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Is There a Magic Number for Milk Supply?

  • Category: Baby, Women's Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Erin Michel, Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Is There a Magic Number for Milk Supply?

It’s totally normal as a new breastfeeding mom to wonder if you’ll produce enough milk to keep your baby happy and healthy. And if you pump, that coveted milk supply – and worrying about too many or not enough ounces -- can be all-consuming.

Lactation supplements, from pills and powders to tea and cookies, create an enticing pull to “boost your supply.” Seeing other moms with overflowing freezers of breastmilk makes you wonder if you’re doing something wrong. And with baby aisles filled with 8 oz.-bottles, of course you want to be able to fill them up!

One of the most common reasons mom throw in the towel on breastfeeding is because of low milk supply, but what is the “right” milk supply? To start, note that milk production usually peaks around 30-40 days postpartum, so give your body time to get up to speed! If you are going back to work and transitioning to primarily pumping, know that lower pump output doesn’t necessarily match up with the amount your body is making. Some women respond better to pumps than others, and pumps don’t remove all the milk from your breasts in the same way a nursing baby does.

If you are exclusively pumping, you will likely see about 2-4 ounces from pumping every 2-3 hours. (that’s from both sides). Though many women may have double the output, these ranges are considered normal. That means your baby is designed to take in about 3-4 ounces every 2-3 hours. But, babies are not cookie cutters, so follow your baby’s lead if there is any concern they aren’t getting enough milk. Note that you may also pump different amounts depending on the time of day. For example, you may pump more in the morning, which is one reason why younger babies tend to cluster feed in the evenings.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Don’t assume something is off with your milk supply if your baby is fussy or has an off day/week. They could be going through a growth spurt and want to eat more. It could also be the typical “witching hour” behavior, especially in the evening when milk supply is naturally lower, and baby is more likely to be overstimulated.

When your breasts stop leaking or feel softer, it doesn’t necessarily mean you now have a low milk supply. Around 6-8 weeks postpartum, your breasts will no longer have all the excess lymph and blood flow they had in the early days, so they’ll feel softer. If you did experience leaking (not all moms do) those instances usually decrease as your body fully adjusts to breastfeeding.

Consider keeping that overnight feeding or pumping. Despite the pressure to get your baby to sleep through the night as young as possible, continuing to breastfeed/pump at night can make it is easier to keep your long-term milk production stable.

Watch for block feeding. Offering only one breast per feeding, also called block feeding, is OK occasionally, but if you’re trying to increase your supply or are worried about your baby not gaining weight, it’s important to offer both breasts at each feeding. And pumping both breasts at the same time helps keep a good milk supply.

Of course there is a small percentage of moms who can’t make a full milk supply, and that’s ok. It’s important to follow your baby’s lead and reach out to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you have concerns with your baby’s weight gain and/or diaper output (after the first week that should be 6-8 wet diapers per 24 hours). You may need to try a hospital grade pump, switch up your pumping schedule, or even supplement while you work to build your milk supply.

Everett J. Bonner

Erin Michel, MSN, BSN, WHNP, IBCLC
Baton Rouge General Physician - Obstetrics & Gynocology

Phone: (225) 237-1880