Low milk supply: getting help
Your midwife, child and family health nurse or GP or the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) can support you with breastfeeding your baby. They can also help you find a lactation consultant if you need one.
An ABA counsellor can also help. Phone the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 or use ABA LiveChat.
This article covers how to increase milk supply. If you’re having other issues with breastfeeding, you could check out our articles on how to manage oversupply and engorgement, breastfeeding attachment techniques, sore nipples and nipple infections and mastitis and blocked ducts.
About milk supply: how to tell whether babies are getting enough breastmilk
Most mothers can breastfeed and produce enough milk for their babies if they have the right information, support and care. But many mothers still worry that they aren’t making enough breastmilk.
The best way to know what’s happening with your milk supply and whether your baby is getting enough milk is to look at their nappies and growth.
Signs that babies are getting enough milk
- has at least 6 wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposables in 24 hours, with clear or pale wee, after the first few days of life (in the first days, babies might have only 2-3 wet nappies)
- has soft poos 3-4 times a day if they’re younger than 6-8 weeks old (an older baby is likely to do fewer poos)
- has healthy skin colour and muscle tone
- is alert and mostly happy after and between feeds
- is gaining some weight and growing in length and head circumference.
Signs that babies aren’t getting enough milk
It’s normal for babies to lose a little bit of weight in the first week of life. After this, your baby might not be getting enough milk if they:
- aren’t gaining weight
- have fewer than 6 wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposables in 24 hours
- don’t have several soft poos in 24 hours.
You might worry that your milk supply is low if your baby cries after feeds. But babies cry for many reasons. When your baby cries, they could be saying, ‘I'm still hungry’. But your baby could just as easily be saying ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I’m not hungry now, but I’ve got a tummy ache’.
How to increase milk supply
Offer extra breastfeeds
Each time your baby takes some milk from your breasts, your breasts get the message to make more milk. So doing a few extra breastfeeds each day will increase your supply. Frequent feeding is fine because young babies have little tummies, and they get hungry quickly.
Here are ways to do extra breastfeeds:
- Start by aiming to breastfeed at least 8-12 times every 24 hours.
- Offer extra ‘snack’ breastfeeds. If you’re currently breastfeeding every 3-4 hours, you might be able to fit in snacks between some of these feeds.
- Give your baby a ‘top-up’ feed if they don’t settle after a feed. Even if your baby has drained your breasts, you’ll have more milk in 20-30 minutes. You can repeat these top-ups several times if your baby doesn’t settle.
- Offer an extra night-time feed, or feed more often during the evening. Your prolactin levels are higher at night, so more frequent feeding at night might increase your milk supply.
- Wake your baby to feed, especially if they have long sleeps or are generally very sleepy and won’t take frequent feeds. A baby in the lighter phase of sleep might feed while asleep, so you can even try feeding when you see your baby moving around or their eyelids flickering.
- Express after each breastfeed or while your baby is sleeping. This will drain your breasts and help to increase supply. You can store your expressed breastmilk in the fridge or freezer for later use.
Have plenty of skin-to-skin contact
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can increase your milk supply because it stimulates prolactin and oxytocin. Both these hormones help your body to make and release breastmilk.
You can have skin-to-skin contact while breastfeeding by taking your top and bra off and just having your baby in a nappy on your chest. If it’s cold, wrap a blanket around yourselves to keep warm.
Relax and make yourself comfortable
The more relaxed you are while breastfeeding, the better your milk will flow:
- Make sure your chair or bed is comfortable.
- Try to remove distractions. For example, turn off your phone or put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door.
- Have a glass of water handy for yourself.
Rest and look after yourself
If you’re rested, healthy and well, you’re more likely to make milk:
- Eat well and stay active.
- Avoid smoking and using alcohol and other drugs.
- Make time for naps or try to rest when your baby is asleep.
- Stay hydrated. Breastfeeding can make you thirsty.
- Accept offers of help from family and friends.
Massage and compress your breasts
If you do this while breastfeeding or expressing, it will help with milk flow and drainage. And the better and more often you drain your breasts, the more milk you’ll make.
Talk with your GP about medicine
Sometimes GPs prescribe medicines that might help to increase prolactin levels and increase milk supply. Speak to your GP for advice.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s milk intake or you think that extra feeds aren’t helping to increase your supply, talk to your midwife, child and family health nurse or GP, or contact a lactation consultant or ABA counsellor.