How Breast-Feeding Women Can Stimulate Milk Production

Mother to breastfeed her baby
Mother breastfeeding her child (Image: alexey05/iStock/Getty Images)

Almost all women can produce milk for their babies with little or no trouble. Breast milk production is controlled by a system of supply and demand. Breast tissue is stimulated when the baby is correctly latched onto the breast and sucking. The brain receives the message from the breast glands that milk production is needed, and breast milk is ejected into your baby's mouth. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies, and having an adequate supply is a concern for many mothers.

Step 1

Breastfeed as soon as possible after you give birth. Let your hospital staff or midwife know that you plan to breastfeed, and that you would like to nurse your baby frequently to get your milk production going. If your baby is separated from you for a period longer than two hours, make sure to pump your breasts with a quality breast pump to stimulate your milk supply.

Step 2

Position your baby so he is correctly latched. His mouth should be open wide, taking in a large part of the areola as well as the nipple. His lower gums should be half an inch to an inch from the nipple base. If you experience pain during latching, use your finger to break suction, and relatch the baby until a comfortable latch is achieved.

Step 3

Nurse frequently, or whenever your baby shows signs of hunger. Newborns will nurse eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Babies will demonstrate hunger by rooting, smacking their lips or sucking on their hands. Crying is a later sign of hunger.

Step 4

Allow unrestricted time at the breast. Do not restrict feedings to a certain number of minutes. Allow your baby to feed until she releases the nipple or when her sucks become shallow or "fluttery." Newborns should nurse for at least 10 minutes on the first breast. If your newborn is falling asleep during feedings, try waking her up to finish.

Step 5

Offer both breasts at each feeding. The more stimulation your breasts get, the more milk you will make.

Step 6

Rest as often as you can. It takes a lot of energy to make milk, so be kind to yourself, and don't try to do too much. Rest is essential for milk production.

Step 7

Eat a nutritious diet. It's not necessary to eat a specific diet, but eating frequently and choosing nutritious foods helps your body do the work of producing milk.

Step 8

Stay hydrated. Try keeping a glass of water next to you every time you nurse.

Tip

Sore nipples are often a sign of poor latch-on. If you are experiencing sore nipples, please contact your local La Leche League leader or an internationally board-certified lactation consultant.

If you have had breast injury or surgery, please monitor your baby's weight gain carefully. The best way to monitor whether your baby is getting enough milk is to count his wet and dirty diapers. Newborns older than 3 days should have at least six wet diapers and at least three bowel movements larger than a quarter per day. Exclusively breastfed infants older than 6 weeks may have fewer bowel movements, possibly as few as one every two to three days.

Consult with your care provider, lactation consultant or La Leche League leader if your supply has not increased after a few days of following these steps. She may be able to offer suggestions for prescription drugs or herbs to aid in stimulating a more plentiful supply. There are other causes for not producing a full supply of milk, and your consultant can help you to identify if you have any of these factors.

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