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6 Ways to Increase and Maintain Your Milk Supply

It happened to me. I woke up one morning when my son was almost 8 months old and I was completely empty.

Not an ounce of milk.

“How can that be? I have nursed him since day one! He has always been able to nurse … now what?”

First, I took a deep breath and tried my best not to panic. Then I thought about what was going on in my life that could have contributed to a decrease in my supply … Stress. Travel. Baby eating real food. Distraction. Mama trying to get her groove back … no wonder my supply had dipped! As mothers, we spend so much time thinking about what we need to do, that sometimes we run out of time to do it, which is exactly what happened to me.

I knew I had to kick into high gear. It was time to go “back to the basics” of milk production and add some new things to my routine to up my supply.

6 ways to increase and maintain your milk supply

Getting “Back to the Basics” of Milk Production

I had already been doing so many of the right things, which had allowed me to exclusively breast feed for the first 6 months without any real hiccups. But once my little one began eating real food, I was distracted by all the new things he was learning and became complacent with my nursing. First things first … I had to go “back to the basics” of milk production.

1. I became more mindful of my water intake. If we are dehydrated, we will not make milk. I made sure I always had water near me, and was always drinking it.  I find it helpful to drink while nursing, to “refill” as you become empty.

2. I increased stimulation. Since my son was now eating real food, my nursing sessions had become less frequent. While he was enjoying table food, I pumped to help signal my body to produce more milk. So I was stimulated 5-6 times a day again, rather than my normal 2-3. It is also beneficial to add in more nursing sessions and skin-to-skin contact, and you may want to consider a “nursing vacation.”

3. I upped my calories, specifically those that support lactation. Avocado, green vegetables, garlic, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and nuts are my go-to’s.

Milk Boosters to Add to the Routine

I knew not only was I going to have to get back to what I was doing right, but also add to my ritual. Here’s what I found worked:

Fenugreek

It is an annual Mediterranean and Asiatic herb that is used as a culinary spice and is soothing to the stomach, as well as increase milk supply. This is a supplement that can be found at Whole Foods, 14 Carrot and the Vitamin Shoppe (just to name a few). Take 2 capsules two to three times daily, preferably with food.

Lactation Smoothies

lactation smoothies

These are so delicious, there is a good chance I’ll continue to consume these after I stop nursing my son! The essential milk boosting ingredients are oats, brewer’s yeast and flax (all these ingredients can be purchased at Whole Foods, or there are several online or other local retailers who sell brewer’s yeast and flax). Here is one of my favorite recipes:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of almond or cow’s milk
  • 1/3 cup of rolled oats ( I use organic)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp brewer’s yeast
  • 1 tbsp flax
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mothers Milk Tea

This is a loose tea or bagged tea contains herbs such as fennel and anise (which give the tea a sweet, licorice-like taste), as well as coriander and fenugreek, which are all known to increase lactation. I really enjoy adding this to my day. Again, I found this at 14 Carrot, but can be found on Amazon or any health food or nutrition supplement store. Directions state you can enjoy 3-5 cups daily. I drink a cup of hot tea each afternoon as I try to relax and catch up on blogs during baby’s nap. This was an added bonus!

Important Resources to Consider

Each mother and nursing relationship is different, and what worked well for me might not always work well for someone else. If you are struggling with your supply, you may want to consider talking with a lactation consultant. In addition, the local La Leche League has meetings and leaders in the area who are available to offer support.

The Result

Three days after I added these things to my daily routine, my milk supply increased significantly, and we were back on the right path. The key is to not get frustrated, stay calm and committed to the goal you set, and know what you decide is what is best for you and and your baby.

Did you have a similar experience? What worked well for you when trying to increase your supply?

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38 Responses to 6 Ways to Increase and Maintain Your Milk Supply

  1. Natalie March 13, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My daughter is 2 weeks old and I have been struggling with supply issues since day 1. I am already trying many of the things you suggested but will head to whole foods today to purchase items for the smoothie and the herbal supplement. Great article!

