Is there any way to increase my milk supply before giving birth?

This is a question that occurred to me during my third pregnancy.  By this time, I was determined to make as much as milk as possible, not just so that I could ensure an adequate stash for when I went back to work, but also so that I would have leeway for a supply drop in case I got sick or had to take milk-reducing medication. I had also gotten used to donating excess milk to needy babies since my first child, and I was hopeful that I could do it again.

The reason why the issue even came up is because I heard from OB-GYN and Pediatrician friends that they sometimes recommended giving malunggay (Moringa) capsules to their pregnant patients BEFORE they gave birth, as this could lead to a more robust milk production. I didn’t even know that this was possible, so I started taking the supplement from my 35th week onward.  I was also curious to know what else I could do to give my supply a head start, and although I could find little hard evidence in the internet beyond the anecdotal, I came up with the following recommendations, which are at least logical and sensible:

  1. Check beforehand if you have any conditions that can predispose you to a low milk supply, such as hormonal imbalances, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), previous breast surgery, or minimal breast growth during pregnancy.  If you are aware of a problem, then you can at least search for a solution preemptively.
  2. Drink lots of water. This is particularly relevant in the Philippines, where the weather is notoriously hot and humid. Breastmilk is 88% water, so you can’t make a lot if you are not properly hydrated in the first place.
  3. Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables and traditionally lactogenic foods such as oatmeal, barley, almonds, leafy greens, flaxseed, avocadoes, etc.
  4. Don’t smoke. Smoking may be linked to lower milk production, lower levels of prolactin (the milk-making hormone), and inhibition of the letdown reflex.
  5. Don’t drink alcohol. If you are pregnant, you should not be drinking in the first place; however, for those who are, alcohol has also been linked to decreased milk production and inhibited letdown.
  6. Limit caffeine to no more than 200 mg/day (one 12-oz cup of coffee). Caffeine is a known diuretic, and thus can dehydrate you, eventually leading to a decreased milk supply. However, there is no evidence that caffeine can directly lead to decreased production.  In fact, there is even one study (Nehlig & Debry, 1994) that suggests that caffeine can INCREASE milk production.  However, caffeine should be moderated during pregnancy.
  7. Take 2 malunggay capsules 3x/day every day starting 3-4 weeks before your due date. There was a small study study done on near-term (35 weeks AOG or more) and nursing patients in the Ospital of Makati that showed that those who took malunggay supplements produced a greater volume of milk earlier compared to the control (placebo) group. Just check with your OB-GYN first to make sure that she approves.
  8. Attend a few prenatal breastfeeding classes! An informed Mom is an empowered Mom!

This was me 1 day before giving birth at 40 weeks AOG.

What other advice do you know of to increase your milk supply before delivery?

References:

  1. Sunnybump
  2. The Healthy Home Economist 
  3. The Asian Parent
  4. Rehydrate.org
  5. Kellymom
  6. breastfeeding-problems.com

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