How to increase breast milk during pregnancy?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

Breast milk is important for your baby, especially during the first few months of life. It has many benefits for babies, including fewer ear infections and diarrhea. You may start to produce breast milk as early as 16 weeks into your pregnancy.

Breastfeeding benefits for baby

Breast milk is the best food for your baby. It has all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your baby needs to grow. Breast milk also protects your baby against infections early on in life. Experts think breast milk contains important immune factors that help protect babies from respiratory congestion, ear infections, diarrhea, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), allergies, asthma later in life, and other health problems.

Breast milk also helps you bond with your baby. The closeness created by breastfeeding can help reduce stress in new mothers and their babies during the postpartum months.

Breastfeeding benefits for mom

Breastfeeding is good for you, too! Studies have shown that breastfeeding lowers a woman's risk of developing some types of cancer later on in life. Some studies have also shown that breastfeeding can improve cardiovascular health, which could lead to fewer heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, high blood pressure, and other diseases related to cardiovascular health problems.

Breastfeeding can also protect against osteoporosis (thin bones) because the calcium used to produce breast milk is returned to the mother's bones instead of being excreted out of her body. Breastfeeding can also help you lose weight after pregnancy because it makes you burn more calories than formula feeding.

How does the body increase breast milk production?

When your baby suckles, nerve impulses from receptors in his/her mouth travel to your brain and stimulate the pituitary gland to release oxytocin into your bloodstream. Oxytocin stimulates contractions of the smooth muscle cells in your alveoli so they expel milk through ducts into your baby's mouth.

Oxytocin also increases the rate at which prolactin (milk production hormone) is released by cells in your pituitary gland, which strengthens contractions and allows you to produce more breast milk during each feeding session.

Reducing stress through meditation and yoga can help too because it lowers cortisol levels and stimulates the release of oxytocin into your bloodstream.

How long does it take the body to produce more breast milk?

It is normal for new moms to experience some discomfort in their breasts when they start producing milk 6-12 hours after giving birth; however, this should disappear within one or two days. If you do notice an increase of pain or swelling of your breasts several days after birth, contact your doctor because you could be experiencing blocked ducts (when pieces of plaque block certain areas of your milk ducts), mastitis (infection of the breasts), or other conditions that require medical attention.

How much breast milk should you expect to produce?

In the first few days after birth, most new moms experience a surge of colostrum (first milk) that is loaded with antibodies and nutrients. This early lactation stage is important for protecting your child from infections while his/her immune system is still developing.

After this initial period has passed, some women notice that their breasts become full and firm, while others might only feel slight pressure or tenderness in their breasts. Trust your body; it knows what it's doing by sending your baby the signs he/she needs for feeding at each stage of development.

Your doctor will explain what content of breast milk to expect during different stages of nursing so you can decide if you want to continue or change a feeding schedule.

How long does it take to increase breast milk production?

It will probably take at least three weeks for your milk supply to reach its peak, then you should be able to produce enough milk for your baby until he/she is about 6 months old. This time frame can vary depending on certain factors, including your diet and lifestyle choices, so be sure to talk with your doctor if you are concerned about how much milk you are producing.

Signs you are not producing much milk

It is important to contact your doctor if you notice changes in your baby's bowel movements and/or urine. Unexplained diarrhea or dark, smelly urine may be an indication that he/she isn't getting enough breast milk. If your baby spits up excessively after feeding or seems to be constantly hungry, it could also mean he/she is not getting enough breast milk. Your doctor will suggest other reasons for these symptoms and recommend a solution.

If you have been nursing for a few weeks and your periods have not returned, or if they have but you are still not producing enough milk to satisfy the baby's needs, don't be discouraged. It may take a while before your body adjusts to its new role as a lactating mom.

How to increase breast milk during pregnancy?

Refrain from smoking or drinking caffeine while breastfeeding, as this may inhibit the flow of breast milk. After giving birth, drink lots of fluids and eat foods high in plenty of Vitamin C to help with circulation and increase your breast milk supply. If your baby is having a hard time latching on due to a small mouth or sore nipple, place a warm towel over your breasts before breastfeeding or pumping until they soften up a bit.

