Some tips for increase breastmilk

It's quite normal to worry about your milk supply when you start breastfeeding your baby. You must be wondering if your body is producing enough milk to meet your baby's growing needs. 

Certain foods are popularly believed to increase the supply of breastmilk. Here's a list of them. Some are even backed by research. Most of them are easily available in local stores. 

Foods known to help increase breastmilk
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Fenugreek Seeds (Methi): Methi seeds have been used for ages to increase breastmilk supply and now there is research to back this ancient belief. Research has shown that fenugreek or methi increases milk supply. Some doctors say that if you include methi in your diet, you will have an increased supply of milk within a week. Besides, fenugreek seeds are a great source of iron, calcium, vitamins and minerals. But be careful not to consume too much as it is a mild dieuretic and you may end up losing a lot of water. Methi can added to many dishes, especially vegetables and can also be used while making parathas and pooris. 

Fennel Seeds (Saunf): Studies have found that fennel seeds increase milk supply. Some doctors also say that fennel seeds help prevent colic in your baby. They are rich in vitamin C. Besides, they are a good mouth freshener and aid digestion. Fennel seeds can be added to vegetables, dals and desserts. 
Foods traditionally believed to increase milk supply

Though there isn't any scientific research to back the following foods, many mothers swear by them and say they were helpful in increasing breastmilk supply: 

Cumin seeds (Jeera): As well as stimulating milk supply, cumin seeds are said to improve digestion and provide relief from constipation, acidity and bloating. They are also a source of iron to help you gain strength after birth. Cumin seeds are an integral part of many Indian dishes. You can roast them and add them even to snacks, raitas and chutneys. 

Black sesame seeds (Til): Black sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium and are believed to help increase milk supply. These seeds contain many other beneficial nutrients like copper. You can try til ke ladoos and use black sesame seeds in foods like khichri, biryani and lentil dishes. 

Holy basil (Tulsi): Tulsi has been traditionally used to help cure a number of ailments. It's a great source of vitamin K. In addition to improving your milk supply, it is believed to have a calming effect, improve bowel movements and promote a healthy appetite. Add the leaves to cooked vegetables and soups. Or you can make a hot drink out of them by boiling them in water and drinking the tulsi tea with honey. 

Dill seeds (Suwa): Dill is a good source of iron, manganese and calcium. It is believed to improve milk supply, digestion and sleep. Dill is a mild diuretic and should be consumed in moderation. You can use dill seeds whole or ground in many foods such as pickles, salads, cheese spreads and curries. 

Green and Gourd Vegetables: Vegetables from the gourd family like lauki and tori are a traditional way to improve milk supply. Not only are these vegetables nutritious, they are also easy to digest. Green vegetables like beans, spinach, beet leaves and asparagus are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins as well as phytoestrogen which is believed to enhance lactation. Cook these vegetables with spices or make sweet snacks like halwa out of them. 

Pulses or lentils (Dals) : Pulses, especially red lentils or masoor dal are not only believed to improve milk supply but are also high in iron and fibre. Use a pressure cooker to prepare them to save time and add spices and condiments of your choice. 

Red vegetables: Carrots, sweet potatoes and beets for example are high in beta-carotene, which is beneficial for your baby if you are breastfeeding. Beets and sweet potatoes are high in iron and help to maintain the liver. Carrot seeds have been known to improve milk supply. You can include them in salads, soups, porridges, meat dishes or desserts like gajjar ka halwa. 

Nuts: Almonds and cashews are said to be the nuts that aid breastfeeding. They make an excellent snack and are best consumed raw. You can also add them to sweet and savoury dishes to boost their flavour. 

Garlic: Among its many curative properties, garlic is said to help in increasing breastmilk supply. Though garlic can be eaten on its own, you may find it more appetising when used as a condiment in dals, meats, vegetables, pastas and pickles. 

Oats (Dalia): Oats are a great source of iron, calcium and fibre and are popular with nursing mums. They are commonly eaten as porridge and you may choose to add nuts, milk, spices or fruits to improve its nutritional value. 

Oils and butter Certain fats from oils and butter are healthy. Oils like olive oil, flaxseed oil and sesame oil are healthier oils believed to aid breastfeeding. Butter, coconut oil and ghee, when consumed in moderation, can boost energy. Use them to cook or just drizzle some over your salads. 

