How To Support A Healthy Milk Supply, According To A Dietitian

Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD


Welcoming a baby into the world can be an exciting and overwhelming experience at the same time. While you are surely in awe of your new bundle of joy, you are also managing sleepless nights, never ending laundry demands, and major shifts in hormones. And among the many things new moms worry about once baby arrives, keeping up with breastfeeding demands tends to top the list if the mother is breastfeeding her baby.

Having adequate milk supply is key when a woman is on her breastfeeding journey. And while some causes for a low milk supply are completely out of your control --- like losing a large volume of blood during delivery or having a thyroid disorder – there are other things that you can do that may help you keep your milk supply in-check.



The term “low milk supply” gets tossed around a lot, and having true milk supply issues can be subjective. For some, feeling like they are not producing enough milk means having a fussy, but growing, baby. And for others, having milk supply concerns means that your baby is falling off of the growth chart and not feeling satisfied after a feeding.

While it may seem like these are signs of a low milk supply, it is important to know that the following are not necessarily tell-tale signs of your body not producing enough milk:

  • Your breasts are not engorged or don’t feel full
  • Baby appears fussy after a feed
  • Baby wants to feed frequently
  • Baby is waking up in the middle of the night to feed
  • Baby is falling asleep at the breast.

While these situations are stressful, the medical literature doesn’t confirm that they are a true sign of low milk supply. Plus, they may be happening for reasons beyond having a low milk supply. For example, a baby that constantly wants to feed may be feeding for comfort. And a baby that appears fussy after a feed may be experiencing gas pain, and not hunger. 




Knowing whether your baby is getting enough milk is quite simple to do with a little know-how. And knowing what to look for can be empowering and possibly relieve some pressure you may be feeling during this stage.

Here are some signs of adequate milk supply:

1. Baby is having enough wet diapers a day, based on your baby’s age. The urine does not appear to be a bright yellow color.

2. Baby is having one stool a day until 5 days old. Then 3-5 stools a day for the first few months.

3. After the initial expected weight loss after your baby is born, it is tracking appropriately on the growth charts.

4. Mom’s breasts are soft after a feeding.

5. Baby appears satisfied and content after a feeding session.


Believe it or not, but having low milk supply isn’t as common as people believe. While not as common as people think, there are true causes to a low milk supply.

Some reasons why a person may experience a low milk supply include: 

1. Mom’s breasts did not develop adequate “milk-producing” glands

2. Mom has an untreated diagnosis of hypothyroidism. The thyroid plays a role in hormone regulation. Since milk production and release is dependent on hormones, having a thyroid function that is slower may play a negative role. Your doctor can help regulate your thyroid with proper medication.

3. Mom is taking certain medications or herbs that may reduce the production of milk. Taking certain decongestants or certain herbal remedies like sage or peppermint may result in a low milk supply.

4. Mom is wearing a bra or top that is too tight and is not supporting milk supply. 


Low milk supply, whether perceived or actual, is one of the most common reasons why mothers stop breastfeeding. And while it is possible that a breastfeeding woman may feel that she isn’t producing enough milk when she really is, for those who are truly having a milk supply challenge, the good news is there are some things that may help support their lactation journey, including:

1. Allow your baby to suck on your breast, even when she is not feeding. The sucking stimulates milk production, thanks to the principle of supply and demand. The more baby sucks, the more milk will be produced.

2. Pump in between feeds, again, to support the supply and demand principle.

3. Have skin-to-skin contact with your baby daily to stimulate the prolactin hormone and support milk production.

4. Create a relaxing environment when you are nursing. Play relaxing music, be physically comfortable, and wear comfortable clothing.

5. Avoid stress when possible. Consider breathing exercises or any mind-body practice to help alleviate any stress, as stress may interfere with milk production.

6. Completely empty your breast during each feed.

7. Eat enough nutritious foods. According to the National Institute of Health, lactating women need an additional 450-500 calories per day to support their needs, with the needs being even higher if you are nursing multiples. Having quick and easy protein-rich snacks that are easy to eat with one hand will help you meet your needs.  Having boiled and peeled eggs in your fridge is a great grab-and-go snack. A nut-butter and fruit combo (like fresh apple and almond butter) is also an easy no-prep snack.

8. Hand-massage your breast. Sometimes massaging your breast while your baby is feeding may stimulate your breasts enough to stimulate an increased supply of breast milk. 



Although herbs have been used for thousands of years to support milk supply in Ayurvedic medicine practices and in certain areas of the world, recommending them in Western medicine practices isn’t as commonplace, as the data supporting their use are not robust.

Limited data is available regarding the use of certain herbal supplements when trying to support milk supply. Some common herbal solutions that may help include:

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric 
  • Moringa oleifera
  • Fennel seed


Any herbal solution that you are considering should be discussed with your health care provider. Just because something is “natural”, you cannot assume that it comes without risks.  


Among the many things that new moms worry about, supporting breastmilk volume is one of the most common. If you have any worries about whether you are producing enough milk for your little one, your best bet is to talk to your doctor and see if this is a perceived or true concern. If you are truly not producing enough milk, steps like breast massage, prioritizing stress management, and eating enough may help you see some major results. And if you want to consider supplementation, leaning on galactagogues may help you produce more milk naturally, although more data is needed. Just make sure that, if you do go the galactagogue route, you get the green-light from your health care provider first to make sure that the blend you choose fits into your personal health care needs.

Once you are sure that your breast milk supply is up-to-par, testing your milk to ensure it is balanced in nutrients and it does not contain high levels of toxins is key. Leaning on Lactation Lab to analyze your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins can allow you to know exactly what you are providing your baby during a nursing session. Using this service can help you ensure that you are fueling your baby exactly with what it needs, which can give you peace of mind during this stage. 


Note: The views expressed in this article belong to the author.

About the author:

Lauren Manaker is a licensed registered dietitian. Find out more about Lauren on her website and Instagram.


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