How to Lactate
Lactation is the production of milk in mammary glands. It occurs naturally during pregnancy and post-pregnancy breastfeeding. If you are planning on adopting a baby or working as a wet nurse, you may wish to induce lactation. You may also wish to encourage milk production if you fear a low milk supply. You can induce lactation with hormone therapy and electric pumping. To encourage your milk supply after giving birth, pump when needed, nurse frequently, and take care of your health.
Begin hormone therapy 8 months before you want to nurse.Ask your doctor to provide a regimen of hormones starting about 8 months before you would like to start nursing. Your doctor will prescribe estrogen or progesterone to mimic the effects of pregnancy on your body. Take these hormones for six months or longer, and then switch to pumping.
- Your doctor will prescribe estrogen and progesterone to mimic the hormones present in your body during pregnancy.
Stimulate milk production with a breast pump.Two months before you would like to start breastfeeding, begin using a breast pump. The breast pump will stimulate the hormone prolactin, which causes your body to produce milk.
- Begin by pumping 3 times a day for 5 minutes at a time. Do this for at least two days.
- Slowly increase the frequency of your pumping until you are pumping for 10 minutes every 4 hours. Set an alarm so you can pump at least once during the nighttime.
- Once you feel comfortable with this, increase the frequency slowly until you are pumping every 2 to 3 hours for 15 to 20 minutes.
Ask your doctor about medications to induce lactation.If you don't have time for hormone therapy, you may be able to take other medications. Medicines that stimulates prolactin are called "galactogogues." Your doctor may prescribe Metoclopramide or Domperidone.
- The effectiveness of these drugs is variable.
- Don't use Metoclopramide if you suffer from depression or asthma.
- If you live in the United States, your doctor may not prescribe you Domperidone, as it is not FDA approved.
Supplement your supply with formula or pumped breast milk.With induced lactation, you probably won't come up with quite enough breast milk to nourish a child, especially during the first few weeks. In between nursing, feed your child with formula or breast milk you have pumped. You may also use pasteurized milk from a donor.
- Whenever you do bottle feed, use your breast pump. This will encourage your breasts to continue producing milk.
- Ask your doctor about getting a device that attaches to your breast but delivers donor milk or formula. Like a breast pump, this will help stimulate milk production.
Promoting Milk Production
Start breastfeeding as soon as you have your baby.If you give birth, hold your baby against your skin immediately. This will help awaken the nursing instinct, and your baby should begin to breastfeed within the hour. If you have induced lactation, do the same, but have some formula or donated milk on hand to supplement what you have.
- If you wait too long to start nursing, it can lower your milk supply.
Breastfeed your baby 8-12 times a day.Breastfeed 8-12 times a day for the first several weeks. This means breastfeeding every 2-3 hours, including several times at night. Doing it less may lower your milk supply.
- Don't skip sessions. If your baby is sleeping or needs to be bottle-fed, pump at the time you would normally be nursing.
- Don't wait for your breasts to refill. You should still have milk even when your breasts are not swollen.
Stimulate your milk-ejection reflex.There are many ways to signal to your body that you would like to nurse. It may be enough to hold your baby against your bare skin.
- Apply a warm compress or towel soaked in warm water to your breast. Stroke your breast lightly with your fingertips. This will relax you and can stimulate your milk-ejection reflex.
- You may also massage your breast much in the way you would conduct a self-exam. Press your fingers flatly and firmly against your milk glands and milk ducts. Massage them in slow, firm circles. Massage from the outside in a spiral towards the areola.
- Lean forward and lightly jiggle your breasts. Gravity should help draw milk into your nipples.
Nurse on both sides.After your baby has nursed energetically on one side, and has slowed down, switch them to the other breast. Your milk supply will decrease if your baby strongly favors one breast over the other.
Wait before introducing a pacifier.Your baby's latch will be stronger if they learn how to suckle your nipple before they learn how to suckle a pacifier. If you would like to give your child a pacifier, wait 3-4 weeks after birth. The stronger your baby's latch, the more milk you will produce.
Encouraging Lactation with Natural Methods
Eat some oats.Oats may help you lactate, and they are easy to take! You don't need to talk to an expert before introducing oats to your diet. Just have oatmeal for breakfast.
- The most traditional approach is to start the day with a bowl of oatmeal. However, some nursing parents find that oats in other forms, such as granola, cookies, and oat bran also help.
Consider taking herbal supplements.You can buy most supplements at health stores, or order them online. Visit a lactation consultant before you buy any supplements, or talk to your doctor to make sure the supplements you are interested in won't interfere with any of your existing medications.
- Fenugreek is a traditional galactagogue (prolactin stimulator). Its effectiveness has not been scientifically proven, but some people report success using it to increasing milk supply.
