typically six to eight glasses each day.
Fenugreek is an herbal supplement, and while there is no scientific evidence that it increases supply, moms have used it for this purpose for hundreds of years, according to certified lactation consultant Anne Smith. Fenugreek is rated as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) but may cause lowered blood sugar. According to Smith, the recommended dosage is two to three capsules taken three times per day. You should see a noticeable increase of your milk supply in one to three days if your body responds to the herb. Before starting any new medications or herbal supplements such as fenugreek, consult with your physician and pediatrician first.