How to Rebuild or Increase Your Breast Milk Supply

Ways to increase milk supply

Verywell / Jessica Olah 

Many people start out breastfeeding exclusively, but as the days and weeks go on, they may add bottle feeding and infant formula to their daily routine. Some end up breastfeeding less often or weaning earlier than they would like—sometimes by choice, sometimes not. That may cause their breast milk supply to lessen or start drying up. But there is good news, there is a way to increase or rebuild your supply.

Breast milk production works on a supply and demand system. When you breastfeed less often or stop breastfeeding altogether, your supply of breast milk naturally decreases. So, if want to breastfeed more often or start breastfeeding again, you have to rebuild and increase your breast milk supply. Rebuilding or reestablishing your breast milk supply is called relactation.

While it takes dedicated effort, it is possible for most people to increase or resume their breast milk supply. From herbal therapy and medications to breastfeeding more often and pumping, there are many ways to reestablish your breast milk supply if you've stopped nursing or simply want to be producing more. Learn more about relactation and how to rebuild or boost your breast milk supply.

How to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Whether you want to breastfeed exclusively or just more often, there are many ways to increase your breast milk supply. Try these methods, focusing on breastfeeding and/or pumping more often and for longer sessions, as those strategies alone will dramatically boost supply for many people. Consult with a lactation consultant or doctor if you have any concerns or need additional help.

  • Breastfeed more often
  • Use a nursing supplementer device (particularly helpful if breast milk production has completely stopped)
  • Use a breast pump
  • Try lactation-supporting herbs and foods
  • Take prescription medication

Breastfeed More

To achieve the healthiest amount of breast milk possible, it is essential to:

  • Breastfeed your baby or pump the breast milk from your breasts at least 8 to 12 times a day. If it has been a while since your baby was at the breast, it may take a lot of loving persistence and consistency. With patience, your baby should find their way back to breastfeeding comfortably. If your baby is having trouble latching on, you may need to review breastfeeding positions and latch techniques or ask for help.
  • Offer both breasts at every feeding. Breastfeeding from both sides at each feeding provides stimulation to both breasts at least every two to three hours. The more stimulation each breast receives, the greater chance you have of making more breast milk. 
  • Utilize breast compression. Breast compression can help your breast milk flow better and encourage your baby to continue breastfeeding. When the milk flow slows down and the baby is no longer getting breast milk as they suck, breast compression can help get more breast milk out of the breast. To compress the breast, hold it in your hand with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other side. Press your thumb and fingers together. Compression helps the baby to get more breast milk. If it keeps them sucking longer at the breast, it's telling your body to make more breast milk. Note, however, that you don't use this technique when the baby is actively breastfeeding.
  • Avoid artificial nipples. Any time your child needs a feeding or even simple comfort, the breast should be your first choice. Bottles and pacifiers can cause nipple confusion, preventing your child from breastfeeding well. They also take away precious time that the baby could be spending at the breast stimulating the production of breast milk. 

Use a Nursing Supplementer Device

If your breast milk supply is extremely low and your baby seems frustrated with breastfeeding, a nursing supplementer device or supplemental nursing system can work wonders.

With a nursing supplementer, your baby receives either infant formula or your expressed breast milk at the same time that they breastfeed.

A tube runs from the supplemental feeding system to your nipple. The formula or breast milk from the device goes into your baby's mouth as they nurse at the breast. It allows your child to breastfeed and stimulate your milk supply while getting the nutrition they need. They are generally well tolerated and allow nursing parents and babies to continue building strong breastfeeding relationships even if using formula. The sucking action also aids in increasing milk supply, though care must be taken to ensure a good latch as incorrect latching will not propel milk or formula through the tube.

These devices can be purchased in most big box stores or anywhere breastfeeding supplies are sold.

Use a Breast Pump

Sometimes, a baby is not able to or not interested in going back to the breast. If this is the case, you can stimulate your breasts to build your breast milk supply by using a breast pump. Using a hospital-grade, double (automatic) pump, eight to 12 times a day is ideal for reestablishing your supply. To get the most out of your pumping sessions:

  • Stimulate your let-down reflex first.
  • Only use as much suction as necessary; you shouldn't feel any pain while pumping.
  • Massage your breast in quadrants while you're pumping.
  • Give yourself enough time so you don't feel stressed or rushed while pumping.
  • Use pump inserts to get the best fit to your breast.
  • Avoid long stretches of constant vacuum.
  • Stop pumping when the flow of breast milk is minimal or nonexistent, but be sure to pump for a full 15-20 minutes.

Use Herbs

There is not that much official research on the use of medicinal breastfeeding herbs (also called galactagogues) to increase breast milk supply. However, many people report overwhelmingly positive responses to herbal therapy in addition to frequent stimulation of the breast. Be sure to reach out to your OB/GYN or healthcare provider before starting any supplement or medication.

Some of the herbal remedies that may boost your breast milk supply include:

Remember, to get the best results, you need to continue to stimulate the breasts by breastfeeding or pumping often while you're using herbal galactagogues. Milk-making foods such as oatmeal and almonds are also believed to boost the supply of breast milk slightly.

Use Prescription Medication

Higher levels of prolactin are associated with an increase in milk production and a greater supply of breast milk. A few prescription medications, when taken while continuing frequent stimulation of the breast, have been found to raise prolactin levels:

  • Reglan (metoclopramide): In some (but not all) cases, Reglan has been shown to increase the breast milk supply anywhere from 72% to 110%, depending on how many weeks postpartum a parent is. Since one side effect of Reglan is depression, people with a history of depression are cautioned against taking it. Other side effects include headaches and fatigue.
  • Motilium (domperidone): Motilium is not FDA approved, so it's not available in the United States. However, it is considered a safer alternative to Reglan in Canada and other countries. The side effects are fewer and generally milder.

Other Relactation Tips

The process of relactation is intense, especially if you're attempting to reestablish supply after stopping breastfeeding. It's essential for you to take care of yourself. Eating a well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough rest is important not only for your milk supply but for your health. It might not be easy, but try to keep your stress levels low.

Stress and fatigue are known to affect breast milk supply. If you're too stressed or exhausted, any attempt to establish a full breast milk supply may be futile. Any kind of help, whether it's physical, psychological, or even domestic, will aid the process of relactation and get you on your way to a healthy breast milk supply again.

Joining breastfeeding support groups, either in person or online, can help reduce uncertainty and build confidence. Reach out to your local Le Leche League chapter for advice and support and to find local resources and networks.

A Word from Verywell

The desire to breastfeed can be strong, and a successful breastfeeding relationship can be rewarding, but it's important to remember that fed is best. Relactation may not always be possible. Increasing your breast milk supply can be physically and emotionally draining, so listen to your body and use all the tools available to you — bottles and formula included.

6 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.
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  4. Bazzano AN, Hofer R, Thibeau S, Gillispie V, Jacobs M, Theall KP. A review of herbal and pharmaceutical galactagogues for breast-feeding. Ochsner J. 2016;16(4):511-524.

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Additional Reading

By Melissa Kotlen
Melissa Kotlen is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Lactation Consultant.