- Blessed thistle and alfalfa may help on their own or paired with fenugreek.
Stay hydrated.Drink water, juice, and milk to stay hydrated. Aim to drink about 8 8 fluid ounces (240 mL) glasses of liquid a day.
- It's fine to have some coffee and caffeinated tea, but cut down on it if you feel it's interfering with your child's sleep.
- If you have an alcoholic drink, wait two hours before nursing.
Eat a healthy diet.Eat fruits and vegetables, protein, and plenty of whole grains. Eat produce in a variety of colors, such as dark greens and bright citrus fruits. So long as your child is not exhibiting allergic reactions, you can eat what you would ordinarily—just aim for healthy, whole foods whenever you can.
- Look out for adverse reactions to cow's milk. If you eat a lot of dairy and your child shows signs of allergy, such as rash, vomiting, or bloating. stop consuming it. Talk to your doctor about taking calcium or Vitamin D supplements instead.
- Ask your doctor or dietician about vitamins and supplements. If you are a vegan or are likely to be missing vitamins for another reason, talk to your doctor about introducing B12 or a multivitamin into your diet.
Limit your use of medications that interfere with milk production.If you take a medicine that contains pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed or Zyrtec D, it may decrease your milk supply. Some kinds of hormonal contraception may also interfere with your ability to lactate. Talk to your doctor if you are on hormonal contraception.
- Read the label on any medication you take. If there is a warning for nursing mothers, consult your doctor.
QuestionCan my partner suck on my breasts to produce milk?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Just as with pumping, it would need to be at least eight times a day, for 20 minutes a session, and one of those sessions would need to be between 1-5 am. Don't just do it on one nipple, though; go for ten minutes to twenty on each. You can simply do this to produce milk, but you must remember to think of your partner suckling as a need for milk, not sex, as your hormones won't change.Thanks!
QuestionWhere do I get these supplements?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA health food store or pharmacy is generally more reliable than an online source. Look for a seal of approval on the packaging from organizations such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, or NSF International. These seals do not make any claims about how effective or safe the actual supplement is, but they do confirm that there are no harmful contaminants, and that the contents match the label.Thanks!
QuestionIs it possible for a postmenopausal woman to produce milk?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, but it's usually difficult and may not produce enough milk to feed a baby. In some cases it may require hormone supplements, which should not be taken without a doctor's knowledge.Thanks!
QuestionI've been taking fenugreek supplements for three days with no results so far. How long can I expect it to take?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStudies on fenugreek and lactation vary widely. Some show significant increases within a week, while others show hardly any effect. A doctor can help you determine the right dosage for better odds, but as of now it's not possible to make an accurate prediction.Thanks!
QuestionWill producing milk interrupt ovulation and menstruation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMany women find that breastfeeding or pumping can interrupt ovulation and menstruation if their breasts are stimulated enough throughout a 24 hour time period.Thanks!
QuestionI had a baby 2 months ago and still cannot produce breast milk. What can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerEating warm, nourishing soups will help breast milk production. If that won't work, stick to making formula.Thanks!
QuestionwikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, it is. Inducing lactation is inducing lactation. No matter how old you are, you should be able to. However, if you have had breast trauma in the past, breast surgery, or anything else that might have damaged the mammary glands, ducts, etc., found in the breasts, you may be unable to induce.Thanks!
QuestionMy nipples are pierced. Can I still induce lactation and breastfeed? (I know I have to take the piercings out before feeding.)wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes you can. There are safety concerns with leaving piercings in, such as choking; however, I breast-fed two of my own children with rings in, and now I've intiated milk production again to help feed my grandchild. While using a pump, I secured bar bells to fully expose the nipples. While actively feeding a baby, the rings were secured and positioned against the areola either flipped facing up or facing down. It can leave a little pressure mark on the baby's upper lip or chin that very quickly fades, but this at least ensures that the ball is not IN the baby's mouth. Bar-bells were too frustrating for my babies, as they broke suction when rubbed against the corners of the babies' mouths.Thanks!
QuestionMy baby is almost 1, and I've decided I want to get my milk supply going again. Any suggestions?Ashlee BourchierCommunity AnswerIf you previously took herbal supplements, start taking them again. Allow your baby to suckle even if he/she isn't getting any milk, and increase your water intake. Maintain a healthy diet.Thanks!
Can I lactate by pumping only without any supplements?
Can I breastfeed if I am older?
How can I start lactating naturally if I can't get a breast pump and I don't have someone to suck on my breasts?
I stopped breast feeding. How many days it will take coming to normal?
My wife wants to induce early lactation by having me suckle her, however we can only 2 to 3 sessions rather than 6 to 8. Will this still be sufficient to induce early lactation?
- Avoid drinking or smoking. Alcohol and tobacco may lower your milk supply.
Sources and Citations
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