Breastfeeding Supply: Let’s Talk About It!

With breastfeeding there is so much to learn. It might feel like there are endless questions when you start, but by the end both you and your baby will be an expert! To help you get ahead of the curve, we want to chat about some frequently asked questions. You may have heard the phrases “supply” or “milk coming in” but what do these really mean? What is a good amount of milk to be producing? As with so many things with parenting, every mother and baby are different. When it comes to breastfeeding, there is no perfect formula (pun intended). Let’s chat about how much is common to be produced in different stages of breastfeeding. 

What does getting your supply look like…?

There are a lot of misconceptions about how much milk you actually produce, especially in the beginning of breastfeeding. For the first few days of breastfeeding, a pre-milk substance called colostrum is produced. This is nutrient packed and helps to support your baby’s immune system, as well as helping them learn to nurse since the flow of colostrum is slower.  On the first day of breastfeeding, babies only consume about a half ounce of colostrum per feeding. By the time you’ve been feeding for 72 hours, they drink an average of one ounce per feeding. This may not feel like a lot and some women are concerned about the amount of milk produced, but this is very common! There is a broad range of what is normal for each mom and baby, so don’t be afraid to ask a certified lactation consultant or your physician if you have any concerns! 

After about three or four days, your production will transition from colostrum to breast milk. Your breasts will start to feel firmer and the look and texture of the milk will change. It may take longer for mature milk to come in, and that is okay! Every mama is different so it is important to pay attention to weight changes in your baby to make sure they’re getting enough nutrition. Supplementing with formula during this time is quite common in order for your little one to get back up to their birth weight. If you are concerned about your baby’s weight, pediatricians and ICBLCs are available to create plans that let you know when the right time to supplement with formula is. 

What comes next …?

For the first few weeks of your baby’s life, they will feed “on demand”. Whenever they are hungry, which is about every 90 minutes to 3 hours, they will be ready to nurse. While this can be exhausting on parents, it’s a great sign that they’re getting enough nutrition if they eat between 8 and 12 times a day. In this time, your breastfeeding supply may still seem low. The 8 oz bottles that you pump in are quite misleading, and it’s normal to be pumping around 2-3 oz per feed. Studies have shown that there is a ton of variability when it comes to how much milk mom’s produce! During the first few months it can be anywhere between 1.9 oz to 8.2 oz. Your body is incredible and it will listen to your baby’s signals, producing the right amount to keep them fed! 

Breastfeeding supply is different for every mom, and it can even be different from your first baby to your next. Having conversations with your physician, an IBCLC, and your baby’s pediatrician is important if you have any concerns. 

Resources

  1. Richardson, J. H. (Ed.). (2019, November). Breastfeeding FAQs: Getting Started (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-starting.html#:~:text=The%20flow%20of%20colostrum%20is,from%20colostrum%20to%20mature%20milk. 
  2. Littleton, K. (Ed.). (2019, November). Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html. 
  3. AG, M. (2020, July 9). What’s ‘normal’ when it comes to breastfeeding? Medela. https://www.medela.com/breastfeeding/mums-journey/normal-breastfeeding. 

Claire Dowell