    • Stephanie March 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

      My son is two weeks as well and though I’m getting some milk…it doesn’t seem to be enough! Glad there are others who are in the same boat.

  2. Kirsten June 22, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    I just purchased milkflow and it is a berry flavored powder to put in water. It has fenugreek and blessed thistle and promotes healthy breast milk supply.

  3. Amanda August 1, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

    I found what REALLY helped me was a cup of mothers tea everyday , Fenugreek tablets 2 tablets 3x a day. Brewers yeast tablets, I would take between 2-4 3x a day. A lot of water !
    Lactation cookies and smoothies and pumping every 2-3 hours ?

  4. Labey September 19, 2015 at 7:21 am #

    Wait a tic. Bread milk supply is related mostly to the number one factor of supply and demand. Isn’t this the universal truth??? If your supply has dropped its because your nursing sessions have dropped. That’s why EBF until at least 1 year is recommended. Once you start introducing solids…Yeah. Your supply will drop! The more you nurse. The more breast milk you make. The less you nurse. The less breast milk you will make. It’s that easy. Nurse more = more breast milk. Or pump it if you are not able to do day feelings because of work or other commitments. Although I must say that mothers milk tea does absolutely work. I didn’t have supply issues but once I weaned to solids around 12 months I decided to give it a go. Yea. Wowza. I had double or triple the breast milk when I pumped and froze the bm!

    • Moni October 20, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      Not necessarily… I am still EBF and my supply has suddenly dropped. We have not decreased the number of feedings, so I am trying to figure out why the sudden change. The only things I can think of are that I recently had a tooth extracted and was limited in what I could eat… ended up eating less than normal and it resulted in the drop. That or possibly lack of sleep as LO is suddenly waking up more at night (and is therefore feeding more so again, I should be making more milk, not less). These things happen… thanks for these suggestions, I hope they can help me!

      • Tiffany
        Tiffany October 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

        Good luck! We can definitely agree that not everything works for every mom, and it can be hard to figure out why things change. Hope these suggestions help!

    • Vanessa September 3, 2016 at 10:57 am #

      Labey, your comments come across as very judgemental, like you are the breastfeeding expert. I quote you “The more you nurse. The more breast milk you make. The less you nurse. The less breast milk you will make. It’s that easy.”. Unfortunately people who are reading this, are looking for help, encouragment, ideas and not judgement. As we know with everything in life, there are a lot of contributing factors to breastmilk supply.
      To all you moms who are trying to increase supply, YOU GO GIRL! You are doing everything you can to nurture your baby and I’m sure the best you can as a mom!
      To the moms who formula feed or supplement YOU GO GIRL! The most important thing is to reach a goal where your baby is happy and healthy!
      I could not EBF due to a past surgery and I was so discouraged and frustrated, but it was not physically possible and my baby is 5 months and doing fantastic! 🙂 So yay me!
      P.S. breastfeeding and EBF and co-sleeping do not necesarily go hand in hand.

  5. Labey September 19, 2015 at 7:23 am #

    Also night feeding and co sleeping kind of go hand in hand. If you are bf or EBF then you most likely will be cosleeping as well which means your night supply should stay relatively stable until you start to wean.

    • Chelsie December 3, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

      Why would you be most likely co sleeping if you are bf’ing..? I am bf’ing and would never co sleep. It’s flat out dangerous. I just get up, so that my baby can sleep safely.

  6. Tracy September 24, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this! My son is almost 9 months and about a month ago I had gotten my period and noticed my son was clawing at my chest within minutes of finishing nursing. Finally I thawed some milk and he drank 4 oz only 20 mins after finishing nursing. I’m now drinking the tea, taking fenugreek and trying to boost my water. Your food suggestions and smoothie recipe look awesome and I’m planning on trying it tomorrow!

