4 Things You Need to Know About Milk Supply

Establishing and maintaining an ample milk supply is easy, as long as you understand how the milk supply is regulated.  Mom’s ability to produce breastmilk in just the right quantity for her baby is one of nature’s most perfect examples of the law of supply and demand. 


#1:  The Key To Milk Supply

The more the baby nurses, the more milk there will be. This is the key to an abundant milk supply and a contented baby. Milk is produced almost continuously, and the more often the baby nurses (removes milk from the breast), the more milk the body will make.  When milk is not removed, a signal is sent to the body to produce less milk.  If this continues, the body will stop making milk altogether.  


#2:  Establishing Your Milk Supply

Nursing early and often is one of the most important factors in getting your milk supply off to a good start. Breastfeeding should be initiated with one hour of Baby’s birth, and on demand from that point forward.  Mothers who are permitted to nurse their babies at frequent, unrestricted intervals following birth are more likely to have a good milk supply.  If mother and baby are separated, it’s important to remove milk from the breast regularly.  (This milk can be given to baby rather than formula.)  Mother can remove milk with a breast pump or by hand.  (Click here for more on hand expressing milk.)

In Colorado?  Sign up for a Bradley Method Class or Breastfeeding Class!

#3:  Maintaining Your Milk Supply

Newborns usually nurse about every two hours, or at least 8-12 times per day. This frequent nursing provides a wonderful source of comfort as well as nutrition for the newborn, and helps assure that the mother’s milk supply will quickly become well established.  If you find that your baby regularly sleeps more than three hours between feedings, s/he may need to be awakened for feedings at least every two hours during the day until your milk supply is well established.

Allow the baby to nurse as long as s/he seems interested, right from the start. Mothers are sometimes advised to limit nursing to five minutes or less during the first week, but a baby needs to nurse long enough to get the hindmilk (the milk that comes toward the end of a feeding that is rich, creamy, and high in calories) which can take longer than 5 minutes.  Offer both breasts at each feeding, especially in the early weeks. 

Continue to nurse as often as your baby indicates the need. Keep in mind that since human milk is perfectly suited to your baby, it will be digested more rapidly and completely than cow’s milk (formula), so your breastfed baby will be ready to eat again sooner than his bottle-fed counterpart. 


#4:  Follow Your Baby’s Lead

Learn your baby’s hunger cues and nurse as soon as you think baby is hungry, even if they nursed a short while ago.  Growth spurts or frequency days occur from time to time as the baby goes through a period of rapid growth. Allowing Baby to nurse more often for two or three days will increase your milk supply to meet Baby’s needs.  Remember, newborns nurse for many reasons other than hunger. Your baby may be nursing often because he likes the feeling of security of the close body contact that comes with nursing, because he needs to satisfy his sucking need, or because he finds the sound of your heartbeat and the gentleness of your touch a great source of comfort as he adjusts to his new world.  You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby.  When in doubt, offer the breast.  


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