Frequently Asked Questions about Milk Production

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How does milk production change over the course of lactation?

For the first few days, up to and including the point at which mom’s milk “comes in,” milk production does not depend upon milk being removed from the breast. After those first few days, it is necessary for milk to be regularly removed from the breast (via baby or pump) to continue milk production. The breasts will begin to shut down milk production within several days if milk is not regularly and effectively removed.

Breastfeeding and Fertility

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How can I use breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy?

The Exclusive Breastfeeding method of birth control is also called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method of birth control, or LAM. Lactational amenorrhea refers to the natural postpartum infertility that occurs when a woman is not menstruating due to breastfeeding. Many mothers receive conflicting information on the subject of breastfeeding and fertility.

Getting Pregnant While Breastfeeding

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Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond, published by La Leche League International

So you’re breastfeeding and dreaming of a new baby? Good news! Lots of moms are able to conceive a new baby without having to wean their current nursling. Let’s look at seven of the most common questions.
1. Do I have to wean in order to get pregnant?

Let-down Reflex: Too slow?

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It is normal for let-down not to feel as strong as your baby gets older. Some mothers never feel let-down, and some stop feeling the let-down sensation as time goes by. This does not necessarily indicate that let-down is not taking place.

Increasing Low Milk Supply

Image credit: koadmunkee on flickr

First of all, is your milk supply really low? Often, mothers think that their milk supply is low when it really isn’t. If your baby is gaining weight well on breastmilk alone, then you do not have a problem with milk supply. It’s important to note that the feel of the breast, the behavior of your baby, the frequency of nursing, the sensation of let-down, or the amount you pump are not valid ways to determine if you have enough milk for your baby.

My breasts feel empty! Has my milk supply decreased?

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It is normal for a mother’s breasts to begin to feel less full, soft, even empty, after the first 6-12 weeks.

Many mothers have concerns about milk supply after the early weeks because they notice a drop in pumped amounts or they notice that their breasts feel “soft” or “empty”. It is normal for your breasts to feel mostly soft after the first weeks, although if there has been a long stretch without nursing or pumping they might feel a little full and heavy.

Lopsided! What can I do?

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Most women notice differences in milk supply, pumping output, milk flow and/or size between breasts. As with many other things (foot size, ring size, eyesight, etc.) asymmetry is normal in humans. In some women the difference between breasts is hardly noticeable; in others it is very noticeable. There is every variation in between. This is not…

Sore nipples and agitation during pregnancy

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Many mothers experience nipple soreness when breastfeeding during pregnancy. Others report feelings of restlessness and irritation while nursing. This varies widely from mother to mother and is due mainly to hormonal changes. Soreness may also be associated with decreased milk supply later into the pregnancy, latch issues, thrush, etc.

Breast comfort for mom during weaning

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Do not bind your breasts to help your milk “dry up.” This is an outdated practice that can cause plugged ducts, breast infection, or breast abscess.

If your breasts feel full and uncomfortable when you don’t nurse at a specific time, then express just enough milk to relieve the fullness….

Galactorrhea (unexpected milk production) and other nipple discharge

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Per Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (Riordan, 2004, p. 80), “Small amounts of milk or serous fluid are commonly expressed for weeks, months, or years from women who have previously been pregnant or lactating.” The amount is most often very small, however, and spontaneous flow (leaking) generally stops within 2-3 weeks. Mothers who have breastfed for a longer duration may be able to express milk for a longer time after weaning. Any stimulation, e.g. checking to see if milk is still there, frequent breast self-exams, friction from a bra , stimulation during intercourse, etc., can cause further production.

Engorgement

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It is normal for your breasts to become larger and feel heavy, warmer and uncomfortable when your milk increases in quantity (“comes in”) 2-6 days after birth. This rarely lasts more than 24 hours. With normal fullness, the breast and areola (the darker area around the nipple) remain soft and elastic, milk flow is normal and latch-on is not affected.