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How to increase milk supply

0-18 months

Sometimes breastfeeding mums have issues with breastmilk supply. If you feel like you don’t have enough breastmilk for your baby, this article explains how to increase milk supply.

Not enough breastmilk: getting help

If you’d like some help with breastfeeding, support services are available. Your child and family health nurse, GP or the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) can support you with breastfeeding your baby. They can also help you find a lactation consultant if you need one.

An ABA counsellor can also help – phone the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.

This article covers how to increase milk supply. If you’re having other issues with breastfeeding, you could check out our articles on how to manage oversupply and engorgementbreastfeeding attachment techniques, sore nipples and nipple infections and mastitis and blocked ducts.

Not enough milk supply

Many mums worry they aren’t making enough milk for their baby. You might feel especially anxious in the early days if your baby cries after feeds.

But newborns cry for all sorts of reasons. When your baby cries, she could be saying, ‘I'm still hungry’. But she could just as easily be saying ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I’m not hungry now, but I’ve got a tummy ache’.

The best way to know if your baby is getting enough milk is to look at his nappies and weight gains. Your baby is getting enough milk if he:

  • has at least 6-8 wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposables in 24 hours
  • poos every day (if he’s younger than 6-8 weeks old)
  • is alert and mostly happy after and between feeds
  • is gaining weight at about the right rate (your child and family health nurse will let you know).

If your baby is losing weight, you might be advised to give extra milk (except in the first week of life, where it’s normal for babies to lose a little bit of weight). You can do this by giving extra breastfeeds or by giving your baby expressed breastmilk. 

Video

Common breastfeeding questions: enough milk, too much milk, expressing

4:58

This video answers common questions about breastfeeding. A lactation consultant says most mums can make plenty of milk for their baby. She talks about typical weight gain, and how to know whether your baby is getting enough milk. She talks about changes in the amount of milk you produce in the weeks after birth and whether you need to express milk. 

How to increase milk supply

Breastfeeding is the best way to make sure you have enough milk, so you could try fitting in a few extra breastfeeds each day. Each time your baby takes some milk from your breasts, your breasts are getting the message to make more milk.

For example, if you’re breastfeeding every 3-4 hours (from the start of one feed to the start of the next), you could try offering baby a few extra snack breastfeeds in between. So you would breastfeed 8 times in 24 hours. 

You could also offer an extra night-time feed, or you could feed more often during the evening. Your prolactin levels are higher at night, which makes your milk supply naturally higher.

Another option is to express after each breastfeed. This makes sure your breasts are well drained and helps to increase your milk supply.

You might also like to try massaging or applying pressure to your breasts while breastfeeding or expressing to help with milk flow and drainage.

Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can increase milk supply because it stimulates the hormones that make breastmilk. You can have skin-to-skin contact while breastfeeding by taking your top and bra off and just having your baby in a nappy on your chest. If it’s cold, wrap a blanket around you both to keep warm.

If your baby doesn’t settle after a feed, take a break and give a ‘top-up’ breastfeed again in about 20-30 minutes. There will be more milk there, and feeding again will help increase milk supply. You can repeat these ‘top-ups’ several times.

If your baby is asleep for a long time or is generally very sleepy and won’t take frequent feeds, you can try waking her to feed or just express your milk. You can store it in the freezer for using later on.

A baby in the lighter phase of sleep might feed in her sleep, so you could also try a feed when you see her dreaming.

It’s also important to make sure you look after yourself and get enough rest. Go to bed and try to get someone to look after you and your baby.

Sometimes GPs might prescribe medicines to help with increasing milk supply. Speak to your GP for advice.

Video

Breastfeeding: getting support

6:00

In this video we hear from a counsellor and lactation consultant who says that if you’re having problems with breastfeeding, get support early. Mums talk about having mastitis, nipple pain and attachment issues – and about getting help. One mum says she was about to give up on breastfeeding but got help from a lactation consultant. This meant she could look at her baby breastfeeding and smile for the first time.

If you’re concerned about your baby’s weight gain or if offering extra feeds isn’t helping to build up your supply, talk to your child and family health nurse or GP, or contact a lactation consultant or ABA counsellor.

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Last updated or reviewed
25-07-2016

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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