Seven Tips for Increasing Milk Supply

by Doulas of Shanghai

These Shanghai lockdowns are not comfortable for anyone, but it’s especially nerve-wracking for our families with new babies, breastfeeding, and formula feeding.

Our clients have reached out for links to formula and information about increasing milk supply for greater security during this time. We will continue looking for avenues for formula and pass those along to you. Please feel free to reach out to us on WeChat at DoulasofShanghai.

For parents looking to increase milk supply, let’s dive in.

Causes of Low Milk Supply

The causes of low milk supply are numerous, and are best identified on a case to case basis with a lactation professional. There could be either maternal or infant factors leading to low milk supply. Low milk supply could be caused by latching or position, ineffective sucking, hormone or developmental reasons, and more.

Having low milk supply can feel emotionally distressing. You want to feed your baby, and it can feel like your body isn’t cooperating. Or like your baby doesn’t want your breasts. Or like you aren’t good enough…

Let me just stop you right there to tell you that you ARE good enough. Whether you exclusively breastfeeding, do a mix of breastfeeding and formula feeding, or exclusively formula feed, you are good. You are the one that your baby needs and loves.  

Talking to a professional will help identify factors that may be causing low milk supply for you, and will help you find solutions in overcoming those factors.

Maintaining Milk Supply

Supply and demand. Yep, time to resurrect that concept you learned in economics class. Supply and demand is very much at play when it comes to breastfeeding and milk production.

Your breasts don’t have eyes or ears to know how much milk to make for your baby. Instead, they make milk according to the demand placed on them. Simply put, the more milk is extracted, the more they will make. That’s how the same set of breasts are able to make milk for one baby, or two babies following the birth of twins.

How often should I feed my baby or pump?

For newborns, it’s recommended to feed your baby or pump 8-12 times per day, minimum. Note the word “minimum” there. Some babies need to feed more than eight times per day. In fact, most do at the beginning. Aim for 10-12 feeds per day in your baby’s first weeks of life.

Depending on your baby’s growth patterns, he may feed more often one day, and less the next. Your breasts will adjust milk production up and down during these times.

If you’re pumping, you may be able to maintain your supply with eight pumps per day, while others may need to pump more often in order to maintain supply.

Evidence shows that the best way to keep up your milk supply is to feed your baby on demand. Limiting feedings based on a schedule or time-table for feedings may result in a decrease in supply compared to on-demand feeding.

*Note that replacing any breastfeeding or pumping sessions with a bottle of formula will also result in a decrease in milk supply. This can then lead to more bottles of formula being given to make up for the drop in supply, leading to further decrease in supply. When feeding a bottle of formula, express or pump milk to maintain supply.

Increasing Milk Supply

Here are a few ideas to get you on your way to increasing your milk supply.

  1. Pump or feed your baby more often

Increasing breast stimulation will usually lead to an increase in supply. One method that many parents like to use is “Power Pumping.” Power pumping refers to doing several pumping sessions in an hour.

Here’s an example Power Pumping schedule. Many parents choose to pump in the morning when milk supplies are often highest.

Pump 8:00-8:15

-Rest 8:15-8:30

Pump 8:30-8:40

-Rest 8:40-8:50

Pump 8:50-9:00

I know, it’s a lot. Get comfortable, have a drink and snack nearby, and watch the next episode of that juicy reality show that you enjoy.

This would need to be done every day to increase supply. Increasing demand is the most effective way to increase your milk supply. Some parents will see results in 3 days, while for others it may take up to a week.

2. Pump after breastfeeding

This is what some refer to as “draining the breast.” Your breasts won’t ever be truly empty, but that increased stimulation will tell your breasts that this is one hungry baby, and they need to ramp up their milk production.

Many parents will pump an extra 5-10 minutes after breastfeeding to get that uptick in supply.

3. Use a high quality electric pump

Hospital grade pumps very effectively remove milk. If you’re pumping frequently or exclusively, this is a good investment to make. Some electric or hands-free breast pumps (like the type that go in your bra) are great choices when you’re on the go or pump infrequently, but with exclusive use can contribute to low milk supply.

4. Hand express

You can hand express milk to remove milk and increase breast stimulation. This is a useful technique to know if you don’t have a pump, or to use in the early postpartum period to express colostrum.

Research shows that hand expressing in the early postpartum period can increase milk production later on. Check out this video from Stanford University about hand expression methods:

5. Take Herbal or Medical Supplements

Herbs or medication used to increase milk production are called galactogogues. Galactogogues on their own are NOT going to be the silver bullet to increasing milk supply. Instead, they work best when used along with frequent feeding or pumping to increase supply.

There are a lot of galactogogues lists online, but I’m not going to repost that here. I’m going to direct you to talk with a medical professional or lactation consultant to find one that works for you. Some galactogogues are NOT evidence based, and others may actually decrease supply if the person taking them has certain medical conditions.

6. Rest, eat, and drink plenty of fluids

It’s recommended to drink at least 1.8 liters of water per day when breastfeeding. If you drink more, more power to you! Drinking more water is not going to make your milk more watery, and will benefit your milk supply.

Make sure you’re getting enough calories. It’s recommended that breastfeeding parents eat an additional 330-500 calories per day.

7. More skin-to-skin

There’s something magical that happens when a mother and baby are skin to skin. Mother and baby are calmer, babies are healthier, and we get that oxytocin flowing. Research shows that kangaroo care, or spending time skin-to-skin increases the amount of breast milk that you’re able to pump.

Try snuggling topless in bed with your little one, dressed down to a diaper or nothing at all.

Or take a warm relaxing bath with your little one, talking and singing to her. Have your partner bring you your baby when you’re already in the bath, and help carry her out of the bath when you’re finished.

Contact Holly from Doulas of Shanghai to set up your breastfeeding consultation, or to join our online breastfeeding group. Holly is a lactation education counselor, receiving this qualification from the University of California – San Diego.

During lock-down she is meeting with clients online to help with latching, increasing supply, and more. Once lockdown is finished, she can come meet you in the comfort of your own home and continue to support you there.

WeChat: DoulasofShanghai


Phone: 135-2491-8954

Published by Doulas of Shanghai

Doulas of Shanghai is providing the leading care for families throughout pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.

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