Making Milk -- A Mother’s Guide to Managing Milk Supply

mother breastfeeding baby

As a lactation consultant, one of the most common worries I hear mothers express is a concern about their milk supply being too low or too high. When I was a new mother, I had these worries too. If you are experiencing concerns about milk production or infant growth, it’s very important to seek out skilled help from an experienced lactation consultant as well as working hand-in-hand with your baby’s pediatrician. This blog includes some general tips as a starting point for managing your milk production.

If you need further help, please call (805) 737-5712 to set up an individual lactation appointment or plan to attend the breastfeeding support group from 10 to 11 am on June 28 at Lompoc Valley Medical Center.

1.   Know What’s Normal

Although every baby and mother are perfectly unique, there are some values in terms of milk production that can be helpful to understand. Many mothers are surprised to find out that the average milk production in 24 hours is 25-27 ounces of breast milk. That equates to producing about an ounce of milk per hour. This amount stays relatively stable after the first six weeks (when milk supply is still being established) until baby gradually begins to consume more solids at about 1 year of age. Unlike formula feeding, breast milk production doesn’t increase as time goes on, but the components of breast milk change to meet your baby’s unique growth and developmental needs.

2.   Don’t Judge Your Milk Supply by Pumping Output

Babies are generally much more efficient than a breast pump (even a really good one) at removing milk from and some mothers may not respond well to pumping. Generally, mothers can express one-half an ounce to 2 ounces from both breasts combined if pumping occurs in between breastfeeding and 2-4 ounces from both breasts combined if pumping in place of breastfeeding. It’s not unusual to feel like you have to pump multiple times to get enough milk for one feeding, particularly if you are pumping in between breastfeeding your baby on demand. Your baby’s weight gain, diaper output, growth, and development are much better indicators of your milk supply than how much you can pump. If you have concerns about your infant’s growth, seek help from your pediatrician and an experienced lactation consultant.

3.   Breast Milk Production Works on Supply and Demand

There is no way around this -- making milk requires frequent emptying of your breasts. For most mothers, a minimum of 8 times per day of breastfeeding or pumping is required to maintain milk production. However, many babies will eat more frequently, or close to 10-12 times per day. There are many products available that claim to increase milk production and some may be beneficial. But no pill, tea, or cookie will be effective without frequent, effective emptying of your breasts.

4.   Some Mothers Produce More Milk than their Babies Need, Especially in the Beginning

Some mothers will produce too much milk, especially during the first six weeks of breastfeeding. By six weeks, many mothers notice that their milk supply has leveled out and their breasts no longer feel ‘overfull’ in between breastfeeding. For some moms, however, it can take 4-6 months to regulate milk supply. If you feel like you have too much milk and the baby is choking and gasping during feedings, try expressing a little milk before baby goes to the breast. You can also try taking baby off and letting your milk spray into a towel during the initial milk let down. You can try breastfeeding positions that put the baby more upright, such as laid-back breastfeeding or nursing in a side-lying position to slow the flow of milk. If you are uncomfortably full after breastfeeding, you can use your hands or a pump to express just enough milk for comfort. You should know, however, that pumping too frequently or for too long can make oversupply problems worse. If you are having difficulty breastfeeding due to a high supply, seek one-on-one help from a lactation consultant to discuss strategies to manage your production.

During the Breastfeeding Mothers Support Group on June 28, we’ll discuss tips for milk production. Come also for the friendship and support from other nursing mothers.

For an individual lactation appointment, call (805) 737-5712.

 

About the Author

Author: Haley Hayes, RN, Lactation Coordinator

Haley S. Hays graduated from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 2007. She has spent the past 12 years working as a maternity nurse in a variety of settings. In 2011 Haley became certified as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. She currently coordinates the lactation program at LVMC.

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