  7. Primeravezmama January 17, 2016 at 1:32 am #

    my baby stopped eating from me three weeks ago and now my supply has beed decreasing drastically. I need to know what can I do so I can produce enough for her she doesnt eat formula and I dont want to stress out…. Any advice?
    Thanks

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles January 17, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

      I would try lactation cookies, fenugreek, mother’s milk tea, eating oatmeal (not instant, but the good stuff) and drinking a beer (like Guinness) nightly. I would suggest bringing the baby to breast as much as possible when you are together, resisting the urge to bottle feed and having baby feed just off you. When baby is sleeping or you are not together, I would pump as much as possible, stimulating the breast at least every 2 hours to single the body to produce milk to feed your baby. Best of luck mama!

  8. Sav February 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    Keep in mind that if you are diabetic or asthmatic Do Not take fenugreek!!!

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles February 4, 2016 at 10:45 am #

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. TS February 10, 2016 at 11:04 am #

    Dear hard working moms,
    I am indian and here r a few other Indian ways of helping milk supply –
    Nuts – almond walnut – soak overnight and eat in morning
    Dry coconut (about 2-3 tbsp) with jaggery ( 1tbsp)
    Peanuts – fist full
    My pediatrician suggested 3 cups of milk daily (with flavors)
    Fenugreek seeds – locate Indian section in your grocery stores or go to an indian one. U’ll find fenugreek seeds. Roast them (12-15) lightly and crush them into powder. Mix in 1/2 cup yogurt and eat. Of course it’ll be a bit bitter, but u can add honey or sugar. And it is also ok to not crush them. I prefer crushing them.
    Water is always your best buddy

    Last but not the least – find a herbal/Ayurvedic medicine “Shatavari” – Vit shoppie or amazon. ~4 a day or what’s on the bottle. If u take 2-4 tabs more in a day, it’s not going to harm. trust me no side effects at all.

  10. Brandy March 20, 2016 at 5:58 am #

    Love your blog. I am on baby #3 and have always had to supplement because of supply issues. This time around I decided to try more supply boosting things. She is 1 month old and though I am still having to supplement my supply has increased a little. Haven’t tried the smoothie yet, but that is next on my list. Thanks!

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles March 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

      So glad you are enjoying our blog! Hope the smoothie works for you and good luck overall with your supply!

  11. Meggie March 27, 2016 at 3:14 am #

    Thank you for the blog! Once your milk supply has increased do you continue with the mothers milk, fenugreek, and smoothies or do you start cutting these out?

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles March 27, 2016 at 11:41 am #

      I usually cut them out and then add them back in when I need another boost.

  12. Christian May 2, 2016 at 9:40 pm #

    Hi Noticed that you never listed seeing an LC or IBCLC instead you have galactogoges which aren’t evidence based and can harm mom and baby more then help. Women should drink to thirst, because exorbitant amounts of water won’t help prevent more milk most moms who see a change in their milk supply after drinking water were dehydrated. Also what you eat isn’t a huge factor because milk is made from the blood and not the gut. Fenugreek causes terrible bowel issues for both mom and baby and shouldn’t be taken at all if a woman wakes up and finds she can’t pump she should see an LC or IBCLC so that a professional can assess the situation and come up with a plan for both mom and baby that will help them get back on track

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles May 3, 2016 at 1:13 am #

      Thanks so much for your feedback. We can definitely agree that if there is a problem, consulting a professional is an important step to take. We did list in the “Important Resources to Consider” the value of consulting an LC and the local LLL. While fenugreek, like many other vitamins and herbs on the market, is not supported by the FDA, many mothers report seeing an increase in milk supply as a result of using this product. Our blog shares real life experiences of local moms while striving to be socially responsible. I can honestly say personally, as a mom who breastfed her son for 3 1/2 years and struggled with moments of maintaining my supply, when consulting my dr. and a lactation consultant, they did not have a problem with me introducing fenugreek into my diet and I did not experience terrible bowel movements. I think as you mentioned, the key is discussing a plan with a professional to help get you back on track. Again, I appreciate your additional insight regarding the topic.

