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Breastfeeding: How to increase or decrease your milk supply

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Breastfeeding: How to increase or decrease your milk supply

One of the most concerning questions moms have is “how do they know they have enough milk for my baby?” There is so much information out there that it can be hard for new parents to know what is normal for their breastfed baby. Learn how to read your baby’s cues and other clues to know he is satisfied and how to manage too much milk. Join the conversation!

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  1. Hi! I have a 6 week old boy who gets an upset stomach and spits up a large amount after eating. He’s been doing this since my milk came in. We thought he might have acid reflux but his weight gain has been great (3 lbs in the first 4 weeks) so our pediatrician said Its a combination of me having an over supply, forceful letdown, and the baby eating too fast. I started staying on one side for each feeding and pumped a tiny bit so the letdown wasn’t so forceful but that wasn’t enough. Now I’m on one side for two feedings, use a burp cloth during the letdown, and nurse every 2 hours. It’s seems to be helping his upset stomach most of the time but he still spits up quite a bit. I’m hoping his body and my body get into sync sometime soon! I didn’t have this problem with my daughter (now 3 yo). Does this issue usually resolve itself or should I plan on this for the rest of the time I’m nursing? It would be great if I could get back to nursing both sides at each feeding or at least alternate sides each feeding bc I get a little lopsided 😉 Also, there’s not much time in between feedings when we’re on a two hour schedule :/ I’m just hoping for some easier days in my future! If this issue typically resolves itself, how do I go about transitioning back to one side per feeding or even two sides every feeding? Any suggestions you have would be great!! Thanks!

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    1. HiJamie,

      Congratulations on your new baby. It sound like you are onto road to a balanced breastfeeding journey with your son. In time your body will regulate to his. Often, the second (or third, or . . .) time around the body kicks into high gear as it remembers how to do this! Positions which are anti-gravity such as laid back or side-lying can be helpful for a forceful let down.If you can avoid the pumping, rather just hand express enough for comfort and to let that first spray go may make the transition speedier as the pumping may be stimulating more milk.
      Let me know if this helps.

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    2. My son was the same way. I can’t give medical advice on it, but he had excellent weight gain but power puked after every feeding. It got much better by 4-6 months in and almost completely resolved around 9 months. I was nervous that my daughter would have the same issue, but she’s a year old and has spit up maybe 5 times in her whole life! Babies are all so different! Hang in there!

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      1. Thanks! Were you able to go back to feeding on both sides at each feeding eventually? Did you do anything to decrease you supply? I heard sage tea can help but to be careful bc it could decrease it too much.

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        1. If you try sage or peppermint tea be mindful not to overdo it – but they can help.

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        2. It was definitely a challenge to regulate my supply, but it will happen. I think the shorter pumping sessions and longer stretches between pumping (or hand expressing) will be most helpful. I’ve always been told that your body makes what baby (or a pump) asks for. So if you continue to express milk when baby doesn’t really need it that minute, your body still thinks it needs more. I was producing enough for triplets at one time, I’m sure! Ha! I never tried any herbal remedies to decrease my supply. Just stuck to the notion of “supply and demand.” Let us know how you’re doing in a few days/weeks!

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  2. Great topic Leigh Ann! I am sure lots of moms will love getting the chance to ask you in real time about these issues that can be so worrisome 🙂

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  3. How do you handle a nursing strike? My 1yo refused to nurse one day, and I didn’t know what to do! I actually didn’t pump or nurse at all for about 12 hours waiting for her to decide to nurse, offering her the breast every hour or so. I finally pumped after 12 hours, and then at bedtime (16 hours after she last nursed), she nursed as normal and has done so since. But if it happens again, how should I handle it? I don’t think my supply suffered much, if at all, but I was nervous about it. I’ve heard of strikes lasting days. I’m so glad this was just 16 hours! I just want to be prepared if it happens again.

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    1. Hi Kristen,
      Sometimes babies are teething and it can be uncomfortable for them to nurse. What can help is to offer lots of skin to skin, wear your baby, try than express a bit of milk into her mouth, or cuddle up, and PATIENCE!