Yes. In addition to eating the right food, be sure to: 

Drink 10-12 glasses of water - breastmilk is liquid after all so if you do not drink enough, no matter what you eat, you will not be able to produce enough milk. A good way to keep up with your liquid intake is to drink a glass of water every time you feed your baby. 

Breastfeed your baby regularly - your body adapts milk production to the amount being demanded. So if you start supplementing your milk with formula or other supplements, your milk supply will go down. The more you feed your baby, the more milk your body will produce. You may find that milk production is best when you develop a feeding routine for your baby and feed at regular intervals. This gives your body the time to produce the needed amount again. 

Get enough rest - if you are too tired, your body will not have the energy to produce milk properly. So try to catch up on your rest and sleep during the day if you are up a lot at night. 

Try to relax - getting used to your new life as a mum can be stressful at times. Stress is known to affect the let-down reflex that secretes milk and even milk production. So for your and your baby's sake, its a good idea to try to relax. Try to arrange for help in the house whether it is from family members or hired help.

The following factors can contribute to an inadequate milk supply:

Not getting enough sucking stimulation. A sleepy or jaundiced baby may not nurse vigorously enough to empty your breasts adequately. Even a baby who nurses often may not give you the stimulation you need if he is sucking weakly or ineffectively. See Waking A Sleepy Baby for information on how to help your sleepy baby nurse more effectively.

Being separated from your baby or scheduling feedings too rigidly can interfere with the supply and demand system of milk production. Keeping your baby close, day and night, and nursing often is the best way to increase your supply. (See Night Waking )

Many mothers find that their milk production decreases when they return to work. Being separated from their baby for long periods of time, as well as the stress associated with re-entering the work force can make it difficult for moms to maintain their supply. The article Returning to Work has information about how to deal with these challenges.

Limiting the amount of time your baby spends at the breast can cause your baby to get more of the lower calorie foremilk and less of the higher fat content hindmilk. Typically, babies need to spend from 20-45 minutes nursing during the newborn period in order to get enough milk. Offer both breasts at a feeding during the early weeks in order to receive adequate stimulation. While some babies can get plenty of milk from one breast, after nursing only a few minutes, usually this happens after the milk supply is well established, and not in the early stages of breastfeeding.

If you are ill or under a lot of stress, your milk supply may be low. Hormonal disorders such as thyroid or pituitary imbalances or retained placental fragments can cause problems. Many mothers find that their supply goes down when they have a cold or other illness. (See When a Nursing Mother Gets Sick). Hormonal birth control methods containing estrogen may decrease your supply as well.

Using formula supplements or pacifiers regularly can decrease your supply. Babies who are full of formula will nurse less often, and some babies are willing to meet their sucking needs with a pacifier rather than spending time at the breast. If you need to supplement with formula, try to pump after feedings to give your breasts extra stimulation. If you use a pacifier, make sure that it isn’t used as a supplement for nutritive sucking. (See Introducing Bottles and Pacifers to the Breastfed Baby)

If your nipples are very sore, pain may inhibit your letdown reflex, and you may also tend to delay feedings because they are so unpleasant. Often careful attention to positioning will correct the problem.

Medical conditions like Tongue Tie , Yeast Infections, and Flat or Inverted Nipples can cause nipple soreness and make it difficult for the baby to get the milk he needs. Correcting the problem so that nursing doesn’t hurt can help you increase the let-down and frequency of putting the baby on the breast, and your supply may increase accordingly.

Previous breast surgery can cause a low milk supply. Anytime you have breast surgery, there is a risk of breastfeeding problems, especially if milk ducts have been damaged. Generally, breast implants or breast biopsies cause fewer problems than breast reduction surgery.

Moms who have a Cesarean may need some extra time to recover before they physically feel like holding and nursing their new baby. This may cause a slight delay in the milk coming in, but once it does, moms who deliver via C-section produce just as much milk as the mothers who deliver vaginally.

Taking combination birth control pills – those containing both estrogen and progesterone (see article Breastfeeding and Birth Control) and getting pregnant while nursing (Nursing During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing) can alter your hormone levels and cause a decrease in your supply. Smoking heavily, and taking certain medications can also adversely affect your supply (see article Drugs and Breastfeeding)

Be aware of the fact that it’s normal for your baby to lose some weight in the first couple of days after birth. Babies are born with extra fluid in their tissues to ‘hold them over’ until mom’s milk comes in. They typically lose 5-7 % of their weight in the first couple of days as their bodies excrete the extra fluid. For the average baby, this is close to a half a pound weight loss (often more for larger babies). You need to ask what your baby’s discharge weight is when leaving the hospital, because that is the figure you will be calculating his weight gain from, not from his birth weight.

