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I'm pumping my milk to feed my baby, but my supply is going down. What can I do?

How baffling! You are working to provide your milk for your baby and you are running into some challenges. Fortunately, there are many ways to increase your milk supply. Review this list of possible solutions to see what might be beneficial for your situation.

  • There are several factors involved in pumping that might be causing a lower supply. You could look into renting a hospital-quality breast pump from a lactation consultant.
  • Try pumping both your breasts at the same time. Special adapter kits are available for pumps or two small hand-held pumps can be used. This double stimulation not only saves time but also greatly increases prolactin, the hormone needed for milk production.
  • Some mothers find it helps to take some time to prepare for pumping. Try using relaxation techniques, breast massage, and warm compresses for a few minutes before pumping. Stress and tension, as well as cool body temperature, can inhibit the milk ejection reflex and make pumping less productive.
  • Engage as many senses as possible. Look at a picture of your baby. Inhale your baby's scent from a recently worn article of clothing. Listen to a tape recording of your baby's voice. Call your baby's caregiver and ask about your baby prior to pumping to help your milk flow more easily.
  • More short pumping sessions are more efficient than fewer longer ones.
  • For working mothers night feedings can be a good time to build up your milk supply by keeping your baby in bed with you for all or part of the night. It's a great way to catch up on bonding time, too.
  • Make sure you are getting good nutrition, adequate fluid, and lots of rest. This is a challenging time and it is important to take care of you. Allow others to help you with your responsibilities while you focus on your baby.
  • Attend a La Leche League meeting. There you will meet other mothers and get lots of support for your situation.
  • Milk is produced according to the law of supply and demand so the more frequently you breastfeed or pump, the more milk you will make. Ten to twelve breastfeeding or pumping sessions per day is a good goal to aim for.
  • If your baby is having a growth spurt or you have been under a lot of stress, an "at home vacation" might be very helpful. Use this time off to do nothing but breastfeed your baby as often as possible and rest. The increased stimulation and extra rest will help to build your supply.
  • Focus on keeping life as simple as possible at this crucial time. Cut back on outside commitments. Ask for help with housework and childcare from the rest of the family.
  • Make sure you're eating and drinking enough. And most important, get plenty of rest and breastfeeding time in when you and your baby are together.
  • Another way to increase milk supply is to avoid supplementary bottles and pacifiers. This encourages your baby to meet all his sucking needs at your breasts. Doing this will help to increase your supply. Of course, if supplements are required to avoid dehydration or to ensure adequate weight gain, you will want to give them.
  • Another idea is called "super switch nursing." When you and baby are together you can try this technique to help increase your milk supply. It can also be done when pumping with one pump flange. This involves switching sides two or three times during each feeding. Mothers can watch the baby's sucking and switch to the other breast as soon as the sucking begins to slow down. Repeating this several times during the breastfeeding increases breast stimulation and let down.

Additional Resources

Attend a La Leche League Group meeting in your area for additional information and support. To find a Leader of a local Group, visit Finding a Local LLL Group.

Read this section of our Web site, Milk Supply Issues for other mothers' experiences.

THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, NEW 8th Edition, published by La Leche League International, is the most complete resource available for the breastfeeding mother.

Additional ideas for increasing your milk supply are in the FAQ "How Can I Increase My Milk Supply?".

These items may be available from the LLLI Online Store or from your local Leader.

Pumps, storage bags and other devices for easier pumping and storing of milk are also available from the LLLI Online Store.

A Mother's Guide to Pumping Milk Provides detailed information on common reasons mothers use breast pumps and considerations that might make one type of pump preferable over another. Includes ways to establish and maintain a good milk supply; suggestions to help make returning to work easier; human milk storage information; and addresses common questions.

Expressing Your Milk Includes two pamphlets, Practical Hints for Working and Breastfeeding and A Mother's Guide to Pumping Milk, helpful to mothers who need to pump or express their milk. Also contains a tear-off sheet that explains the Marmet Technique of Manual Expression.

Nursing Mother, Working Mother by Gale Pryor. Mothers who have decided to combine breastfeeding with working will find this an immensely helpful and reassuring book. The author includes practical information about planning for and returning to employment, clear concise tips on breastfeeding, pumping, storing, and transporting milk, and possible alternatives to full time employment such as job sharing, working from home, and staying home full time. The book suggests numerous ways mothers can build and maintain closeness with their babies in spite of separation. (Softcover, 184 pages)

BREASTFEEDING YOUR PREMATURE BABY by Gwen Gotsch. This LLLI book offers clear and concise information about how to breastfeed the premature baby and why breastfeeding is so important for these tiny infants. BREASTFEEDING YOUR PREMATURE BABY gives basic breastfeeding information as well as complete information on pumping, milk storage, and feeding your baby. With complete references and resource list. (Softcover, 56 pages)

DEFINING YOUR OWN SUCCESS: BREASTFEEDING AFTER BREAST REDUCTION SURGERY, by Diana West. A wealth of information on supplementation, pumping and increasing milk supply.

Our FAQs present information from La Leche League International on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader. Please consult health care professionals on any medical issue, as La Leche League Leaders are not medical practitioners.

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