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      1. Teething might be the answer. She only has 6 now (my son had all of his teeth by 13m!), so there are definitely more coming in eventually! She’s also in an independent kind of mood lately, so she’s refusing the cuddles. 🙁 But patience was definitely the key in this case.

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        1. Also, a toddler with an older sibling may just well be too distracted to nurse on some days. But that does not mean she is weaning – you mention she is showing independence – she is finding her way

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    2. It can be nerve racking to think that your baby is not getting fed and that your supply will take a hit but it is cool how your body responds to your baby – especially at this age.

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      1. Yes, it definitely is worrisome! I’ve been through it once, so I’ve been much more relaxed this time around with breastfeeding, but new things still pop up. My son NEVER refused the breast for that long! Ha!

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        1. It is possible this is a one off! Thesis on elf this smothering moments where you learn each child is unique!

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  4. Thoughts on whole milk vs. breast milk after a year old? Should baby get whole milk at meals and still nurse as usual or replace nursing sessions with whole milk? My ped suggested whole milk to up the fat intake. Are there foods I can eat to increase the fat content on my breast milk instead?

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    1. Roxanne,
      Is your baby a year old? What is so cool is that the nutrients become more concentrated in the milk of a mom nursing an older baby. If your baby is nursing there is no need for other milk.

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      1. Yes, just over a year. She’s small, but proportionate. 17% for weight and 18% for height. We also have lots of petite women in our families, so I think she’s just going to be petite. But the ped seemed concerned. I completely forgot that she could have whole milk after a year, but she’s nursing 4-5 times a day. I’m not ready to quit, and I hope she’s not either!

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        1. She sounds just right! And really, if she is getting your milk she does not need other milk – if you want to offer it to her it should be just a small amount as you do not want to diminish your supply.

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        2. I’m so sorry a pediatrician made you feel your milk was inadequate in any way when you’ve managed to grow a baby for an entire year! You keep on trucking! It also doesn’t matter what you eat regarding your milks fat intake – your milk is perfect for your baby!

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  5. My baby has a virus and hasn’t felt like eating the last few days. She has been nursing only a few minutes at a time several times a day (more often than usual because I am worried she hasn’t eaten much). Now my breasts are engorged. I’m scared to pump because I have been toughing it out. Is that the right thing to do?

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    1. Molly,

      Do you typically pump?

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      1. I used to but I don’t now unless I am traveling without the baby. She is a year old so my supply had leveled out until now.

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        1. If you are engorged you may wan tot pump enough to make you comfortable and you can offer it to her if sh has trouble latching during this illness. But, nursing can be very soothing to a sick baby

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  6. I just had a baby boy who is now just 3 weeks old. Breast feeding so far has seemed to be pretty easy with no issues and complications so far. I have had a baby nurse helping me. She got me on a schedule of pumping after every feeding and then also pumping during the night 2 -3 times since she feeds him a bottle during the night so I can sleep. I now have a large reserve of about 40 – 50 of the medela bags of milk in my freezer stored up. I am not going back to an office type of job as I work from home. So yesterday a friend came over and saw the milk stored up and said I am pumping too much and I am producing too much milk. She said the baby nurse has me on the wrong pumping schedule. I am new to all this and was simply following what the baby nurse told me to do. But now I am not sure if I am producing more milk then I need to be? How often should I be pumping? Sometimes my breasts get huge and hard and uncomfortable. Thanks!!

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    1. Hi Michelle

      Congratulations. Well, if your freezer is full then you are making more milk than you need. If you do not need this milk you can start tapering off the amount of milk you pump. There are a couple of ways to do this: 1) you can shorten the duration of your pumping time or 2) you can spread out the time between pumping sessions. If you do not need to be away from your baby and/or baby nurses well there really is no NEED to pump.

