Adjusting your milk supply

mother breastfeeding her baby

If you've been bottle feeding and want to try (or restart) breastfeeding, you may need to encourage your milk supply. It might take a bit of time as it can be tricky to increase your supply when it's been low. Try to set aside lots of time to work on it and be patient even when you feel frustrated that it's not happening fast enough.

There are a few ways you can do this:

  • try to breastfeed little and often or whenever your baby wants to
  • hold your baby close, ideally skin-to-skin – this encourages your body to produce milk and your baby to feed
  • breastfeed when your baby is calm and relaxed and not too hungry
  • decrease the number of bottles gradually, as your milk supply increases
  • when you're feeding, offer both breasts – your baby may not always want to feed from both breasts equally, so always start the next feed with the breast they did not feed from last feed (or only fed from a little)
  • avoid introducing any solid foods until your baby is around 6 months
  • express your breast milk regularly between feeds to encourage a steady supply

Extra help

If you're doing all these things already but you're still concerned you have low milk supply, ask your midwife to refer you to a breastfeeding specialist. Feeding specialists are very understanding and can have a look at how your baby's feeding and offer practical advice, help and support.

Breastfeeding Friend from Start for Life

The Breastfeeding Friend, a digital tool from Start for Life, has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you – and because it's a digital tool, you can access it 24 / 7.

Reducing your milk supply

If you've been breastfeeding and want to include formula feeds, you may find that your breasts are producing more milk than your baby needs. This can feel uncomfortable as you're not using the milk and your breast can become "engorged" (over full of milk).

Stopping breastfeeding should be done gradually. You need to give your body time to adjust to making less milk – phasing it out will also help prevent you getting mastitis and engorged breasts.

Lots of mums find dropping one feed at a time the best way. For every feed you drop, allow yourself about a week to adjust.

Weaning your baby off breast milk should be a gradual process, it's best if you can be flexible and not rush it. You may need to slow things down at times, for example if your baby is poorly, they tend to want to feed more frequently. Remember, if weaning off breast milk is proving tricky, try to be patient – you can always take a break and try again in a few weeks.

Babies under 1

Replace dropped feeds with first infant formula. Babies under 6 months will need to be bottle fed. Babies older than 6 months can have their feed in a beaker or cup.

Babies 1 year and older

As long as your baby is having a well-balanced diet, they will not need a replacement feed.

For confidential breastfeeding information and support, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212. Lines are open 9:30am to 9:30pm every day.

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