Before you read any further I want to reassure you that you probably don't have low milk supply. It's really common for newborn babies to feed every hour or two around the clock. This is nature's way of establishing your milk supply and feeding regularly is really important to the future success of your breastfeeding relationship. Slow weight gain alone is generally not a problem in and of itself, but more of an indicator to check for other problems (the baby, not the scales).
Having said that some women do genuinely have low milk supply. You'll know this if your baby is not having enough wet or dirty nappies.
Other reasons why mums might want to increase their breast milk supply is to pump plenty of milk before returning to work, or because they are adoptive mothers who want to breastfeed.
There are loads of fancy and expensive herbs and teas and even drugs on the market to boost your milk supply, but here's a little secret. Galactagogues (foods that increase milk supply) only work as part of more strategic and long term approach. All galactagogues will work for about ten days, which gives you time to boost your oxytocin, and it is oxytocin that will increase your milk supply in the longer term. Without oxytocin your milk will not let down, even if you have plenty of it. And it is frequent breastfeeding that will do the bulk of the work to increase your milk supply - so go to bed and feed, feed, feed!
The danger of galactagogues is that they many become a bandaid solution, boosting your milk supply only in the short term. Unless you address the root cause you will continue to struggle.
There are many, many foods and kitchen spices that will naturally increase your milk supply, and many of them are probably things you'll find easy to eat every day - not to mention delicious. Common foods and spices that will increase your milk supply including oats, fenugreek, linseed and garlic.
But before you go nuts on the garlic bread, here's how it works. Research shows that babies love the flavour of garlic, and will suck longer and drink more garlic-flavoured milk than regular milk. If you already eat lots of garlic your baby will already be used to its flavour. If you don’t eat garlic regularly try eating more garlic for a week. This buys you some time to get to root of the problem. Concentrate on increasing your oxytocin and feeding more often and from both breasts, and making sure your baby is sucking and swallowing efficiently.
This lactation tea is one of my favourites becuase it is delicious and simple and has many benefits in addition to increasing milk supply. It is hydrating, gently laxative and relieves cramps and even helps your uterus expel placental fragments.
The fenugreek is heating and the fennel is cooling so they balance each other.
You can use this tea immediately after birth for 6- 8 weeks. It's quite normal for your baby to start smelling of fenugreek if you over do it!
• Mix two parts whole fennel seeds with one part whole fenugreek seeds.
• Store in a small airtight jar.
• Ideally make the tea in a thermos in the morning and keep it by your feeding chair for up to six hours. Add half a teaspoon of tea to one litre of boiling water and sip warm throughout the day. If you don’t have a large thermos then just add a quarter of a teaspoon in a teapot and cover with two cups of boiling water and drink whilst still warm.
Julia Jones believes that birth is not only about making babies, it's about making mums too. She is the author of Nourishing Newborn Mothers - Ayurvedic recipes to heal your mind body and soul after childbirth. You can the first chapter free at nourishingnewbornmothers.com
She is also the creator of a free pregnancy video course to guide pregnant women to peace and joy in motherhood. Watch here newbornmotherssanctuary.com