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Getting a hang of breastfeeding is a challenge in itself, but after you master the logistics of how to breastfeed, you may be left wondering if you are making enough to support your growing baby. The truth is this: Your body knows just how much milk to make for your baby. And if you’re concerned about your output, there are some things you can do.
Plenty of studies have proven that the amount of milk you produce depends on your baby’s demands, rather than your body’s own lactation capacity. And in turn, your baby’s demands depend on age, rate of weight gain, and ability to feed efficiently. Read on to see how milk supply changes as your baby ages.
The first month of breastfeeding can be the most stressful and demanding time. If you are exclusively breastfeeding you will likely feel like you are breastfeeding around the clock. The first month is critical in establishing your milk supply, but be assured that it will get much easier after this.
The first substance your breasts will make is colostrum. While colostrum looks a bit like breast milk, it’s thicker and more concentrated. Colostrum helps your baby build their immune system in the first few days after birth. It’s normal to only make 1-4 teaspoons of colostrum a day, which is plenty for your baby. After all, babies have tiny stomachs at first. It is also normal for a baby to lose on average 7% of their birth weight in the first week after birth, so don’t be alarmed and think you are not producing enough.
At 3-5 days after birth your transitional milk comes in and you will notice your breast become more engorged as your milk production increases. In these first weeks, nurse each time your baby exhibits hunger cues, which is typically 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. During each feed, allow your baby to take as much milk as they want from one side. When the first breast is empty, offer your other breast and allow them to feed for as long as they want. Keep track of what breast your baby started with and alternate each session.
Babies with adequate breastmilk intake will be gaining weight, urinating at least 6 to 8 times per day and having three or more stools per day. A growth spurt is common between two to four weeks, so it is normal to notice your baby feeding more frequently during these weeks.
If your baby is in the NICU or you are unable to breastfeed during this time, you can consult these pumping schedules to get more information about how frequently you should be pumping.
As your baby continues to grow, so will the size of their appetites. After 1 month of age, babies consume on average 25 oz of breastmilk per day. Nursing sessions will likely become more spaced and/or shorter as your baby is becoming more efficient at breastfeeding and is able to get out more milk with each session. You may also notice your breasts feel less full or firm, you stop leaking, and feeling let-down. All these changes are not a sign of a supply issue, but rather normal changes as you adjust to the amount your baby needs. By 40 days after birth is when your milk supply levels off and becomes established.
After the first one to two months you may want to start pumping, either because you are returning to work, or are going to be away from your baby for longer periods of time. Pumping sessions can be first added between or after feeding sessions. If you continue to breastfeed your baby regularly, it is normal to get out 0.5 to 2oz per pumping session. Don’t get discouraged if it takes two pumping sessions to get enough milk for one feeding session.
If you start pumping in replacement of nursing sessions, the amount you are able to pump increases. For example if you return to work and are pumping during the day and breastfeeding at night, expect to get 2 to 4oz with each pumping session. If you increase the frequency of pumping sessions during the day you can start producing extra milk for the freezer stash (more on this below).
When you introduce solids, breast milk still remains the most important source of calories and nutrition until your baby is 8 to 9 months old. After that, once their solid food intake increases, breastfeeding may space to 4 to 5 times per day and by 12 months your baby may be feeding from 2 to 6 times per day.
Your body will continue to make breast milk as long as you choose to breastfeed your baby. When it comes time to wean, previous studies show it could take 5-7 days for your breast milk to “dry up”.
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Want to start building your stash? Storing breast milk in your freezer makes it easy to breastfeed when sending your baby to daycare or when you need to travel away from your little one.
Or, maybe you feel like your breast milk supply is low and you want to take the necessary steps to increase it. Wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey, there are some great ways to increase your supply for your baby:
Pump after nursing: It can take 10-20 minutes on each breast to empty them of milk during each breastfeeding session. If your baby struggles to suck any longer, try pumping to increase feeding times. This can signal your body to make more milk. Your breast should be lighter or empty after each session.
Make sure your baby has a good latch: A good latch is important for ensuring your body is making enough to fill your baby’s tummy. Your baby’s mouth should be wide open around your areola. The latch should also be pain-free for you.
Pump between breastfeeding sessions: Even if you’re breastfeeding, pumping alongside nursing can increase your supply. Try pumping between each breastfeeding session or try power-pumping, where you pump off and on for an hour or so each day for a few days.
Drink more water: Did you know that breast milk is mostly water? This means that your body is using a ton of water to make the amount of milk your growing baby needs. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day to boost your supply. We recommend keeping a water bottle with you at all times.
Add breast massage and hand expression: Hand expression at the beginning and end of the pumping session can help you more fully empty your breast. Massaging your breast before and during the pumping session can also help with effective breast emptying.
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One of the best ways to ease your mind about your milk supply is to reach out for help. Speaking to your baby’s pediatrician or your OB/GYN is a great place to start. They may be able to get you in contact with a lactation consultant near you. Early signs you may need help with your milk supply include:
You can also reach out to your local La Leche League to get in contact with support. Or, check online for breastfeeding and pumping support groups in your area to speak with mamas just like you. If you enjoy reading, there are plenty of books about breastfeeding and pumping you might also love.
Willow is also here to be a source of support and encouragement for when the going gets tough. We’ve got plenty of helpful resources you can check out now via our blog. Or, go ahead and take your pumping experience to the next level with a Willow pump.
Dr. Michele Torosis is a Stanford University-trained Obstetrician and Gynecologist. She is currently completing her fellowship in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at UCLA, where she is receiving advanced training on pelvic floor disorders. She has a special interest in postpartum pelvic floor dysfunction including obstetric-related trauma. Dr. Torosis attended the University of California, Irvine for medical school and Duke University for her undergraduate education, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering.
Prior to completing medical school, Dr. Torosis was involved in the early stages of Willow's product development. She worked one on one with new moms for Willow's first-in-woman clinical trial and assisted with early device prototyping. Through her practice, she has remained passionate about improving the breastfeeding experiencefor all women.
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