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Breastfeeding: my milk supply is not enough, what can I do?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

The best way to increase your production of breast milk is to ensure that baby is nursing frequently and effectively. As milk is drawn down from the breasts, your brain stimulates them to produce more milk to meet the high demand, and your baby will meet this supply, demand more, and so the cycle continues.

At some times, it might mean that you will need to nurse every one and a half to two hours in the day, and every three hours at night, in order to re-stimulate your milk supply. It’s just as important that you position baby for an effective latch, so that they are drawing down well from the breast.

What if baby is not latching on well?

If your baby has tongue tie or gets used to feeding when sleepy, this can affect the latch, which in turn can affect a good feed. Nipple shields and other instruments may also affect latch. While any of these issues are being addressed, you might want to consider expressing your milk alongside breastfeeding if the latch is less than ideal.

Any other tips?

Pumping your breasts after nursing or in between can be helpful. You could try pumping for 5 minutes or so after a session when there is no more milk coming out, to maximize stimulation.

Offering each breast at every feed is important: let baby finish on one side, and then offer the second side. Holding your baby close skin-to-skin as often as you can will also help with breastmilk stimulation.

Minimize distractions when you are nursing and avoid letting baby nurse while they are sleepy. At the time when you are trying to increase milk supply, avoid things like pacifiers, bottles and formula milk, because the more time away from the breast, the less stimulation your breasts receive to trigger more milk production.

Breastfeeding is thirsty work, so make sure you stay well hydrated, resting when you can, maintaining a good nutritious diet and trying to keep a handle on anything that causes you stress or anxiety, as breastfeeding can be sensitive to this.

Can my doctor prescribe me anything?

In the US, doctors are reluctant to prescribe you anything to increase milk production, as this would be off-label, which means that this use is not what the manufacturer intended. You may also risk significant side effects such as depression, seizures and heart problems.

If it is something you are considering, it will be worthwhile discussing with your doctor or a lactation expert for more advice. But remember that poor latching on to the nipples and ineffective feeding are the most common causes for insufficient milk production, so these must always be addressed first.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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