Articles & Guides
What can we help you find?

How to boost milk supply easily and effectively, according to experts

Many new parents worry they aren’t making enough breast milk. Here, experts share how to know for sure and tips on how to boost milk supply.

How to boost milk supply easily and effectively, according to experts

“Is my baby getting enough breast milk? Am I making enough milk? How can I boost my milk supply?” If you find yourself asking questions like these, you are far from alone. Having worries about low milk supply is common. In fact, research shows that concerns about low milk supply are a top reason many breastfeeding parents wean their babies earlier than planned.

“There is a lot of fear about the baby not getting enough,” says Dr. Andrea Braden, a breastfeeding medicine specialist and the CEO and cofounder of Lybbi. Braden says that, in most cases, breastfeeding parents actually are making enough milk for their babies, but may have a perception that their supply is low. Still, some parents do have true low milk supplies.

In these cases, it’s possible to increase milk supply with a few simple tweaks to your breastfeeding or pumping routine, according to Braden. Let’s take a closer look at the causes of low milk supply, how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk and, most importantly, tips on how to boost your milk supply.

What causes low milk supply?

In many cases, Braden explains, what new parents experience when they think they don’t produce enough milk is something called perceived insufficient milk supply (PIMS). This happens when a breastfeeding parent believes they aren’t making enough milk to meet their baby’s needs or that they are making milk with low nutritional value.

A 2022 review published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition found that PIMS is one of the most common reasons for supplementing with formula or stopping breastfeeding, with 30-80% of new parents experiencing it.

“If a newborn is unable to latch on effectively, the breasts will not get adequate stimulation to produce milk.”

Dr. Jessica Madden, pediatrician, neonatologist and lactation consultant

Of course, low milk supply is a real thing, and many parents experience it. As Dr. Jessica Madden, a pediatrician, neonatologist, lactation consultant and medical director of Aeroflow Breastpumps, explains, most causes of true low milk supply are from breastfeeding problems that occur in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. “These include problems and/or pain with latching,” Madden says. “If a newborn is unable to latch on effectively, the breasts will not get adequate stimulation to produce milk.”

According to the American Physiological Society, medical causes of low milk supply affect about 10-15% of breastfeeding parents. These may include:

  • Insufficient mammary (milk-making) tissue in the breast.
  • A history of breast surgeries.
  • Thyroid issues
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
  • Illness.

Taking certain medications, like decongestants, can also impact supply. Resumption of your menstrual cycle can play a role as well. Luckily, these issues are usually temporary, Madden adds.

How to tell if my baby is getting enough milk?

To get enough milk, babies should feed eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period during the first few months of life, according to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP). The are also several signs the AAP says you can look for to tell that your baby is getting enough milk:

  • Starting five to seven days post-birth, expect three to four poopy diapers a day.
  • Babies should have about six wet diapers a day.
  • A well-fed baby will seem content for one to three hours after feeding.

One important aspect of knowing that your baby is getting enough is weight gain. As the AAP points out, it’s actually common for babies to lose weight in the first few days after birth, but they shouldn’t lose more than 7% of their birth weight. You should start to see your baby begin to gain weight after the first week after birth, Braden says. She adds that checking your baby’s weight gain is something your pediatrician will do periodically.

“If you have an appropriate milk supply and you are exclusively breastfeeding, your baby will gain weight appropriately,” Braden says. Knowing that your baby’s weight gain is in range can reassure you that your milk supply is where it needs to be.

How long does it take to increase milk supply?

If you are experiencing low breast milk supply, you likely want to know how to increase milk supply fast. While boosting supply doesn’t happen overnight, it can happen within a week or so. How long it takes to increase your supply depends partly on why your milk supply is low, Madden says. 

“If it’s from modifiable breastfeeding problems that occur early on, such as pain with latching, supply may increase within a week or two with appropriate lactation assistance,” she says. As for temporary dips in supply, such as from a medication or illness, you can boost your supply within a few days with frequent breastfeeding or pumping, according to Madden.

