We received this question via email, and it is a common enough concern to merit a blog post.
“My daughter is 6 1/2 months old and I am pretty sure my milk supply is decreasing. I have been pumping less milk when I work (I miss 2 feedings, 3 days a week) and when I am with her, she cries after nursing for only 2 minutes. However, she doesn’t cry during her early morning feeding or late night feeding.
I am wondering if you have any suggestions for increasing milk supply? I know I need to drink more water and probably sleep more if that’s possible.
I lost my milk with my son when my period started (he was 10 months old) and I just started my period. Could this be the end of my milk? I am not ready 😦
Should I nurse her morning and night and give up the pumping during the day? Will my milk supply keep up with that?
Any suggestions would be great!”
One challenge with email-based helping is the difficulty with asking questions to get more information or clarify what’s going on, so sometimes email responses can get pretty long because we are trying to cover lots of bases in one communication.
You are correct that return to fertility can cause a *temporary* drop in milk supply, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be the end of nursing!
The number one strategy for increasing supply is nursing more often. If you are nursing her based on her cues, try nursing before she indicates hunger. If you are feeding based on a time schedule, such as every 3 hours or so, then reduce the time between feedings to get her to the breast as much as you can. If you are using a pacifier, stop using it when you are with her and have her meet all of her sucking needs at the breast. If you are pumping rather than nursing during the day when you are with her, stop the pumping and just nurse her instead. You will get more stimulation for making milk that way.
Nursing during the night also helps provide more stimulation for your body to make milk. If something has recently changed about her sleep such that you aren’t nursing at night anymore, you might consider adding it back in if that will work for you.
You do want to take care of yourself with sufficient water, calories, and sleep, but drinking lots of extra water isn’t going to help you make more milk. Just pay attention to your body’s cues and drink when you are thirsty.
When you are away, you might be able to accomplish some extra pumping sessions at the beginning and end of your shift. For example, nurse your baby, go to work, pump (you may not get much, but it is still stimulation), pump during your work at the same frequency she is eating, then pump again right before you leave, go home and nurse your baby. Even if your breasts seem empty from the pumping, you will make milk for your baby.