  13. Ceara June 2, 2016 at 3:03 pm #

    I’ve heard funugreek can also decrease your supply? I’m pumping about 20 ounces in 3 pump sessions at work and I want to see if I’m capable of making more. I have hypothyroidism and have read that funugreek can make ur medicine not work correctly? I’m interested in trying the mothers milk tea and the Brewers yeast if it would help.

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles June 2, 2016 at 10:38 pm #

      I have not heard that fenugreek can decrease supply or make current medication ineffective. However, I would encourage you to consult your doctor with any questions and concerns before beginning. Best of luck to you, and I hope you are able to increase your supply!

  14. Randi June 20, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    My problem isn’t supply while nursing my issue is my body does not respond well to the pump! Will these tricks help that?

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles June 20, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

      Hmmm… what type of pump are you using? How new it is? How often are you pumping?

  15. Silvia June 27, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

    I have a two month old baby at first he wouldn’t latch at all for two weeks after he started to latch he would get frustrated because I wasn’t producing much milk. That only lasted for two weeks maybe less. Now I got nothing I didn’t continue pumping because I have the manual pump and I would get frustrated . I would pump for two hours and get about 1 of combined . I really regret not keeping up with pumping but I just easily gave up, now I want to keep breastfeeding , I know I still have very little but not enough so if I was to start this routine and keep trying to breastfeed will my supply go up. Atleast a little bit?

  16. CL Mom July 6, 2016 at 11:10 pm #

    I have a 4 month old son. At two months my supply dropped and I gave up. Just thus week I consulted my LC and was recommended Mother Milk tea andddddd
    Reglan that I will start tomorrow…..Wish me luck!

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles July 7, 2016 at 10:52 pm #

      Good luck mama! Let us know how it goes! I always kept Reglan in my mind as a resource in case I needed it, but was able to maintain my supply through alternative methods. Sending good vibes your way!

  17. Liron September 29, 2016 at 8:37 am #

    I would like to ask about the Fenugreek. I heard that it creates bad smell from the body. Is that true? Also , I hope it not creates swellness in the breast

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles September 29, 2016 at 10:41 am #

      Some people report smelling like maple syrup after taking fenugreek. I really believe it depends on the individual person and their body composition, as I took A LOT of fenugreek over an extended period of time but never smelled the maple syrup flavor others indicated. For some, smelling like maple syrup is a bad thing, while others like the scent (or don’t experience it all). I wouldn’t say taking fenugreek created a huge swelling effect in the breast, not like being engorged and painful, but rather comfortably increased my supply.

  18. Jessica Marques September 29, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

    A friend told me about healthy nursing tea, a lactation organic tea. I started drinking the tea and got good results. Now, I’m breastfeeding my LO with sufficient supply (still taking the tea 3 to 4 times a day)

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles September 29, 2016 at 9:53 pm #

      That’s great! I also incorporated a lactation tea into my diet, Mother’s Milk Tea, and had great results!

  19. Dorien January 4, 2017 at 2:29 am #

    Hello everyone I’m trying to up my supply by baby girl will be 1 month in a few days and I need to store away milk for when I go back to work in the past for my 3 year old when I was bf him I was introduced to Mothers Milk more milk plus capsules they are sold at target and boy did they work! So far by just eating oatmeal drinking water and drink Mexican milk drinks like atole which my grandma n mother in law make me and they work I have managed to freeze about 100oz so far of breast milk n want to increase a bit more. The pills are only bout 25.00 and work the fenugreek did make me smell like maple syrup but will try them this time around see if they work for me. Hope this helps.

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles January 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

      Awesome! Thanks for the tips!

  20. Jane Alsop January 12, 2017 at 9:44 am #

    I was barely producing one or even less than one oz of breast milk per session and was looking a way to boost my supply. After trying lots of remedies I was being suggested to drink “Healthy nursing tea”. This organic herbal tea worked great and I am now producing 4 to 5 oz per session.”

    • Tiffany Nettles
      Tiffany Nettles January 12, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

      That’s great! I’ve also had great results with Mother’s Milk Tea.

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