How to Increase Your Breast Milk Supply

If you’ve just started breastfeeding, you may be concerned that your baby is not getting enough nourishment. You may also be wondering if there is anything you can do to produce more breast milk for your hungry little one. Learn how to spot the signs that your baby is or isn’t getting enough breast milk, what can cause low breast milk supply, and how to increase your breast milk supply naturally at home.

Signs Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk

Instead of trying to gauge the quantity of your breast milk production, it’s more important to keep an eye on the signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk. If you’re ever in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider or lactation consultant, who can help guide you in this process. These are some of the signs your baby is probably getting enough breast milk and that your supply is well established:

  • Your baby is gaining weight. One of the most reliable signs of successful feeding is your baby’s steady weight gain. Keep in mind that your baby will likely lose a little weight within a few days of birth (usually no more than about 10 percent of their birth weight), but they should regain it within a couple of weeks. Take a look at how baby growth charts help your baby’s healthcare provider track their growth.

  • Your baby is going through diapers. The number of diapers your baby goes through is a good indicator of whether they’re getting enough milk. A few days after birth, expect to change around six wet diapers per day, and check that your baby has three to four bowel movements a day. The stool will be dark and sticky (called meconium) in those first days after your baby is born but will become loose and yellowish afterward. The color of the urine should be pale yellow—not dark yellow or orange in color.

  • Your baby is breastfeeding often. Healthy newborns tend to feed at least 8 to 12 times a day, approximately every 2 to 3 hours.

  • Your baby is breastfeeding more during a growth spurt. During growth spurts (which may occur around 2 to 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months for some infants), your baby may nurse for a longer period of time and more often during the day. Follow your baby’s lead and let them nurse for as long and as often as they like.

  • Your baby seems full after feeds. When your baby is full after a feeding, they will have relaxed arms with outstretched palms. When they want to eat, their arms will be flexed with hands in a fist and they may even try sucking their fingers.

  • Your baby seems happy between feeds. If your baby seems satisfied, happy, alert, and active (not cranky or fussy) after feedings, chances are they’re getting the nourishment they need.

  • Your breasts feel soft after feedings. Your breasts may feel firmer and fuller before feedings, but afterward, they may feel softer. But when your little one is between 6 weeks and 2 months old, your breasts may feel less firm in general, which is normal.

Causes of Low Breast Milk Supply

You may be asking yourself “Why is my milk supply low?” And, you may be thinking that there are specific signs you should be looking for that indicate when your milk supply is decreasing, but there aren’t. Instead, there are specific factors that can result in your breast milk supply decreasing, including the following:

  • Your baby not latching or positioning properly. If your baby isn’t getting the nutrition they need, it’s more likely to be because of improper latching, which may reduce the production of milk. Changing breastfeeding positions may help improve the latch.

  • Waiting too long to start breastfeeding. Ideally, it's best to start breastfeeding about an hour or so after giving birth.

  • Not breastfeeding often enough. Experts recommend breastfeeding your newborn about 8 to 12 times a day.

  • Not pumping enough. Pump more often to produce more breast milk. If you can, pump both of your breasts at the same time for 15 minutes every few hours. Pressing on your breasts gently during the pumping can also help with emptying. If your baby doesn’t finish a breastfeeding session, be sure to pump the remaining milk from your breast.

  • Introducing a bottle too soon. Sometimes babies can get confused or lose interest in feeding at the breast after introducing bottle-feeding. If this happens with your baby, try breastfeeding on demand.

  • Supplementing with formula. Feeding your baby with formula may reduce their demand for breast milk. Instead of supplementing with formula when you’re apart, pump and store extra breast milk in the freezer for future feedings. Try not to skip pumping sessions even if you’re at work.

  • Your baby starts weaning earlier. Some babies naturally wean themselves from the breast sooner than others, especially once solid food is introduced at 6 months old.

  • Being anxious. Stress can affect your release of breast milk, so being relaxed before breastfeeding can help. Try feeding your baby in a dim and quiet room, and try to eliminate as many distractions as possible.

  • Using certain medications, such as those containing pseudoephedrine or even certain types of hormonal contraception.

  • Having had breast surgery.

  • Your baby’s birth was premature. If your baby was born prematurely, they may need special care in the coming days, which may prevent you from breastfeeding right away.

  • Having pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

  • Obesity.

  • Having insulin-dependent diabetes.

  • Not taking good care of yourself. This is easier said than done, but try to eat healthily, drink lots of water, sleep as much as you can, and minimize your stress levels.

  • Smoking and drinking alcohol.

How to Produce More Breast Milk

Most moms produce one-third more breast milk than their babies will drink, so there may be a little leeway for you. However, if you’re hoping there’s a quick fix or a fast way to increase your breast milk supply, especially in one day, there isn’t. Still, if your breast milk supply isn’t where you’d like it to be, here are some ways to increase your breast milk supply:

  • Practice skin-to-skin contact. Cuddling your undressed baby on your bare breasts can help stimulate the release of breast milk before you have a breastfeeding session.

