Disclaimer regarding supply: True low milk supply is rare. Percieved low milk supply, however, is one of the leading reasons women cite for giving up breastfeeding.
Genuine low milk supply is often the result of a medical condition: hypoplastic tubular breasts, sometimes in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, sometimes in women who have had breast surgery, and sometimes in women with tyroid disorders. If you don't fall into one of these categories, it is worth considering whether your milk supply issues might be either percieved, or real but fixable!
In this series on milk supply, I'm going to offer tips for moms whose supply issues are in the "real but fixable" category.
The secret to a healthy milk supply is breastfeeding as long and as often as possible.
The most basic premise of milk supply is that your body will make milk according to how much milk is removed. The single most powerful way to boost your milk supply is to remove more milk, more often, via either nursing or pumping. Nursing rather than pumping is preferable, when possible, because the lovey, mothering hormones your body releases when you touch your baby assist your milk ejection reflex (and I'm assuming most women don't have a release of lovey, mothering hormones when they touch their pumps. Just a guess.)
Ways to incorporate more milk removal into your day include:
* Offering the breast as often as possible
* Pumping after you've finished nursing. Don't be discouraged if you don't net very much milk from these pumping sessions: the goal is to create the illusion of increased demand and place the order for more milk, not to net extra pumped milk for the day.
* Try pumping one breast while your baby nurses on the other. A hands-free pumping bra can help accomplish this.
* About that hands-free pumping bra: using one can help you pump in all sorts of unlikely places (while doing housework, while getting ready for work, under a nursing cover while driving, etc.). Be creative, and you just might find you have time for an extra pumping session after all.