How can I improve my milk supply?
Natural production of milk
Your breasts have what are called mammary glands that produce breastmilk. The mammary glands are made up of alveoli, ductules and milk ducts. The alveoli are where your breastmilk is produced. The ductules are tiny conduits that transport your breastmilk from the alveoli to the milk ducts. The milk ducts are bigger than the ductules, and bring your breastmilk into your baby’s mouth. Each of your breasts probably has about 9 milk ducts when you begin to breastfeed your baby.
As new mothers, it might seem at times that you are not producing enough breastmilk and you decide to switch to formula feeding. Doing this will certainly sabotage your breastfeeding efforts.
This is because feeding formula milk disrupts your breastfeeding cycle. Without emptying your breasts, there is a build-up of a protein that regulates your milk production, called the Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL). With the build-up of FIL, your milk-producing cells become increasingly inactive.
In simpler terms, when breastmilk is allowed to accumulate in your breasts, there is more FIL present, and consequently, milk production slows down. When your breasts are emptied through expressing or breastfeeding, there is less FIL present, and your milk production automatically speeds up.
Tips for increasing milk production
Keeping in mind FIL’s integral role in increasing or decreasing milk production, the best way to improve milk supply is to empty your breasts of milk frequently and thoroughly. This can be achieved through your baby’s frequent feeding at your breasts. In between feedings, you may also like to pump your breasts to empty them out.
To further help with your milk production, make sure that your baby is nursing well. For instance, give your baby enough time at both breasts to empty them. You should also breastfeed your baby at night, to maintain an ongoing cycle of milk production. If you feel that your baby is not latching well enough to empty your breasts efficiently, get help to establish better latching.
Beyond this simple demand-and-supply process to boost milk production, natural supplements can also be taken to help improve milk supply. There are two herbs that seem to help with this: fenugreek and blessed thistle. Taken together in small doses three times a day, they can make a difference in your milk production. Some mothers have taken it with good result, especially in the first few weeks after the baby is born.