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How can I increase my milk supply?

Your milk supply is determined by the stimulation that your baby provides while nursing. In other words, the more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces. So, if you seem to be producing less milk than usual, you should try to feed your baby more often. You also can pump after nursing to help stimulate more milk production.

Stress, illness, and some medications can temporarily decrease your supply. Drinking water to satisfy your thirst and eating good, nutritious food can help. But also try to take some time for yourself each day, even if it's only for 15-30 minutes.

If your baby is less than 6 months old and you're away from your little one for long stretches during the day (for instance, at work), you should pump or hand express every 3 hours to maintain your supply. Your freshly pumped breast milk can stay at room temperature for 6-10 hours, or in the refrigerator for up to 8 days. When keeping it in the refrigerator, never store it on the shelves in the door.

If the milk is not going to be used within 8 days, you can store it in the freezer for 6-12 months. Put it in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator that has a separate suction-sealed door or in a deep freezer.

If your milk supply still seems low and you're concerned, you may want to talk to your doctor, your pediatrician, or a lactation consultant.

If I wait to nurse, will my milk supply increase?

Actually, no — it's the opposite. Waiting too long to nurse or pump can slowly reduce your milk supply. The more you delay nursing or pumping, the less milk your body will produce because the overfilled breast sends the signal that you must need less milk.

Once babies are back to their birth weight, they can sleep for longer stretches at night and will gradually lengthen the time between nighttime feedings. Letting your baby sleep for longer periods during the night won't hurt your breastfeeding efforts. Your baby is able to take more during feedings and that, in turn, will have him or her sleeping longer between nighttime feedings. Your body will adjust to the longer spacing.

Some moms wake during the night with full breasts and a sleeping baby. If that happens to you, pump for comfort and to help your body adjust to your little one's new schedule at night.

The interval for daytime feedings usually stays between 1 and 3 hours for the first few months and then may lengthen to 4 hours or so. Cutting back on feedings during the day can lead to a decreased milk supply over time.

If you follow your baby's cues and spread out the feedings as he or she wishes, your milk supply should remain at what your baby needs.

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