Once they are softer, this will make it easier for your baby to latch on properly and get started with breastfeeding. Make sure that you have a good breast pump so that you can continue to produce breast milk. If your baby is not able to latch on properly or if he/she falls asleep and will not wake up for a feeding, you may want to talk with your doctor about giving your baby a bottle of formula as well as breastfeeding.

This will stimulate your breasts and increase the flow of breast milk.

You should be pumping at least once every three hours even if you are breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding diet

A breastfeeding diet is one that emphasizes healthy foods that are good for you and your baby.

Eat your food slowly and chew it very well. This will help you consume less air, which can cause digestive discomfort. Gas-producing foods like beans, broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower can be especially troublesome for new moms who are breastfeeding their babies because the baby gets gas too.

Avoid using straws when drinking beverages; this could also lead to digestive problems due to increased swallowing of air while drinking through a narrow tube or straw. Some research suggests that caffeine might actually decrease breast milk production. Caffeine comes from coffee, tea, chocolate, and some over-the-counter medications (check the label).

When you eat a variety of healthy foods, you will have the energy to take care of a newborn and produce a sufficient amount of breast milk for your baby.

You should not go on extreme diets or drastically change your food intake because that could reduce the number of nutrients available to the fetus during pregnancy. You need to eat a healthy nutritious diet all throughout pregnancy to support fetal growth and development as well as breast milk production after giving birth.

Foods to eat when breastfeeding

High-fiber foods, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, beans, fruits, and vegetables should be part of your daily meal plan. The high fiber content in these foods will help keep the bowels moving regularly so you won't have constipation problems. Fiber can also decrease the chance of developing hemorrhoids during pregnancy.

Iron-rich foods like lean meats (turkey or beef), eggs, tofu, or legumes (lentils) should also be included in your daily meals. Iron deficiency has been linked with fatigue during breastfeeding. Since breast milk does not contain very much iron, your body may need to borrow an iron from your own stores. This could lead to anemia and low energy levels if you aren't eating enough foods that contain iron.

Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA). Omega-3 fatty acids help with brain development in the fetus and young children. DHA is a key component of nerve cells, especially those involved with vision and language skills. The best way for you to get omega-3's is by eating fish; however, if you follow a vegetarian diet or do not eat fish at all, there are supplements available for vegetarians that provide DHA derived from algae instead of fish oil.

Foods to avoid when breastfeeding

It is best to limit your intake of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol while breastfeeding, as these substances can get into breast milk and harm the baby. One caffeinated beverage a day is usually okay. It's best not to eat foods that are spoiled or past their expiration date because they may be harmful to your baby.

What should mom avoid during pregnancy to increase milk supply?

It is not recommended to take any drugs during pregnancy. Medications can pass through the placenta and affect the baby.

Caffeine intake should be limited, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. Consumption of large amounts of caffeine has been linked to lower birth weights in newborns. Caffeine also reduces the amount of iron absorbed by your body, which you need for breast milk production.

Alcohol intake should be limited or avoided altogether during pregnancy because it passes directly into the unborn baby's bloodstream causing chemical damage that often results in miscarriage, stillbirth, or physical deformities in infants after they are born. Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding could result in your infant suffering from alcohol poisoning because it takes longer for the body to metabolize alcohol when breastfeeding.

Smoking has been linked to infertility, miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), increased risk of childhood cancers, and lung disease in children. It also reduces the amount of breast milk you are able to produce for your child.

During pregnancy, it is best not to eat undercooked meat or deli meats because they could contain listeria that will harm the fetus. You should avoid unpasteurized dairy products because they could contain listeria or salmonella. If you have a weakened immune system due to an illness or medication, you should talk with your doctor before eating undercooked eggs or any food containing raw eggs because they may increase your chances of developing salmonella poisoning.


Look for new recipes that include high-fiber foods. Also, drink plenty of water and start taking prenatal vitamins as soon as you know you're pregnant. It's also important to avoid eating spoiled or past their expiration date foods, caffeine, and nicotine.

 As always, consult your doctor before making any changes or starting any new programs during pregnancy or after delivery to be sure it is right for you and your baby.