Many people hope for a magic ticket to boosting milk supply, but it’s all about increasing pumping or nursing more frequently, says Braden. Breastfeeding is a “supply and demand” system, Braden explains. “When the milk does go down that typically means the demand has also gone down,” she says. “In other words, the body is not getting the signal that the baby needs as much milk as the baby is needing or taking in.”

The way to get your milk supply back up is to tell your body that your baby needs more milk, Braden explains. You do this by emptying your breasts more frequently, either through breastfeeding or pumping.

Do certain foods and drinks increase milk supply?

Many breastfeeding parents wonder if they should eat certain foods to boost milk supply, or if there are drinks that are best at increasing milk supply. The truth is, while there are some foods that are used in traditional cultures to boost milk supply, there isn’t much data on which foods are effective, says Braden.

Instead, the best way to ensure that you have an adequate milk supply is by making sure you are eating and drinking enough, Braden emphasizes. What might this look like? The CDC recommends that breastfeeding parents consume 350-400 extra calories per day. As for how much water to drink to increase milk supply, Madden recommends drinking eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses per day while you’re breastfeeding. The best beverages to consume are plain water or electrolyte-based beverages, she adds.

Can supplements increase milk supply?

To increase milk supply naturally, you might wonder about using supplements, such as herbs, teas and other tinctures. Similar to foods and drinks, there is very little scientific research available on the impact of herbal supplements on milk supply. Additionally, both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) note that much of the existing research is scant and inconclusive.

“There are some studies that show herbs like fenugreek and milk thistle can increase milk supply slightly,” Braden says. “They are not great studies, but they are fairly harmless herbs that can be used, and if it works for you, then great.” 

Additionally, Braden says, certain prescription medications can increase your prolactin levels, which can increase milk production. These medications need to be used with caution and only under the strict supervision of a breastfeeding medicine specialist.

Tips to increase milk supply

The single best way to increase milk supply is to increase the amount that you are breastfeeding or pumping. But, what should a breastfeeding or pumping schedule look like if you are aiming to increase your supply? Here are some expert recommendations:

Cluster feeding

If you are breastfeeding, you want to increase how often your baby is nursing during the day, so consider something called “cluster feeding.” This is where you allow your baby to breastfeed frequently during a small space of time, Braden explains. Many babies will already do this naturally to increase your milk supply.

Power pumping

If you’re pumping, you can add in an extra pumping session or two to increase supply, Braden suggests. You can also try something called “power pumping,” which is when you pump multiple times within a short time period, such as three to five times during a one hour span. Katie McCann, a mom of two from Cambridge who blogs at From Bump To Bubble, used power pumping successfully when she experienced low milk supply with her first baby.

McCann had an emergency C-section birth, and she and her baby both developed medical issues that required a longer than normal stay at the hospital. Although her milk came in on time, her baby lost 11% of her birthweight, and McCann was struggling to make enough milk.

Besides resting and staying hydrated, power pumping played a pivotal role in getting her milk supply where it needed to be. “I followed a strict power pumping routine every day, and it really helped stimulate milk production,” she says. “It was a game-change for me.” She was able to increase her milk supply in about a week using this method.

Approach the issue from multiple angles

Nursing and pumping can be combined with other methods if you want to give your supply a boost, says Madden. She suggests:

  • Doing skin-to-skin with your baby, which can help release breastfeeding hormones.
  • Using hand expression to stimulate milk production, especially during the first week postpartum.
  •  “Triple feeding” (a combination of breastfeeding, bottle-feeding and pumping).

Experts note that triple feeding shouldn’t be done for more than two weeks at a time without guidance from a breastfeeding specialist.

Seek support from a lactation consultant

Importantly, when it comes to milk supply or feeding issues, you shouldn’t wait to get support. “The earlier that lactation help is sought, the better the chance of being able to obtain a full breast milk supply in the long run,” Madden says.

Above all else, boosting milk supply isn’t something you should figure out on your own. A breastfeeding professional can help you understand what’s causing your milk supply issues and come up with a plan for safely and effectively increasing your supply.