How to Boost Your Milk Supply
Just before Owen hit 4 months, I had decided I was just about down with breastfeeding. First off, I almost exclusively pump and bottle feed him because he’s gotten so alert that he won’t actually stay latched these days. Or, if he does, he’ll eat for about 7 minutes total before getting distracted or frustrated and then he just gives up—babies!
I know that I could hire a lactation consultant to work on this, but honestly, I prefer pumping and bottle feeding. It’s less stressful for me and him and it just works for us!
After his 4 month wellness visit, I decided I’d try to hold out a little longer. The doctor suggested that I try to keep giving him some breastmilk until winter is over, and cold and flu season isn’t so much of a risk. I left feeling motivated! But, the very next morning, my milk seemed to have disappeared overnight.
I had noticed that I wasn’t making as much the past week, which was part of the reason I was ready to throw in the towel, but I also knew why. I’d gotten lazy about pumping on a schedule and had even cut back on how often I was pumping—of course my milk was going to slow down too.
Being naturally competitive with myself, I decided to see if I could get my supply back up and make it through winter.
A few weeks later, my supply was back up and I was even producing more than I was before which was really exciting. Not enough to freeze since he eats so much these days, but enough to give him 4 6-8oz. bottles of breastmilk a day.
Of course, I’m no expert and I can’t guarantee this will work for everyone, but it’s worked really well for me!
How to Boost your Milk Supply
Feed or Pump on a Schedule
This is my number one tip! Feeding or pumping on a regular schedule tells your body to keep making milk. I started getting lazy about it, and would go 4-6 hours in between pumps. One morning, I didn’t even pump enough for one bottle!
I had a mini freakout and then decided it was time to either get back on a schedule or wean. I wasn’t quite ready to give up, so back to the schedule again. After a few days of being back on a schedule my milk production came back.
Know your “Magic Number”
I can’t remember where I read it, a blog I think, but it said that every woman has a “magic number” of pumps or feeds that will keep her body producing enough milk. Every mom’s number might not be the same. For some it can be 4-5 and others, 7-8.
Through some trial and error, I’ve learned that 5 is my magic number. Do I wish it was less?! Duh, but realistically that isn’t that bad for a 5 month old. He eats 5 times a day so it makes sense!
Make Sure to Empty
I didn’t realize the full impact of this one, but when you empty your boobs, it signals your body to make more milk. If you’re not fully emptying them each time, your supply will slowly (or not so slowly) decrease. If you’re nursing, try pumping 30 minutes after feeding to ensure that the girls are totally empty. I did this when Owen was younger and was always surprised by how much milk was still there!
If you’re exclusively pumping, make sure that you pump long enough to empty them. For me, that’s usually 15-25 minutes, but of course, everyone is different!
Try Adding Supplements
I’d heard of so many different things—Fenugreek, Brewer’s Yeast, but I hadn’t considered taking anything until this point. I came across Legendairy Milk on Lynzy’s Instagram and immediately bought their Pump Princess—it seemed fitting since I really only pump.
After a week of taking them, I noticed a slight increase in my milk production. I also noticed that my milk was getting creamier. Before that, my milk was so watery and almost never had a layer of fat at the top. I worried that Owen wasn’t getting enough nutriets, but I don’t worry anymore. His chunky thighs are proof it’s doing it’s job!
I went through the bottle pretty quick and decided to get the bestseller bundle because I wanted to try Milkapalooza and Liquid Gold. I’d heard from several of you (thanks!) that using several in combination can really be helpful, so I just went ahead and did it!
Right now I take 6 capsules each day (2 of each type). I take two in the morning, two with lunch and two at night. I don’t take them in any specific order either.
Since taking all three, my milk is consistently thicker and creamier, and I’m producing more. Before taking these, my morning pump, which is the biggest of the day, was usually around 8.5-9oz. For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting 10-12oz. which is insane!
I pump four more times throughout the day and used to get 2-4oz. each pump and now I usually get 4-6oz. I haven’t had to dip into my freezer stash much this month which has been great! That means, I can continue to give him some breastmilk even after I’m done!
Sidenote, this is not sponsored by Legendairy Milk! I honestly have loved their products and simply want to share because they’ve been game changers for me. They’re the number one reason I haven’t given up on breastfeeding. Well, that and some internal mom guilt, ha!
Seeing him really grow and thrive this past month inspired me to keep going. I still have several days a week where I want to quit (and everyday last week), so I just take it one day at a time. Not setting myself to any goals has taken the pressure off, but between you and me, I’m really just aiming for 6 months now—only a month to go!
