You're in the early days of nursing your baby, and it seems as though every friend, neighbor, and relative wants to give you their two cents. Breastfeeding can be difficult enough without having to listen to unsolicited advice from everyone and their grandmother. But it seems as though your Granny may be on to something, because some old wives' tales about increasing your milk supply are totally true.
Modern society tends to think that most of what has been passed down from an older generation is just a bunch of nonsense created by people who didn't understand science. Today, you can Google an article backed up by research and scientific facts, and feel pretty confident that you are making the right decisions for your family's health. One of the surprising things about modern research is that it is often conducted to prove or disprove long-held beliefs.
Because these beliefs are called old wives' tales, it is automatically assumed that they are ancient myths. But when it comes to breastfeeding, a practice as old as human existence, you might want to listen to what your grandma has to say. Here are some long-held beliefs about increasing your milk supply that turned out to be totally true.
1. Nursing More Will Lead To More Milk
If your baby is trying to nurse around the clock, it may feel draining, but your milk supply may actually benefit from frequent nursing sessions. “Milk supply is based on supply and demand and nipple stimulation,” nurse and lactation consultant Tera Hamann tells Romper. “The best way to make more milk is to drain breasts more frequently with baby, hand expression, or pump. Drained breasts make milk faster.”
2. Wake Your Baby To Nurse
Although this old wives’ tale about breastfeeding is true, it is only true for a short period of time. “This is a practice that at times can definitely be appropriate,” nurse and lactation consultant Angie Natero tells Romper. “Some examples would be in a newborn, a preemie, or in a baby that isn’t gaining appropriately. I think the key with this and many other lactation related things is every situation can be unique. What’s true or appropriate for one might not be for all. Find a good IBCLC local to you for a class and support.”
3. Getting Breast Implants May Decrease Your Ability To Produce Milk
“Breast implants typically don’t interfere with the ability to make milk,” Hamann tells Romper. But if any milk ducts were damaged by incisions around the areolae when your implants were put in, the amount of milk that gets through to your baby may be impacted, according to experts at La Leche League International. Incisions made near the armpit or under the breast should not impact your ability to breastfeed, but Hamann does caution that “with any breast surgery, success with nursing depends on how the surgery is done.”
4. Sleep When The Baby Sleeps To Keep Supply Up
Sleep is often hard to come by when you have a newborn at home. Sleeping when the baby sleeps is common advice given to new moms, and according to Hamann, moms that catch plenty of ZZZs are less likely to experience supply issues. “Lack of sleep, stress, and not enough calories are big contributors to drops in supply,” Hamann tells Romper. Although sleeping when the baby sleeps may not necessarily increase your supply, it will certainly help keep it from dipping.
5. Redheads Are More Likely To Have Nipple Pain
Although this one may sound like a bad joke, new research has emerged in recent years that accounts for the correlation between redheads and sensitivity to pain. “Lactation consultants have observed that redheads often report more nipple pain and sensitivity” Lynnette Hafken, MA, IBCLC, with the Fed Is Best Foundation tells Romper. “Research by dentists and anesthesiologists have corroborated the link between red hair and pain sensitivity, which seems to have a genetic component.”
6. Skin-To-Skin Contact With Your Baby Will Increase Your Milk Supply
Almost nothing feels better than your newborn babe skin-to-skin on your bare chest as they snuggle in for a nap or nursing session. Hamann tells Romper that this type of contact can help increase milk supply in nursing moms. “It promotes the hormones that stimulate supply and relaxes you, decreasing stress hormones,” she says.
7. Herbal Remedies Can Help You Make More Milk
I struggled with low supply after my youngest son was born and tried many different herbal remedies to help increase my milk production. Anything I found via a Google search was fair game, and some actually worked. (Fenugreek tea did work for me!) Although Hamann notes that the evidence of herbal remedies helping increase supply is “completely anecdotal,” she also says that, “Every culture has different galactagogues (foods that increase supply). Oatmeal, nutritional yeast, and flax seed are the popular ones here.”
This post was originally published on Aug. 17, 2016. It was updated on Aug. 21, 2019. Additional reporting by Ashley Jones.