Q & A: Why does my milk supply change?

There’s something magical about gazing down at your baby while they’re breastfeeding, the gentle guzzling noises, those sleepy, milk-drunk eyes – bliss!

But breastfeeding can also be mysterious.

We had a chat to Melbourne lactation consultant Susan Shaw to find out how to tell if baby is feeding enough, and why our milk supply changes over the first few weeks.

Q. Is it normal for breast milk supply to change as babies grow?

In the first few days after birth, breast milk supply is under hormonal control and doesn’t start out as a supply and demand process. This stage of lactation will occur whether a mother is breastfeeding her baby or not.

  • 30-40 hours after birth when the ‘milk comes in’, milk production then depends upon milk being regularly removed from the breast, from either a baby or a pump, to continue the milk production.
  • Frequent removal of breast milk is the main control mechanism for breast milk supply.
  • If a baby is sleepy and not draining the breast well, the milk will accumulate and only what is removed by baby will be replenished.
  • Supply equals demand, so milk removal is driven by the babies appetite.

Supply and demand

how to boost breast milk supply

Supply and demand usually balances out by six weeks, and if baby continues to feed on demand, draining the breasts as efficiently as he/she can, milk will continue to be produced meeting babies growing needs.

Interesting breastfeeding facts pullout

Breasts are never empty

how to increase breast milk supply

The breast is never empty. Breastmilk is being produced at all times and we now know that babies only take 75-80 per cent of the milk available to them each feed. It’s their appetite that controls the amount of breastmilk removed, and it varies from feed to feed.

  • A mother with larger milk storage capacity may be able to go longer between feeds and not have an impact on baby’s growth or milk supply.
  • A mother with a smaller breast milk storage capacity will need to breastfeed her baby frequently to be able to satisfy her babies needs and maintain her milk supply.
  • Not every baby will feed the same or to any routine.
  • Exclusively breastfed babies (if efficient) will increase mothers milk supply, feeding frequently in first few weeks.
  • Breast milk volume stays the same between one to six months (apart from growth spurt times).

Q. How do you know if bub is getting enough milk?

These are the signs indicative of a baby getting enough milk:

  • Feeding at least six to eight times a day
  • Between one to 7-week-old’s will feed two to three hourly, 6-12 times a day
  • Baby is alert when awake and reasonably contented and demanding feeds every two to four hourly
  • Healthy skin colour and good muscle tone
  • After day five baby has at least five to six heavy wet nappies every 24 hours
  • Urine should be pale in colour and odourless
  • Breastfeeds can take up to an hour in the early days, but NOT constantly wanting to feed every hour, or feeding consistently longer than the hour
  • Nipple appears same shape, no compression stripes after a feed
  • Breasts are lighter and softening after feeds
  • Baby has a deep latch, and actually swallowing while feeding after your milk comes in, especially with let downs
  • Baby continues to gain weight after regaining birth weight around two weeks

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