For new mamas, especially those who are trying their hardest to make breastfeeding work, there can be a lot of concern over milk supply. Are you producing enough to keep your newborn happy, healthy, and gaining weight? Are you doing it right? Should you be producing more? How can you boost your current supply so that you know for sure that there's enough? There's a lot of information out there to help guide you, but, unfortunately for all the useful information, there are also some myths about increasing your milk supply that are BS and really won't necessarily help as much as some would lead you to believe.
This can be frustrating, to be sure, when you're trying everything you can to alleviate your stress that you're convinced you have low supply, and what worked like a charm for your friend, sister, or cousin's neighbor's daughter-in-law, just doesn't do much for you. Unfortunately, it ultimately can sometimes come down to the fact that what works for one might not have any affect at all on another.
These particular myths about increasing your milk supply aren't science-backed, which might mean that you have to go into it with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you try them and they work for you, that's great, but for the majority, don't be disappointed if these myths about breastfeeding don't deliver the results you were hoping for.
1. Drinking More Water Will Increase Your Supply
Drinking plenty of water is an oft-touted solution for helping to boost your milk supply after giving birth. Drinking enough water to keep yourself hydrated is almost never bad advice, but with regards to boosting milk supply, it's likely more myth than fact. In an interview with Health, Kathy Mason, a registered nurse and international board-certified lactation consultant, said that while dehydration can certainly decrease milk supply, over-hydration can also decrease milk production. If you're worried that you're dehydrated, drinking a bit of water might help, but if you're normally pretty hydrated, drinking water probably isn't the magical supply-boosting solution for which you've been searching. Basically, don't make yourself sick drinking water up to your gils, but also make sure you're well-hydrated.
2. Sports Drinks Will Increase Your Supply
Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are also often recommended as sort of flukey fixes for low milk supply. Typically a specific color or flavor is recommended as being better than the others. That being said, in an article she wrote for Milk on Tap, international board-certified lactation consultant Jennifer South said that sports drinks don't increase milk supply because they don't contain any scientifically-proven galactogogues. If it works for you, it could be for the same reason as water works for some: it can help hydrate you. Sports drinks also often balance electrolytes, which also helps with hydration. So again, if you're generally well-hydrated, it probably won't help. Also, you might want to think twice about consuming tons of this stuff because it does include sugar, sodium, as well as food dyes, according to Healthline. To err on the side of caution, water is probably your safest best.
3. Eating Way More Will Increase Your Supply
It's true that women who are breastfeeding need to eat a little more because they're burning more calories than women who aren't breastfeeding, but it's unlikely that eating a ton of calories will help boost your milk supply. According to a blog post on the Ashland Women's Health website, even if you're exclusively breastfeeding, you only need about 300 to 500 more calories a day than you did before you got pregnant and most women eat about 300 more calories a day towards the end of their pregnancy anyway, so it really shouldn't be much of a change from that.
4. You Shouldn't Nurse Too Often
The idea behind this one is that nursing more infrequently will help preserve what milk supply you do have and allow your breasts to fill up before feedings so that there is more for your baby feed the next time they literally let out a cry for milk. Unfortunately, as South wrote in the aforementioned blog post for Milk on Tap, breast milk production is driven by demand. So if you want to maximize your supply, you should be regularly emptying your breasts so that your body will be prompted to make more. It might sound counterintuitive, but it's true.
5. Oatmeal Is Proven To Increase Supply
Contrary to many recommendations, oatmeal isn't a proven galactogogue. According to Kelly Mom, there's no scientific evidence that oatmeal will increase milk supply, but it can certainly be a very healthy breakfast either way, so you can always try it and see if you notice a difference. Just don't get your hopes up, as it's likely more myth than fact.
6. Herbs And Other Things Will Increase Your Supply Without Any Risk
While fenugreek and other herbs and spices can anecdotally help increase your supply, its efficacy isn't necessarily conclusive, according to the previously-mentioned post from Ashland Women's Health. Additionally, fenugreek and other herbs, spices, and plants can come with side effects including allergic reactions, digestive ailments, and smelling like maple syrup. It's best to check with a professional you trust before trying something like this because most moms who end up trying it don't really need it.
7. Nurse Only On A Set Schedule
Nursing on a set schedule is not going to help your milk supply, in fact, it might actually negatively affect it. According to Working Mother, as a general guideline, the more frequently a woman breastfeeds, the more milk she produces. The frequency that you actually need to nurse your baby, however, is often set by the baby itself (or you if your breasts feel engorged) because each baby's needs and preferences are different. Don't stress about sticking to a schedule.
8. You Should Just Try To Boost Your Milk Supply Without Addressing Any Underlying Cause
Ultimately, low supply is often caused by another issue, and your anxiety that your body is not producing enough milk isn't always the root cause in and of itself. South wrote that low supply can be caused by tongue ties, scheduled feedings, using a pacifier, supplementing with formula, mother's health, and more. In order to successfully increase your milk supply, you might find that you need to talk to a professional so that they can help you get to the real cause of your low supply, and to confirm that you definitely are not producing what your baby needs. It'll ease your frustration and fix whatever else might be off. Two birds, one stone.
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