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Ask an Expert: Boosting Your Milk Supply

By Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA

Fan Question:

“I need help with low milk supply. Ten days ago I had the flu and was dehydrated. To recover my supply, I’m 1) nursing & pumping a lot, 2) drinking lots of water and mother’s milk tea, 3) taking fenugreek 3x/day, 4) mixing flax meal into my food. It’s helping, but my supply still seems lower than usual. Any suggestions?”

I’m glad you reached out. You’ll be glad to know that milk production is such a hardy process that even mothers who have never been pregnant have brought in milk for adopted babies! You just need to know how it works. First, despite popular belief, drinking more water and eating foods like flax do not affect milk production. Your body knows how much milk to make by the number of milk removals (breastfeeds plus pumps) each day and how fully the milk is removed. (The basic dynamic is: Drained breasts make milk faster and full breasts make milk slower.) If you breastfeed your baby on cue, your baby will do this for you automatically without you even having to think about it, and that is one approach you can use. You just need to breastfeed like crazy (offering each breast as many times as baby wants for as long as baby wants) and your supply will quickly rebound. For most women, 7 or 8 milk removals per 24 hours are enough to keep supply steady. Fewer removals usually mean decreasing milk supply. More than 8 or 9 usually stimulate a gradual milk increase. Taking fenugreek or other herbs will not help if you’re not also removing the milk often or well enough. If you do take fenugreek, you need to take enough: 3-4 capsules 3x/day. Less than that will not boost supply.

unnamedNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA is a board-certified lactation consultant in the Chicago area who has been helping breastfeeding families since 1982. Her books for professionals are used worldwide. Her books for parents include Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, which she co-authored with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, and her tiny problem-solving guide, Breastfeeding Solutions  In 2013, Nancy released her Breastfeeding Solutions smartphone app (available for Android and iPhones) to give mothers a quick, go-everywhere source of breastfeeding help. Nancy speaks at events around the world.