Breastfeeding and Milk Supply

Breastfeeding and Milk Supply

Why do some mothers seem to be overflowing with milk and others barely keep up with their babies? The answer to that question remains a mystery. We do know, however, which practices enhance milk production and which may decrease milk supply.

Newborns need to eat frequently. All that early suckling before your milk “comes in” helps set the tone for later milk production. Think of it as your baby placing an order to be filled at a later date. On the other hand, restricting breastfeeding in the first few days may lead to decreased milk production overall. Your newborn may want to breastfeed almost constantly—especially the second 24 hours of life. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have enough milk! This is normal behavior and it encourages your milk production to ramp up quickly. Giving formula at this time may thwart your baby’s efforts.

You’ve probably heard that milk production is based on supply and demand. That means that the more milk that is removed from your breasts, the more milk you will produce. If more milk is consistently removed from your right breast, your right breast will consistently make more milk than your left. If baby regularly sleeps from 10 pm to 4 am, but breastfeeds every two hours during the day, you will eventually have less milk in the middle of the night than during the day. If your baby has fallen into a similar pattern and is gaining weight well and seems satisfied, you have nothing to worry about. Extending time between feedings is normal once breastfeeding is well-established.

How do your breasts know that your baby is growing and needs more milk? Very simply: the baby asks for it! Your baby will breastfeed more frequently when he needs more milk. Resist the temptation to give a bottle of formula at this time! After a few days of more frequent eating, your breasts catch up and all is well. When your baby gets older and doesn’t need to breastfeed as often, your milk supply will naturally decrease according to his needs.

So let your baby be your guide!