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The Informed Parent

Tips For Breast-feeding Moms: How To Increase Milk Supply And Medication Advice While Nursing

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Sep. 07, 2009

Every new mother has heard the mantra ”Breast is best”, along with the laundry list of reasons why:

  • Most easily digested
  • Most “natural” food for baby
  • Protection from infections
  • Protection from allergies
  • It’s free!
  • It’s always accessible on the run
  • Etc, etc…

But many new mothers struggle with low milk supply, which requires supplementing with formula to ensure a newborn is growing and developing normally. Insufficient milk supply is the most common reason mothers give for discontinuing breast-feeding during the first year.

So, how can breast milk supply be increased?

Increase your fluid intake; always have a bottle of water with you and limit caffeine which is dehydrating.

Get pleny of sleep or rest whenever you can.

Always breast-feed first before giving a bottle/supplemental formula…your brain responds to sucking at the breast by making more milk.

Breast-feed or pump AT LEAST every 4 hours, likely more often, especially the first few weeks after your baby is born to establish a good milk supply.

Try to relax! Stress and anxiety can decrease milk production.
Check your medications! Many medicines, even over-the-counter, can decrease breast milk.

If breast-feeding is a struggle, be sure to pump frequently until things improve.

Have a glass of beer or wine…this has been shown to improve milk let down. But caution! Alcohol does pass into breast milk and can effect your baby. Therefore, limit yourself to one drink in a 24 hour period or less.

Use a Hands On approach. A new study shows increased milk production and let down when mothers simultaneously compressed their breasts and massaged firmer areas during breast pumping. Mothers who relied on pumping alone, without hand expression, had available milk still trapped in the breast. Pump suction alone may remove only a fraction of available milk, thus also decreasing production of more milk.

Bottom Line: Use breast compression and massage with your hands while breast-feeding and pumping, starting from day 1, to help express breast milk. This will stimulate increased milk let down and increased production.

What about medication?

Breast-feeding moms always need to double check the medications they are taking to be sure they are safe for baby. All prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal remedies can potentially pass into breast milk and pose a risk to a breast-fed infant.

A new website was created to help doctors and parents find evidence based information on drugs that may effect lactation and nursing infants. LactMed was developed by the National Library of Medicine, a scientific panel of physician experts, and derived from a review of the world’s published literature. It has more than 700 drug records, is updated monthly, and drugs are added as new information is published. LactMed is found at

As always, if you have any questions about this article, breast-feeding, or medications, please call your doctor or pediatrician.

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