  • Breastfeed as soon as you can. If you can, try not to wait too long after the birth and delivery of your baby to begin breastfeeding. Starting within one hour or so can help stimulate your breast milk production. However, in some cases (such as if you’re recovering from a cesarean section), you may end up starting to breastfeed a little later.

  • Use a breast pump regularly. Pumping may help stimulate the production of more breast milk, increasing your supply. You can maximize your time by pumping both breasts simultaneously with a double breast pump. Pumping can also come in handy if you need to return to work.

  • Breastfeed often. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk you’ll tend to produce. Breast stimulation and frequent removal of milk are what help boost milk production the most. If your baby finishes feeding before your breast is empty, try hand expressing or pumping, and store the extra breast milk.

  • Make sure your baby’s latching on properly. It’s important for your baby to latch on correctly and to swallow while feeding. If your baby is latched properly, you’ll notice they have flared lips, their chin will touch your breast, and their ears might wiggle slightly while nursing. If you're unsure about this, your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant will be able to help you confirm that your baby has latched on and is swallowing properly.

  • Try compressing your breast during a feeding. If you notice your baby is sucking at your nipple but not swallowing, you can help your breast milk flow by gently squeezing your breast. Simply place your fingers under your breast with your thumb on top above the areola. Press until you see your baby swallow, and then release.

  • Nurse from both breasts. Remember to alternate between breasts. As soon as your baby slows down or stops feeding from one breast, offer the other. You’ll need to drain both breasts to produce more milk. Don’t forget, you can also use a pump or hand express any extra milk from the other breast if needed.

  • Don’t skip feeding times. Try to keep to a regular feeding schedule, nursing about every two to three hours in the first few weeks. If you’re working while breastfeeding and you’re pumping breast milk, try not to miss any sessions, as this can affect your milk supply. At work, aim to pump for 15 minutes every few hours.

  • Wait before introducing formula or solids. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you may wish to avoid giving your baby formula or cereal until they reach 6 months. Your baby may lose interest in breastfeeding if you introduce formula and solids too early. This can cause your breast milk supply to decrease.

  • Wait before introducing a pacifier. It’s a good idea to wait three to four weeks after your baby’s birth before giving them a pacifier, so that your milk supply is well established.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about any health issues or medications you’re using. Hormonal issues can affect your breast milk supply. Your provider will be able to diagnose any issues. Although some medications can decrease milk production, your provider may be able to offer an alternative that is suitable to take while breastfeeding.

What Foods Help Produce More Breast Milk?

Maintaining a healthy diet can help you maintain a good production of breast milk, but there are no specific foods that can automatically increase your breast milk supply. Here are some tips for eating healthily while breastfeeding:

  • Bump up the calories. You may need an additional 500 to 600 calories per day to keep up with your breast milk production. Ask your healthcare provider if you’re in doubt about how many extra calories you need.

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend a vitamin supplement if you’re not getting enough nutrients from diet alone. You'll need to make sure you're getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

  • Eat dairy products. Eating milk, yogurt, and cheese can help you get the 1,000 milligrams of calcium you need per day. If you’re low on calcium, lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy products, or vegan, your healthcare provider may recommend a calcium supplement.

  • Drink plenty of liquids. Aim for at least eight glasses of liquid a day, as dehydration can affect your milk supply. Limit your consumption of soda and other caffeinated drinks.

  • Eat fish and shellfish. Eating fish and shellfish at least two to three times per week is a great source of protein as well as beneficial vitamins and minerals for you and your baby. Just remember to limit your consumption of seafood that’s high in mercury.

When to Consult Your Healthcare Provider

Even with all the steps mentioned above, you still might run into issues trying to breastfeed your little one. Sometimes, breastfeeding just takes a little time and practice. Remember that your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant is there to support you. Reach out to them for advice, especially if you’re unsure whether you’re producing enough milk for your baby, or for help with any aspect of breastfeeding.

The Bottom Line

If you suspect your breast milk supply is low, and you’re worried about how you’re going to feed your little one, there are steps you can take to increase your breast milk production. Breastfeeding as soon as possible after giving birth, breastfeeding regularly, and letting your baby feed as much as they want are all great ways to maintain good milk production. When you’re unable to feed your baby or your baby finishes nursing before your breasts are empty, use a pump to capture the additional breast milk. Regular pumping can keep your breast milk production going strong. To keep your baby interested in breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to wait before offering a pacifier, put off introducing bottle-feeding, and avoid starting on infant cereal too early. And to keep your breasts producing milk, be sure to maintain a healthy diet and drink lots of liquid. Consult your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if you need additional help or advice. Together, you can make sure your baby is getting the nourishment they need. If your baby is gaining weight, breastfeeding regularly, happy and full after feedings, and going through plenty of diapers, you’ll know everything is on track. Download the Pampers Club app today to start earning cash for all the diapers you’ll be going through. Plus, use our Diaper Fit Finder to ensure your baby’s always in the most comfortable size.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.