Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and Demand_KH_Parent

Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and Demand

Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned parenting pro, breastfeeding often comes with its fair share of questions. Here are answers to some common questions that mothers — new and veteran — may have.

How can I increase my milk supply?

Your milk supply is determined by the stimulation that your baby provides while nursing. In other words, the more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces. So, if you seem to be producing less milk than usual, you should simply try to feed your baby more often.

Stress or illness can temporarily decrease your supply. Drinking lots of water and eating good, nutritious food can help. But also try to take some time for yourself each day, even if it's only for 15 to 30 minutes.

If your baby is less than 6 months old and you're away from your little one for long stretches during the day (for instance, at work), you may pump about every 3 hours to maintain your supply. If necessary, you can store breast milk in the freezer for 3-6 months. Make sure to put it in the freezer compartment of your fridge that has a separate suction-sealed door.

If your milk supply still seems low and you're concerned, you may want to talk to your doctor, your pediatrician, or a lactation consultant.

If I wait to nurse, will my milk supply increase?

Actually, no — it's the opposite. Waiting too long to nurse or pump can slowly reduce your milk supply. The more you delay nursing or pumping, the less milk your body will produce because the overfilled breast sends the signal that you must need less milk.

However, that doesn't mean that letting your baby sleep through the night (usually around 3 months old) is going to hurt your breastfeeding efforts. That just means that your body will cut back on the number of feedings, which is fine because your baby no longer needs to be fed all night long anyway. Cutting back on feedings during the day, though, can lead to a decreased milk supply over time.

I'm producing too much milk. What can I do?

Whereas some women may feel like they don't have enough milk, others may feel like they're making too much. Some mothers' bodies just produce more milk than their babies need. Others overstimulate their breasts by pumping or expressing milk in between feedings. If expressing or  pumping to relieve discomfort, stick to 20-30 seconds or less.

Sometimes nursing on one breast only during a feeding helps to lesson your milk supply. Over time, you should notice your milk supply and "let-down" (the milk ejection reflex) become easier to handle.

Sometimes a woman's let-down is really strong and causes the milk to shoot out into her baby's mouth, causing choking. You can avoid this by gently breaking the suction when your milk starts to let down, letting it spray into a towel, and then latch your baby back onto your breast again once your milk flow has slowed. Nursing your baby in a more upright position (head above the breast) also may decrease the force of the let-down.

My baby favors just one breast. Is this OK?

Some babies may prefer one breast — maybe your nipple or areola is larger on one side. But to keep up your milk supply in both breasts — and prevent painful engorgement in one — it's important to alternate breasts and try to give each one the same amount of nursing time throughout the day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends offering both breasts during each feeding for as long as infant remains on the breast and alternating which breast you offer first for each feeding.

Some lactation specialists recommend nursing on one breast per feeding and switching breasts from one feed to the next, especially if oversupply is a problem. This allows a baby to drink more from a single breast and get the hind-milk, which is creamier and contains more calories than the foremilk, which comes at the beginning of a feeding.

If your baby doesn't take one breast at all during a feeding, just make sure to start the next feeding with that breast. As long your baby is doing well and you're comfortable, that's all that matters.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2009

Related Sites

American Dietetic Association
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
La Leche League
American Academy of Family Physicians

Related Articles

Nursing Positions
Breastfeeding FAQs: Getting Started
Breastfeeding FAQs: Some Common Concerns
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding
Burping Your Baby