The Magic of Skin to Skin: How to increase your milk supply

By Carey Haupt RD(SA) SACLC
Created: 1 April, 2019

After scrolling through Facebook and reading a few breastfeeding and other parenting blogs, I realized that there are many mothers that are desperate to increase their milk supply. Moms are either unsure that they have enough milk for their baby, want to start storing milk for when they go back to work or their baby is not gaining weight sufficiently and they need to increase their milk supply. This is made even more obvious by the increase in milk increasing products on the market. There are special teas and mixtures, cookies, snack bars and herbal supplements. Many of the product have not really been tested to see how effective they are but they are still very popular.

I am sure you have heard of supply and demand. Which means that the more you breastfeed, stimulate, express or empty your breasts, the more milk you will make. For example, when Mothers need to increase their milk supply while pumping some Mothers use power pumping. This is based on the principle of emptying the breast often in 60 minutes and repeating the process for 3 days. This method imitates a baby going through a growth spurt which helps the Mom to increase her milk supply. 

Skin to skin is also a wonderful way to increase your milk supply. It is when you place your baby with just a nappy onto your bare chest. Depending on the room temperature you can cover your baby with a warm blanket or a thin muslin cloth. While on your bare chest your baby can fall asleep, listen to your heart and breathing, while you also rest or read a book. It really is amazing that when a baby’s placed in this position your hormones respond and start to increase your breast milk. Some mothers can feel the tinging as soon as the baby is placed onto their chest. (Don’t worry if you don’t feel the tingling some mothers don’t feel it).

When should I do skin to skin?

Skin to skin is fantastic and should always happen directly after birth. This allows your baby to catch her breath, rest and connect with you before she starts to breast feed. This time is called the golden hour where Mommy and Daddy can get to spend time with their baby.

Skin to skin is not just for a birth, it can and should be repeated as often as you can with your baby. It helps you to increase your milk, allows your infant to find your breasts easily, calms your baby if she is distressed and allows you to have some down time. It is so effective at calming a crying baby is has become known as the reboot position. Skin to skin can be practiced with your infant when ever they are not well need additional comfort and you can continue to practice skin to skin for as long as you feel comfortable. You may even find that your child responds to settling in your arms with a hug when they are school going age. The recommendation is to do skin to skin for an uninterrupted 60 minutes a day for at least 12 weeks. There is no limitation on how long you practice skin to skin.

Mothers are not the only ones that can do skin to skin with their baby. Fathers can also be encouraged have skin to skin with their baby. It won’t help them with any milk supply but it does help them to bond and calm their baby. A nice time for fathers to practice skin to skin, is afterbirth if the Mother has had a C-section and is needing extra time for recovery. A baby will know the voice of his Dad and respond to him and also feel comforted by his Father’s touch.

“Skin to Skin is for all babies.

Prem, Full term & Older”

What else does skin to skin do?

Not only can skin to skin help you with your milk supply but it can also help to regulate your baby’s temperature. Your breasts can increase or decrease their temperature according to your baby’s needs. Through research it has been confirmed that if a Mother of twin babies has a cold and a warm baby and she does skin to skin with both babies at the same time. Her one breast will warm the cold baby while her other breast will cool the warner baby. It really is amazing how in tuned our bodies are with our babies without us even knowing it.

How does skin to skin work?

So how does skin to skin increase your milk supply? It just does not sound possible? In practice when you hold your baby, smell your baby, see and hear your baby and your body responds by making oxytocin. This is why Mothers may leak when they hear another baby cry at the shops. Oxytocin is the love and bonding hormone that is responsible for your milk let down. So by holding your baby as close as you can with both your skins touching you are maximizing the response from your body and the amount of oxytocin in your body and thus making more milk. I would also imagine the quiet time, being still and just enjoying your baby by getting out of the hustle and bustle of daily life with a new born baby also helps you to relax and replenish yourself. This too is good for breast feeding and milk supply.

I think the part that I like the most about skin to skin is that there is no monetary cost. You don’t have to go to the shops to buy it or wait for an online delivery. You can start with skin to skin immediately and use the time to bond with your baby. I know how important time is to a Mother of a new born. There are so many things that need to be done. With skin to skin you know you are helping to increase your milk supply while taking care, loving, bonding with your baby and while also practicing some self-care that is so needed during this time.