Natural Ways to Boost Milk Supply
If you are currently breastfeeding and experiencing difficulty, that situation can range from frustrating to devastating. Luckily, there are lots of natural options that can improve your supply and make breastfeeding a lot easier. From diet and herbs, to acupuncture and lactation consultations, I’ll break down exactly what’s what and how to boost your supply in no time.
If your baby has difficulty latching, staying on the breast, or staying interested in nursing, or if you’re confused about how to breastfeed or how often, a lactation consultant can help.
In many cases they can come to your home or see you while you’re still in the hospital. If necessary they can work with you for weeks or months, but sometimes just 1 or 2 visits is all that’s needed.
I usually recommend lactation consultants who are IBCLCs. If you need a recommendation you can ask your OBGYN, midwife, doula, or you can search online. La Leche League is another great resource to get breastfeeding support from other mothers, either online or locally.
Acupuncture + Herbal Medicine
Especially if you’re experiencing issues with low supply, acupuncture and herbal medicine can boost your milk production.
From a Chinese medical perspective there are several different reasons why milk supply may be low - deficiency of Qi and/or blood, stress (aka Liver Qi Stagnation), or an imbalance of Yin and Yang. Whatever your underlying pattern may be, getting the proper diagnosis and treatment from a trained acupuncturist and herbalist is key to boosting supply.
In terms of herbs, there is a lot of talk out there about certain herbs that are said to boost milk supply, such as fenugreek. To be honest I’ve had limited success with it and many of the lactation consultations I work with don’t recommend fenugreek at all. I usually opt for my Milk Support Tea that has a mix of organic chamomile, nettle, black sesame seed, elderflower, shatavari, and fennel seed. I find this blend to be much more effective at boosting supply than fenugreek alone.
In addition to supply boosting herbs, I usually still recommend herbs to address your underlying condition and correct any imbalances that may be present. Those would depend entirely on your pattern, so once again it’s important to see a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. I find when the body is balanced on a foundational level, then the milk supply boosting herbs (also called galactogogues) work much better.
Foods that support milk supply
B vitamins and iron are important for a healthy supply of breast milk, both of which are plentiful in animal products such as meat and eggs. Especially foods like grass-fed beef and bone broth are great for postpartum mothers. Whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, and nutritional yeast/brewer’s yeast are also all good plant-based sources of B vitamins and iron.
In general, it’s recommended you eat frequently (every few hours) and I recommend eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods. It’s also generally recommended to keep taking your prenatal vitamin, unless you’re instructed otherwise by your doctor.
Getting enough fluids is crucial during breastfeeding. It’s a good idea to keep a water bottle with you, especially during breast feeding sessions.
Keep in mind, staying hydrated isn’t just about chugging plain water. Incorporating some electrolytes in your liquid intake is important to help your body to actually absorb the water. Good sources of electrolytes include coconut water, bone broth, miso broth, or sports drinks (you can make your own with sea salt and can sugar/honey if you’d like).
Check Your Hormones
If you’re still having difficulty with your supply, then tell your OB or midwife and ask to have your hormones checked - particularly Prolactin, Estrogen, and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
In some cases if you have an endocrine imbalance then medication may help to regulate you milk supply.