How to Increase a Low Milk Supply

Encouraging Weight Gain in the Breastfed Baby

Many breastfeeding mothers question whether they have a low milk supply. Because their baby seems to be crying all the time, they assume that it has to do with not making enough breast milk.

If you find yourself thinking similar thoughts, start keeping track of your baby's wet diapers and seek out a lactation consultant who can help you figure out what the problem really is. If it is low milk supply, rest assured that there are many ways to build your supply and help your baby gain weight.


Check Baby's Latch

Mother Feeding Baby with Father Using Computer.

Sam Diephuis / Taxi / Getty Images

One of the most common reasons for a breastfed baby's slow weight gain or an issue with low milk supply has to do with improper latch. If a baby is latched improperly, not only is it quite likely to cause discomfort for mom, it will also fail to stimulate greater milk production.


Breastfeed Often

Beautiful Ethnic Mom Holds Her Infant Girl
FatCamera / Getty Images

Though the old adage "never wake a sleeping baby" seems to be sage advice, not so for the baby and mama dealing with low milk supply. Breastmilk production is all about the law of supply and demand.

The more often you are putting baby to the breast and sufficiently emptying the breast, the more milk you will produce.

Cluster feeding, a breastfeeding pattern where baby cries to be fed very often for a block of time, can also be extremely helpful to build your milk supply.

So exactly how often? Breastfeed a minimum of every two hours if it is certain that weight gain or low milk supply is a problem. Once your doctor feels the baby has achieved a solid weight gaining pattern, you can switch to feeding on-demand.


Use Breast Compressions

Close-up of mother breastfeeding daughter while sitting at home
Cavan Images / Getty Images

Breast compressions refer to a technique where the mother helps sustain the flow of milk when the baby is sucking and not drinking. Here are the simplified instructions.

While the baby is drinking milk, hold your breast with the thumb on the top and the other fingers on the bottom. Gently squeeze your breast when you notice your baby is only sucking but not drinking or swallowing milk.


Drain the Breast Before Switching Sides

Mother breast-feeding baby boy
Tom Merton / Getty Images

Switching back and forth between breasts during feeding can deter your milk production. If you're suffering from low milk supply, keep your baby at the first breast long enough to drain it of milk. At that point, switch to the other breast. Start feeding your baby at the opposite breast at the start of the next feeding.


Pump Following Feedings

Woman pumping milk from breast
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Another way to help build low milk supply is to use a high-quality electric breast pump to express milk immediately after your baby has finished nursing. Whenever possible, doctors recommend that you try to pump immediately after your baby has breastfed, day and night.

After the final drops of milk are pumped from your breast, continue to pump for about two more minutes to make sure you've expressed all the milk you can. This will help to empty the breasts sufficiently, which will trigger your body to produce more milk at subsequent feedings. The term "empty" is a little bit misleading, however, as there will always be trace amounts of milk left in the breast.


Nourish Your Own Body

Girls hands holding Quinoa veggie bowl of vegetables, feta, nachos and quinoa fritters
Westend61 / Getty Images

Bottom line—if you aren't feeding your own body adequately, it's going to make it much harder for you to satisfy your own baby's nutritional needs.

Getting an appropriate amount of calories a day (roughly 500 extra calories per day) and drinking to satisfy your thirst is very important for your health and for the sake of your milk supply.

It's important to stay hydrated, but there is no set amount of water that everyone who breastfeeds should consume. Fluids other than water also help keep you hydrated.


Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Cropped Hands Pouring Red Wine In Wineglass
Bastian Lizut / EyeEm / Getty Images

There are many myths about alcohol and breastfeeding. Maybe you have heard that the hops in beer will build low milk supply, or that having a glass of alcohol will help you relax and increase your letdown.

While alcohol can be relaxing for some people, drinking alcohol can reduce milk supply. So although the occasional alcoholic beverage is safe for the breastfeeding relationship, for moms with supply issues it is simply not a good idea.


Check Medications for Side Effects

Close-Up Of Blister Pack On Table
Lina Bruins / EyeEm / Getty Images

Sometimes a supply issue has to do with a side effect of a medication you are taking. Birth control pills and cold or allergy medicines may reduce milk supply. Check with your pharmacist to see if any of the medications you are taking could be causing your low milk supply.


Consider Medications to Boost Supply

Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
Envision / Getty Images

When all of the above steps have been taken and milk supply remains low or weight gain is still insufficient, talk to your lactation consultant about medications or herbal supplements that may help boost supply. Be sure to research any medications or supplements offered.

Some medications do have side effects, and there simply is not a good body of research on the benefits of herbal supplements for increasing supply. Both should be used by informed mothers.

If you do opt for medication or supplements, keep in mind that these medications work best when you are breastfeeding or pumping frequently. It all goes back to that law of supply and demand. The more your body is stimulated, the more milk you will produce.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Colombo L, Crippa B, Consonni D, et al. Breastfeeding determinants in healthy term newborns. Nutrients. 2018;10(1):48. doi:10.3390/nu10010048

  2. Kent J, Gardner H, Geddes D. Breastmilk production in the first 4 weeks after birth of term infants. Nutrients. 2016;8(12):756. doi:10.3390/nu8120756

  3. Demirci J, Caplan E, Murray N, Cohen S. "I just want to do everything right:" Primiparous women's accounts of early breastfeeding via an app-based diary. J Pediatr Health Care. 2018;32(2):163-172. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2017.09.010

  4. University Hospitals. Educating breastfeeding mothers on how to boost milk supply.

  5. Flaherman VJ, Lee HC. "Breastfeeding" by feeding expressed mother's milk. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2013;60(1):227-46. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.003

  6. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition recommendations in pregnancy and lactation. Med Clin North Am. 2016;100(6):1199-1215. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2016.06.004

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol.

  8. Hotham N. Drugs in breastfeeding. Aust Prescr. 2016;39(1):27. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2015.056

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.