- To help ensure you have enough breast milk, pump 8-10 times daily for the first 3 weeks after birth.
- Empty your breasts at each feeding or pumping, otherwise, you may start to produce less milk.
- The average 3-week-old baby needs 15-25 ounces of breast milk daily and 25-35 ounces by 1 month.
Worrying about low milk supply is common in the first few weeks after giving birth. And while many women will settle into a routine where supply and demand is not an issue, some will struggle to produce enough milk throughout their breastfeeding experience.
The good news? There are plenty of ways to increase your milk supply.
Every woman will have a different amount of breast milk
"The determination of how much a mother will have is very dependent on their body, the baby, and the practices she uses right after the baby is born to get her milk production going and set her supply," she says.
In general, a two-to-three week old baby will be taking in about 15 to 25 ounces of breast milk daily. This increases to 25 to 35 ounces per day by the end of the first month.
"The best way to tell if you're making enough milk is if your baby is growing, gaining weight, and seems satisfied after breastfeeding," says Jessica Madden, MD, pediatrician and neonatologist and medical director of Aeroflow Breastpumps.
Ways to increase your milk supply
Prolactin, the hormone needed to make milk, increases immediately after you give birth. You continue to produce it in response to breastfeeding. But, as the saying goes, if you don't use it, you lose it.
If you don't start breastfeeding within the first month after giving birth, your prolactin levels will return to what they were before you were pregnant and you'll have a hard time producing any milk after that point.
"Therefore, the best way to increase prolactin after birth is frequent breastfeeding or pumping sessions for at least 8 to 10 sessions per day in the first few weeks after birth," says Madden.
Madden also recommends to:
- Empty your breasts at each feeding. Breast milk contains a natural ingredient that prevents your body from lactating. That's why it's important to empty your breasts of milk at each feeding because it gives your body the green light to produce more milk.
- Check with a lactation consultant to make sure your baby's latch is good. When your baby suckles, your body releases the hormone, oxytocin, which triggers your breasts to release the milk. But if your baby isn't latching on and suckling correctly, it might leave too much leftover milk in your breasts, which can prevent you from producing more for the next feeding.
- Ensure that your pumping technique is correct. This will make sure you empty your breasts, giving your body the green light to make more.
Some women use herbs like fenugreek, goat's rue, milk thistle, alfalfa, and blessed thistle helpful to increase supply. In general, the side effects are minimal, but there is also limited evidence for how effective they truly are. Therefore, talk to your doctor or a lactation specialist before taking any supplements.
Prescription medications may also help increase milk supply, but Madden says these should only be considered if all other methods failed. Both domperidone and metoclopramide are prescribed for other conditions, but one of the side effects is an increase in milk supply. However, how effective these medications are at increasing breast milk is still up for debate. Moreover, they've been known to increase a person's risk of depression, which is especially a concern for women who have recently given birth.
Some women don't produce enough breast milk
Whether it's an initial dip in supply or a long-term problem, not producing enough milk can happen for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the more common causes.
- Difficulties with latch that leads to poor milk removal
- Using a nipple shield
- Significant tongue-tie, a condition babies can have that prevents them from latching correctly
- A baby that is too sleepy and doesn't breastfeed often enough (common in premies)
- Not feeding your newborn frequently enough
- Putting your baby on a strict feeding schedule
- Lifestyle factors like stress, insufficient calories, lack of sleep, and poor hydration
- Breast surgery, like for breast implants
There is no right or wrong amount of breast milk you should produce. It's important to stress that every person produces a slightly different amount, and if you don't produce enough, there are other ways to ensure your baby is getting enough nutrition.
For example, if you're producing some milk but not enough, you can continue to feed your baby at the breast and supplement with pumped milk, formula, or donated breast milk. But most importantly, you need to do what's best for you.