If your milk supply is low, here are some suggestions on how to increase it:

Monitor your baby’s weight often, especially in the early days and weeks. (See article How to Tell if Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk). In general, the longer your supply has been low, the longer it will take to build it back up. Get help early, before weight gain becomes a big concern. In almost all cases, once a healthy baby starts gaining weight, he won’t suddenly start losing it unless there is an underlying medical problem with mom or baby.

Take care of yourself. Try to eat well and drink enough fluids. You don’t need to force fluids – if you are drinking enough to keep your urine clear, and you aren’t constipated, then you’re probably getting enough. Drink to thirst, usually 6-8 glasses a day. Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect, but you do need to eat enough to keep yourself from being tired all the time. It is easy to get so overwhelmed with baby care that you forget to eat and drink enough. Don’t try to diet while you are nursing, especially in the beginning while you are establishing your supply. You need a minimum of 1800 calories each day while you are lactating, and if you eat high quality foods and limit fats and sweets, you will usually lose weight more easily than a mother who is formula feeding, even without depriving yourself. (See Nutrition, Weight Loss & Exercise)

Nurse frequently for as long as your baby will nurse. Try to get in a minimum of 8 feedings in 24 hours, and more if possible. If your baby is sleepy, see article Waking A Sleepy Baby.

Offer both breasts at each feeding. Try “switch nursing”. Watch your baby as he nurses. He will nurse vigorously for a few minutes, then start slowing down and swallowing less often. He may continue this lazy sucking for a long time, then be too tired to take the other breast when you try to switch sides. Try switching him to the other breast as soon as his sucking slows down, even if it has only been a couple of minutes. Do the same thing on the other breast until you have offered each breast twice, then let him nurse as long as he wants to. This switch nursing will ensure that he receives more of the higher calorie hindmilk, while also ensuring that both breasts receive adequate stimulation.

Try massaging the breast gently as you nurse. This can help the rich, higher calorie hindmilk let down more efficiently. Using breast compression is an simple, easy, and effective way to help your baby get more milk. Newborn babies will often fall asleep at the breast when the flow of milk slows down, even if they haven’t gotten enough to eat. Breast compression helps to continue the flow of milk once the baby starts falling asleep at the breast, so the baby gets more hindmilk. This video shows Dr. Jack Newman helping a mom use breast compression to help a baby get more milk as he nurses.

Make sure that you are using proper breastfeeding techniques. Check your positioning to make sure that he is latching on properly. If the areola is not far enough back in his mouth, he may not be able to compress the milk sinuses effectively in order to release the milk. (See Establishing Your Milk Supply).

Avoid bottles and pacifiers if possible. You want your baby’s sucking needs to be met at the breast. If your baby needs to be supplemented, try to use a cup, syringe, or tube feeding system, especially in the very beginning (babies under 2 weeks old). This is less of a concern with older babies who are well established with breastfeeding, as they are much less likely to have trouble switching back and forth between breast and bottle.

Consider renting a hospital-grade breast pump for a few days, unless you have a good quality double pump at home. Hospital grade pumps have stronger, more powerful motors, and are the most efficient pumps you can use. They are bigger and heavier, so they aren’t as portable as other pumps. They are made for multiple users, as long as each mom has her own collection kit. Because they are so heavy duty and expensive, most hospitals have them available for moms to use in the hospital. They are very expensive to buy – some sell for over $1,000 – so most moms will rent them instead. The hospital, a La Leche League Leader, or your childbirth educator should be able to provide you information you need to find a breast pump rental station, and also how to contact an IBCLC if you have further questions about increasing your milk production. The article Pumping and Storing Breastmilk has more information.

The best way to increase your supply is to double pump for 5-10 minutes after you nurse your baby, or a least 8 times in 24 hours. Try to set the pump on maximum unless your nipples are very sore. Most pumps work better on the higher suction settings. Minimum is kind of like the baby sucking in his sleep toward the end of the feeding, and maximum is more like the vigorous sucking he does for the first few minutes of the feeding.