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      1. Thank you! For the next 3 weeks i will continue using the baby nurse and she does the night feedings so I can sleep, although I still need to get up to pump. SO I do need to pump a bit so she has the milk to give him a bottle (although at this point I probably have enough in freezer for her to get through the next 16 nights). But in general even though I work from home I do plan to go out from time to time and do want my partner to be able to bottle feed him if needed so I do need to continue to pump right? Should I just pump less though? The thing is if I do not pump in the middle of the night I wake up with huge an hard and painful breasts. Therefore I should pump right?
        How many times in a 24 hour period should I pump?
        Thank you

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        1. The general idea is to pump when the baby gets a bottle to keep yourself regulated. At the moment you are tethered to the pump. If you were to use the milk in your freezer and not pump you would end up on the other end with low milk supply. It sounds like tapering the pumping but not completely stopping will be best for your.

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  7. Oh and one more question- my baby has several teeth on the top and bottom. During night feeding she falls asleep on the breast and when I remove my breast from her mouth, her teeth are clamped and it is very painful. Any tips on gentle unlatching for a sleeping baby?

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    1. You can slip your finger in her mouth and gently slide your breast out of her mouth, make sure you have your nipple all the way out before you remove your finger!

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      1. Genius. Thank you. 🙂

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  8. My baby is 3 weeks old and had trouble gaining weight due to tongue tie. It’s also made it very hard to breastfeed and have had to supplement with donor milk. We’ve been getting help trying to get him to latch, but ive been pumping every 2-3 hours to get and keep supply up. I can pump about 2-3oz per pump now. Is that “normal” or on the low side still?
    Also- my baby has just passed his birth weight. I had him on a pretty strict feeding schedule of every 2 hours during the day and two 3 hour feeds at night. When can I start following his cues of when to feed? How many hours is too long to let him go without eating? He’s quite a sleepy baby… He might easily go 4 hours.

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    1. My son had a few lip ties that I didn’t know about until he went to the dentist at 2 years old. It was probably part of our latch problems as well, but my son didn’t have weight gain issues. Did you have the ties corrected? Just curious. 🙂

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      1. Yes we had them lasered at 2 weeks. It’s made some difference, but we aren’t there yet…

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        1. There is often a learning curve – your baby was used to using his tongue one way and he is relearning – the more he is able to nurse and get fed the stronger he will get and the better at nursing he will get.

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    2. HI Tara,
      Tongue ties are tricky. It is great you are pumping. I your baby is sleepy you may want to wait until he “wakes up” before letting of with the schedule. The amount you pump may be on the lower side so there are ways to increase output.Are you using a rental pump? These are typically better at making milk for a mom who really needs to build up her supply. Sometime sit works tooter a bi tor expressed milk in a bottle before latching him on, this will give him energy to work at the breast – I am talking about 1/2-1 ounce. It may be good to have a one on one with an IBCLC.

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      1. How much should I be able to pump by now (3weeks). I’ve had one on ones with IBVLCs and he’s even getting therapy to try and relax his jaw and help with latch… I tried an sns and it seems to be more work than it’s worth…

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        1. Tara,

          Baby that age likely needs between 24-28 ounces in 24 hours. Some moms can pump that in few sessions while others need to pump more frequently. If you are pumping 3 ounces 8 times per 24 hours you will be making enough but if you are not getting that much you may need to increase the frequency.

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        2. I forgot to mention I gave a hospital grade rental…

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        3. I’m not the expert by any means, but I’ve breastfed 2 babies (1 currently), and I think 2-3 oz every 2 hours is really good at 3 week postpartum. I’ve always been told about an ounce per hour, and that’s right in Leigh Anne’s 24-28 oz per day suggested total. I think women don’t realize how tiny little tummies are this young. I think you’re doing a fantastic job! 🙂

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    3. Another thought, if he goes four hours that could be good for both of you – when he wakes up he may be more willing to nurse – you can make it up by “cluster” feeding another time during gate day – you may wan to to keep him close, wear him for access to frequent feedings.

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      1. I’ll try the longer stretch at night. Thank you!

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    4. That sounds reasonable… And typically I think you can pump more milk as the baby grows and eats more ounces each feeding.

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  9. Thank you everyone who participated in our chat.

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  10. To increase breast milk, I was drinking healthy nursing tea by secrets of tea and got much improvement in my supply.

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