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Breastfeeding and Your Milk Supply

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Breastfeeding and Your Milk Supply

Overview

A number of things affect how much milk your breasts make (your milk supply). The two most important things are how often you breastfeed and how well your breast is emptied. Breastfeeding stimulates the hormone that prepares your breasts to make milk (prolactin). So the more often you feed your baby and empty your breasts, the more milk your body makes.

Breast milk changes over time with a baby's nutritional needs.

  • Colostrum. Your breasts make this thick, sticky, yellow liquid toward the end of pregnancy and in the first days after childbirth. This liquid contains protein, minerals, vitamins, and antibodies.
  • Transitional milk. This breast milk comes in about 3 to 6 days after your baby is born. It's high in protein.
  • Mature milk. This breast milk comes in about 10 to 15 days after your baby is born. It has more fat and less protein than transitional milk.

Low milk supply

It's common to worry about not making enough milk. But low milk supply is rare. It may take time for your milk supply to get going. If you don't think your baby is getting enough milk, try breastfeeding more often. If this doesn't help, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. If you have a problem with your milk supply, they can help you solve it.

Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal remedies or medicines to increase your milk supply. The effects of herbal remedies and some medicines on milk supply haven't been well studied. They may have side effects.

Building your milk supply

Follow these tips to help build and maintain your milk supply.

  • Breastfeed your baby whenever your baby is hungry.

    In the first 2 weeks, your baby will breastfeed at least 8 times in a 24-hour period. This will help you keep up your supply of milk.

  • Breastfeed for a longer period at each feeding.
  • Feed your baby on one breast until it is empty.

    Then switch to the other breast. It's best to switch which breast you start with each time.

  • Get your baby latched on well.

    Touch your baby's lower lip to get your baby's mouth to open. Wait until your baby opens up really wide, like a big yawn. Then bring the baby quickly to your breast—not your breast to the baby.

  • Focus on being comfortable and relaxed at each feeding.

    This will help improve your let-down reflex.

  • Avoid tobacco, certain medicines, and too much alcohol.

    Talk to your doctor before you take any medicines.

  • Avoid bottle-feeding your baby until your milk supply is well established.

    Experts recommend waiting about a month until breastfeeding is going well before offering a bottle.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: July 11, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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