I'm not producing enough milk.   What can I do to increase my milk supply?

Milk Supply Your body makes milk on a supply and demand basis. We don't need ounce markers on the side of our breasts, to know the baby is getting enough. When your baby is first born, his wet diapers should increase daily. On day one, he should have at least one, day two, he should have two, up until day six. After six days of age, they have six to eight pale wet diapers daily and three to four "cottage cheese and mustard" stools. Other ways we can tell the baby is getting enough milk is that he makes quiet swallowing sounds at the breast. The breast feel full before the feeding and softer afterward. The baby seems satisfied after twenty minutes of swallowing. Babies may loose 7-10% of their birth weight, but begin regaining at day 6 and gain 5-7 ounces per week on the average until 6 months of age. The stools can change at 4-6 weeks of age. See growth spurts. Make sure you are drinking to thirst and still taking your prenatal vitamins. If you want a boost increasing milk supply, Fenugreek is safe and effective. It increases milk supply in about 48 hours. Blessed thistle and Mother's Milk Tea can also be helpful in milk production.


A Lactation Aide

In 1945, an Egyptian researcher reported that fenugreek is a potent stimulator of breastmilk production. In fact, its use was associated with increases in milk production of as much as 900%. The mechanism of action is unknown. Rima Jensen, MD, suggests that fenugreek may affect milk production because the breast is a modified sweat gland, and the herb is known to stimulate sweat production.

We have been recommending fenugreek for six years whenever a mother's milk production is determined to be low. To date, we have worked with at least 1200 women who have taken the herb. Many of these mothers began by changing the frequency and duration of breastfeeding: In some cases the use of a fully automatic breast pump was necessary when it was determined that the infant did not sufficiently drain the breast. A significant number of mothers who took the herb, however, did not need other interventions. These included mothers who were exclusively pumping for non-nursing infants and mothers who were feeding often whose babies sufficiently drained the breast.

Nearly all of the mothers who take fenugreek report an increase in milk production, generally within 24 to 72 hours after starting to take the herb. Most mothers have found that the herb can be discontinued once milk production is stimulated to an appropriate level. Adequate production is usually maintained as long as sufficient breast stimulation and emptying continues.

In our experience, two or three capsules of fenugreek three times a day is the recommended dosage. The suggested dosage on the label of some brands, however, is one capsule three times a day. Mothers should know that taking such a small amount of fenugreek does not seem to improve milk production. We have used fenugreek successfully in a variety of situations including relactation, for mothers who have had breast surgery with surgical incisions around the areola , and for mothers who are exclusively pumping for non-nursing infants. We have observed some improvement in the milk production of mothers with classic bilateral insufficient glandular tissue but never enough to eliminate the need for supplementation.

Few women report adverse effects with fenugreek, although some may notice a maple-like odor to their urine and sweat. Among our clients who have used fenugreek, two or three have developed diarrhea, which quickly subsided when dosage was either decreased or the herb was discontinued. Two asthmatic mothers felt that fenugreek aggravated asthma symptoms, an interesting effect, since fenugreek is thought to be a remedy for asthma. One mother with diabetes, who used an insulin pump, noticed little change in her insulin requirements. To date, we have not observed or heard of any side effects in the infants whose mothers have taken fenugreek.

We have found fenugreek to be a potent stimulator of breastmilk production that appears to be safe for mother and baby. It is relatively easy to obtain and is inexpensive; however, mothers should be made aware of its potential to cause diarrhea. Mothers with diabetes should use caution because of the herb's tendency to lower blood glucose levels. Women with asthma should be informed of the possibility of increased asthma symptoms. We hope the experience of our lactation clinic and other lactation practices that use fenugreek will motivate the research necessary to establish more scientific evidence of the herb's effectiveness in increasing milk production.

If you have any questions, give us a call at (801) 281-1881.