There are certain food supplements that may increase your milk supply. Before using any of these, it is important to rule out other problems such as illness in mother or baby. Some herbal supplements have been used for many years to increase milk production, with the most popular being Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, Red Raspberry, and Brewers Yeast (containing B vitamins). None of these herbal remedies have been proven scientifically to increase milk supply, but they’ve been used by moms for hundred of years with varying degrees of success. In over thirty years of experience, I have seldom seen any dramatic change in milk production in moms who used these herbs. However, many moms do see somewhat of an increase, and these herbs are generally considered safe, so I recommend that moms try them along with other methods if they want to, but to have realistic expectations about the results. I usually recommend that mothers try Fenugreek capsules (2-3 capsules taken 3 times daily) along with Blessed Thistle tablets (same dosage). You many want to add Brewers Yeast tablets (3 tablets taken with meals, 3 times per day) and Red Raspberry tea or capsules several times each day. I know that seems like a lot of capsules to take, so if you don’t want to take them all, the Fenugreek seems to be the most effective. Fenugreek is rated GRAS (generally regarded as safe), but when taken in large doses may cause lowered blood sugar, so should be used with caution by diabetics. It is in the same family with peanuts and chickpeas, and may cause an allergic reaction in moms who are allergic to them. It has not been known to cause any problems for the babies of the mothers who take it, but shouldn’t be used by pregnant women because it may cause uterine contractions. If the Fenugreek is going to help, moms usually notice an increase in one to three days. Fenugreek is used in artificial maple flavorings, and may cause a maple-syrup odor in a mother or baby’s sweat. That just means that enough of it is in your system to be effective. Check out this page for more information on herbal supply boosters:

One thing that I do not suggest is spending money on so- called “lactogenic” supplements that claim to increase milk supply. If you Google “increase milk supply” or “how to make more milk”, hundreds of websites will come up, with many of them selling products that make outrageous claims and seldom work. I found one website that made this statement: “Breastfeeding is supposed to be easy but for the majority of mothers…it isn’t. You aren’t alone if you don’t feel like you’re producing enough milk. An overwhelming majority of first-time mothers (74%) have issues producing milk.”

This is one of the most negative, discouraging ways to present breastfeeding that I’ve ever heard. It’s a sleazy, but too often used, sales technique that uses negativity to play on mother’s fears that they won’t have enough milk for their babies. What are they thinking? Define “issues” here. Surely they don’t really believe that three out of four nursing moms aren’t able to produce enough milk for their babies. How would the human race have survived this long if this were the case? Could they be talking about other “issues” like learning to use a pump, or sore nipples, or leaking, etc? And could they be more discouraging and negative? They’re trying to sell you stuff by making claims like this: “Studies show that Fenugreek can increase milk production up to 900%.” Say WHAT? Was that a misprint? “Mamatini can help you produce a healthy supply of breast milk for your baby, while giving you the energy to breeze through your day.” I don’t know what you think about this, but if anyone ever comes up with a product that lets new moms ‘breeze through their day’, it’s going to make a billion dollars. “Mothers who ate Malunggay (whatever that is) produced 228% more milk than mothers who didn’t.” Obviously another misprint. Apparently this amazing product is “100% vegan using premium Malunggay leaves”, and “produced in an ISO-certified facility”. Whatever that means.
My point is, don’t waste your money. These products don’t work, unless there is some sort of placebo effect. Greedy manufacturers take advantage of the fact that nursing moms are so worried about having enough milk that they will try anything. Don’t fall for these outrageous claims. There is no product out there than can increase your milk supply the way they claim. They just want your money. One more thing – oatmeal is often used by women as a galactagogue. There is no scientific evidence to show that this is the case, and I’ve never personally seen a mom’s supply increase due to her oatmeal intake, but some mothers swear by it. Again, you have to wonder about the placebo effect. It’s a good thing to try – it’s cheap, it’s good for you, and it doesn’t have any side effects. Just don’t expect a dramatic increase in your supply when you eat oatmeal cookies. If increasing milk production was that easy, every nursing mom would weigh a ton, and no one would need articles like this.
If all other methods of increasing milk production haven’t worked, there are two prescription medications available that may be used to increase milk supply: Metroclopromide and domperidone. Studies have shown an increase of 66 to 100% in milk production, depending on the dose given and how much milk the mother was producing before taking these medications. Metoclopramide (Reglan, or Maxeran), has been used in infants for years to treat reflux, and is also given to moms who’ve had a c-section to help prevent nausea. When it’s taken by a lactating woman, it stimulates prolaction production and will nearly always increase milk output within 2-3 days. A dose of 30-45 mg per day seems to be most effective. If you are taking Reglan, you should also work on addressing the cause of the low supply by correcting positioning or pumping frequently, or your supply will drop back to previous levels when you discontinue taking it.
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