According to the breastfeeding organization, La Leche League, the most common cause of poor milk production isn’t physiological, but due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the very foundation of nursing: the law of supply and demand. The more the baby suckles, the more milk the mother produces; conversely, the less the baby nurses, the less milk mom makes.
That said, breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Although, low milk production is often due to mistakes in breastfeeding technique, there are certain situations or conditions that make it difficult for moms to produce milk. When mom and baby are separated early on (when a baby is in NICU, for instance), or mom has a hormonal issue, is undergoing extreme stress or depression, or has a breast issue – all of these can, and often do, impact milk production.
If you are struggling to increase or maintain your milk production, try not to panic and consider some of these tips:
- More suction equals more milk production. This is the golden rule of breastfeeding. Adriana Valencia, a pediatrician at the Hospital Ángeles del Pedregal, recommends moms feed on demand and allow baby to suckle more often.
- Although many have heard that drinking a little beer can boost milk production, there are no scientific studies to support this claim. And while it is true that barley (NOT alcohol) stimulates the production of prolactin, a hormone responsible for lactation, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. According to the AAP, “alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use can inhibit milk production.” An occasional, small drink may be ok, but breastfeeding must be avoided for two hours afterward.
- Always breastfeed in a proper and comfortable position. Correct and comfortable positioning helps the baby to latch properly (meaning that lips should cover both the nipple and areola), says Valencia.
- Relax – it is essential to breastfeeding success. Forget about your worries, to-do lists, schedules and anything else, what matters now is the baby. Stress and feeling rushed can interfere with milk letdown.
- Drink water, but don’t overdo it. While breastfeeding, moms should drink a little more than normal, over-hydrating won’t help you produce more milk.
- According to UNICEF, breastfeeding frequently, day and night, will help ensure greater production,
- Although there are plants and herbs have been used to boost milk production in traditional or old-world customs, most haven’t been scientifically evaluated for efficacy and safety. Their use is entirely the responsibility of the user and those who recommend them. In other words, moms are using them at their own risk.
- There are medications that increase milk production, but these should only be taken under medical supervision.
- The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine also recommends that mothers massage their breasts to help the body release oxytocin and help milk flow.
- In case of cracks or fissures in the nipple, which cause many moms give up breastfeeding, Dr. Valencia recommends moisturizing with dermatological ointments specially designed for the area at least three times daily.
- If you have trouble breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to seek help from your doctor or breastfeeding groups.
- The most important thing is to have confidence in yourself and enjoy the process.
* Nonantzin Martinez firmly believes that to live well and be happy one must eat well and care for their health. In short, practice healthy habits. She enjoys traveling, getting lost in bookstores for hours, drinking green tea and taking lots of pictures. In the publishing world, she’s worked with Padres e Hijos, Marie Claire, Glamour and Balance magazines, among others. She currently writes for Good Housekeeping Latin America and CNN Mexico. She also has a 1-year-old son.