Does beer really increase your breast milk?
Kim Norton busts breast milk myths and offers healthy tips for increasing breast milk.

Potions to increase milk supply

Something every breastfeeding mother worries about at some point is milk supply.  There are so many folk remedies and suggestions to increase supply that a mother can feel quite bewildered.  

How does milk supply work?

In the first few days small amounts of very concentrated, nutritious milk called colostrum is produced.  Baby has a small stomach and can just cope with the 5-10ml produced at a time.  The delivery of the placenta is what causes milk production to begin in earnest, and somewhere between day two and five mom will have an increase in her supply, known as the milk “coming in

In the first few weeks, more mothers experience an oversupply than an undersupply, as the hormones that regulate milk production are around in abundance.  Around 6 weeks supply is regulated by supply and demand and these hormones only peak while baby is actually drinking – so what the supply and demand means is that while baby drinks, the milk is made so your body makes the amount that baby drinks.  

Are there women who produce too little milk?

Yes, it does happen.  It is rare, but it does happen.  Some mothers have hormonal factors at play that affect their supply, but this won’t be the case for everyone in those situations.  Other factors that can have an influence are breast hypoplasia – which is too little glandular tissue, breasts are long and tubular and widely spaced and don’t change during pregnancy.  Breast reduction surgery can also have an impact.

Galactogogue myths

What about the things I’ve heard will increase supply?

You may have heard of many of these – ginger beer, milk stout, apple juice, coke, jungle juice, increasing fluid intake, eating oats, champagne, yeast.

Did you know that not one of these contains any ingredient known to be a galactogogue (milk making product)?  

Now, none of these things are harmful, up to a point, but they aren’t going to make a difference, so if they make you feel better and more relaxed, go for your chosen method, but if they are costing you too much, you can stop taking them with a clear conscience.

A little alcohol is not a problem while breastfeeding, unless your baby reacts to it, but alcohol does actually reduce supply a little, and for mothers battling thrush or weight gain, the sugar can cause a problem.

There is no doubt that breastfeeding makes you thirsty and many mothers find that they need a glass of water nearby while breastfeeding.  Drinking to thirst is best during breastfeeding and always.  Forcing fluids down can cause problems, as over hydration can occur form as little as 3 litres of water in a day, and the excess fluid can cause swelling and reduce milk supply.

Jungle juice is a uniquely South African magic potion – that isn’t so magic.  It is interesting that many mothers who avoid sugar in their diet will make up this sugary concoction and happily drink it.  

Other ways to increase supply

You can tell baby is getting enough milk if they are putting on weight on their line on the WHO growth chart (they don’t have to be on the 50th percentile), and they have lots of soggy wet nappies each day (at least 5 or 6 a day), and their skin is hydrated and supple.

The best way to get more milk into baby is to feed baby more often, as the more often baby is drinking milk, the more they’re taking in. Baby also needs to be latched on well and not just on the end of the nipple – but with lots of areola in their mouth too.  

Have you used anything to increase milk supply?

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