Increasing your milk supply

by Kaiser Permanente |
Portrait of mom and breastfeeding baby.

When you’re breastfeeding/chestfeeding, your milk supply is directly related to how much your baby drinks. The more your baby drinks, the more milk your body produces.

However, some people have difficulty maintaining a good milk supply. There are steps you can take to help boost production and keep your newborn happy and healthy.

Taking care of yourself

Establishing a good milk supply begins with taking good care of yourself. It can be challenging to adjust to life after you give birth. However, it’s important to make healthy decisions that benefit your body.

When you’re breastfeeding, make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet every day. Be sure to enjoy a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. When possible, try to limit the white or refined grains. Eat healthy proteins like fish, poultry, beans, and nuts, and limit the amount of cheese and red meat you consume.

It’s very important to drink enough fluids. Water is the best option — drink between 8 and 10 glasses every day to stay hydrated.

Another way to take care of yourself is by managing stress. Rest as often as possible. Many people try to nap while their baby naps.

Stimulating milk production

Breastfeeding frequently — about every 1½ to 3 hours — will help you increase your milk supply. Your baby should feed between 8 and 12 times a day. This helps your breasts drain and boosts new milk production.

It’s a good idea to avoid using bottles or pacifiers until your milk supply is well established. Don’t use formula for your baby’s first 6 months unless your clinician suggests otherwise.

Always keep an eye on your baby’s latch and positioning. Your baby’s bottom lip should cover more of the areola — the dark area of skin around your nipple — than their upper lip.

While you’re breastfeeding/chestfeeding, try these tips to help increase your milk supply:

  • Fully drain your breasts at each feeding.
  • Gently squeeze your breasts to help the milk continue to flow.
  • Move your infant from one breast to the other often during feeding.
  • Make sure you get plenty of skin-to-skin contact with your infant.

There are also things you can do if you’re pumping:

  • Apply a warm cloth or take a warm shower before you pump.
  • Compress your breasts with your hand to express more milk.
  • Consider “power pumping,” which means pumping for 10 minutes and then resting for 10 minutes. Switch back and forth for an hour every day to help boost your milk supply.
  • Use an electric double breast pump for 20 minutes between or after feedings.

Herbs and supplements to boost milk production

Some people recommend herbs or other supplements to increase milk supply. These are called galactagogues. Examples include blessed thistle and fenugreek.

Keep in mind that these products aren’t clinically proven to work. Because they haven’t been studied for their safety, they may interact with other drugs you’re taking. For some, they may cause allergic reactions.

Always ask your clinician before using any galactagogue.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.