Try a Higher Setting
At first, I turned my pump onto the lowest setting possible and it worked fine. About a month ago, I tried going up a few settings and it has made the whole process so much more efficient. I get more milk and I get it much faster. Of course, you don’t want it to hurt, so what I did was turn it up until it does hurt a bit, then turn it slightly down from that.
Stay Hydrated & Eat Well
This probably goes without saying, but keeping yourself hydrated and well-fed is key! Breastfeeding is exhausting work—it requires 500 more calories a day for us to keep up! I drink water throughout the day, and drink 1-2 glasses while I’m pumping to make sure I’m getting enough water. I also eat three normal meals, plus 2-3 snacks throughout the day. If you want to read more about what I eat in a day, I shared it all in this post!
Do you pump during the night? Nope! I value my sleep too much! My last pump of the night is usually around 9:30pm and my first pump is around 8am the next morning.
What pump do you use and what settings do you use? I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced. I have no idea why it’s called this because it’s not stylish at all, but it gets the job done. There’s 7 big dots around the settings and I usually set it at 2 and after a while I sometimes bump it up to 2.5. If it hurts, that’s too high, just move it down a little bit from that setting.
If you feel like you’re not getting much milk, definitely try bumping up the settings a bit. I used to get plenty of milk on the lowest setting and then one day I just wasn’t anymore. I hadn’t even thought about bumping it up, but did, and it worked like a charm!
Did you learn anything in the hospital to get off on the right foot for breastfeeding? Our night nurse was super helpful and helped me with the latch. Thankfully Owen took to it pretty quick and we didn’t really struggle. I did learn that if your boobs are too full it can make it really tough for them to latch, so if that happened, I would pump for a few minutes before to make it easier for him to latch. If not, he’d get milk all over his face—oops!
Did you start pumping right away? How often? I didn’t start pumping until about 5 weeks. I was scared it was going to hurt! Haha, looking back I realize that’s silly, but I’ve heard it can be good to wait about a month so that your supply regulates.
At first I would only pump once a day (about 30 minutes after I’d feed him, or I’d replace one breastfeeding session with pumping) and let Rob feed him his nighttime bottle. Eventually Owen just got so busy and distracted breastfeeding that I moved onto exclusively pumping and bottle feeding. It’s not ideal since it requires more time, but it works and keeps everyone less frustrated!
Right now, I pump 5 times a day with 3.5-4.5 hours between pumps. I pump for 20-25 minutes first thing in the morning and usually 12-20 for the rest of them, depending on whether or not there’s still milk coming out.
What do you do if you’re out? I really try to plan our day according to when I have to pump because I don’t like carrying around or using my hand pump, though it’s handy in a pinch (or at the airport!). Occasionally we’ll be out longer than my normal 3.5-4.5 hours and I just pump as soon as I get back and pump until there’s no more milk flowing. I always try to make sure they’re empty to avoid clogged ducts and mastitis.
How do you handle drinking and pumping? GREAT question! Some people choose to abstain from alcohol while breastfeeding and if that’s you, you’re amazing. I, on the other hand, like wine too much.
That being said, I definitely am more conscious of how much I drink and usually limit it to one glass of wine during the week. I’ve been trying to take more nights off, but sometimes I just don’t want water anymore and kombucha has been a nice filler when I just want something different. I still pump after having that glass of wine and have fed Owen with no issues.
We did go to a concert one night and I drank too much, pumped and fed a little to Owen the next morning and he barfed. I poured the rest of that pump session down the drain—which is so sad! But, it didn’t seem worth it at that point. So, if I drink a lot, I dump it, but if it’s just a glass or two, I keep it. Sometimes I’ll mix that with other safe milk so it’s even more diluted, though I don’t think it’s really a big deal!
That’s a personal choice though and up to you to decide what works for you!
How do you warm up your milk if you put it in the freezer or fridge? This is an easy one for me—we don’t! Of course, I thaw the frozen breastmilk, but I’ve always given Owen cold or room temperature milk. I didn’t want him to get too used to drinking warm milk in case we were out and I couldn’t warm it. Thankfully, he’s not picky at all and will drink warm, cold, or room temp milk with no issues.
To thaw frozen milk, I put it in the fridge the day or night before I want to use it and let it thaw on it’s own. If I need it quickly, I’ll fill a bowl with warm water to speed up the process!
What other tips do you have for boosting your milk production and quality?