Milk supply in new mothers can vary significantly due to many different factors such as diet, age, body weight and even exercise. Moreover, milk supply can vary during the day as well as over months too. However, as long as you spent a lot of time with your baby, your milk supply will most of the time accommodate the baby’s feeding schedule.
Often, this happens with mothers who stay at home or are currently on maternity leave. But, for mothers who work and leave their child with family or daycare, this is not always true. Mothers that work often pump and store breast milk in the fridge to be warmed later hence any variation the output volume stresses them out even though it is completely natural.
Furthermore, breast pumps are not as effective as a baby and regardless of what model of breast pump you have, it is very likely that not all milk will get pumped out.
Table of Contents
- What is the Normal Output Volume?
- Why The Breast milk Supply is Larger during the First Few Weeks?
- Do Menstruation and Ovulation Affect the Milk Supply?
- What Factors Often Decrease the Production of Milk?
- Have You Started Feeding Solids to Your Baby?
- How to Increase Breast Milk Supply?
- Factors Affecting Amount Pumped?
What is the Normal Output Volume?
First off, all doctors cannot stress enough that there isn’t an exact output volume that mothers have to abide by. However, a healthy amount is considered anywhere between 1/7 ounces to full 2 ounces of milk from both breasts per milk pump.
Some mothers can pump, even more, however, they are likely to have an over supply of milk. Moreover, many mothers falsely believe that they should be pumping around 3 ounces of milk per pump but doctors disagree with this as a lot of milk will also be directly fed to your baby.
Also, remember that what you are pumping is considered to be the ‘extra’ milk that is left over after all the feeding sessions. Hence, you might need to pump several times before you get enough milk to fill the breast milk storage bag for freezing.
Why The Breast milk Supply is Larger during the First Few Weeks?
The milk supply will be much more consistent and higher in volume because your baby will require far much less milk during the first few weeks of life. This could become the perfect time to pump milk and create a stash in the freezer of breast milk.
The change in milk supply will happen differently for many mothers with some feeling and seeing the change around 7 weeks while others might not see it at least until their baby turns 6 months.
Moreover, all babies grow at their own pace and have regular growth spurts when they will need more milk. Try to understand this and do not panic when you will your baby wants more milk as this happens not because you have started producing less milk but because your baby started needing more milk.
Do Menstruation and Ovulation Affect the Milk Supply?
Most gynaecologists and other doctors agree that the return of menstruation and ovulation changes the milk production volume. This mainly happens because your hormonal levels change as they slowly go back to normal in order to return you to fertility.
Because all women are not the same and have different hormonal production, this change can be gradual or could hit hard and fast. Therefore, if you will like you are going through this change consult your OB-Gyn to make sure everything is going the way it should.
If the doctor will find that you are suffering from low levels of milk production because one or several of your hormones are off then it will be very likely that you will be given hormonal pills to balance out the spikes.
What Factors Often Decrease the Production of Milk?
Overfeeding: Sometimes mothers overfeed their children and then find themselves surprised that they cannot pump an adequate amount of milk using the breast pump because the expressed milk is immediately drunk by the baby.
Bad Pump: Different pumps have different pumping limits plus their pumping outputs largely depend on the motor. Often, the pump will wear out in about a year especially the common electric ones. Also, if a part of the pump is malfunctioning then you would need to replace it promptly otherwise the pumped volume will keep decreasing leaving the precious breast milk inside of you.
Therefore, it will be wise if you could check your electric pump at least once a month to make sure it works well and that the motor is not slowed down as this will ensure you have consistent milk output every time. Furthermore, always choose your electric pump wisely and ensure it fits your breasts otherwise a wrong sized breast milk pump can pump out only a fraction of milk that you have produced.
Lastly, if you are having trouble pumping the necessary amount of milk then you might want to increase the number of pumping sessions. This, in turn, should stir higher breast milk production.
Have You Started Feeding Solids to Your Baby?
Most mothers start introducing solids foods to their babies approximately at the age of 5- 6 months hence at this time you might start experiencing a decline in the production of breast milk. Moreover, if you have started taking hormonal pills as a birth control measure expect to see a sudden decline in the production of breast milk because your body will respond to the hormones the same way it does when fertility kicks back in.
Furthermore, some mothers start taking hormonal treatments to combat the effects of growing weight gain and possible depression. For example, estrogen is known to drastically cut down milk production hence before you start taking any hormonal pills to think about the effects you are going to have to battle.
How to Increase Breast Milk Supply?
To naturally increase breast milk through pumping you will need to ensure you are following a healthy diet that will include all the vitamins and minerals your body will need to sustain itself and produce the breast milk.
Some mothers begin a strict diet only a few months after giving birth in a drastic attempt to get back in shape. However, this will only set you back further and stress your already stressed body out. Our bodies need the right nutrients to recover from pregnancy and support the newborn.
Mothers who wish to increase their milk supply will need to ensure their diet is rich in protein and calcium plus you are going to have to drink at least 2-3 litres of water a day. Moreover, start by pumping at least every hour even if you will be pumping only a small amount at first.
Regardless of the milk pumped out, your body will start gradually increasing the milk production as it will perceive the pumping as the baby feeding. Also, a recent study has found that increasing sleep significantly contributes to better health and mood thus increasing milk production.
Factors Affecting Amount Pumped?
All of the above advice will not work if you are going through stressful situations or battling illnesses such as high fever and breast mastitis. Moreover, the intake of alcohol or certain medications that contain bromocriptine, cabergoline and pseudoephedrine can cut down milk supply regardless of how many times you are trying to pump.
To increase your breast milk output volume through pumping with an electric pump you must follow a protein-rich diet that is high in calcium and vitamins. You might need to take vitamin supplements but only under strict doctors observation plus you will have to ensure that your body is not stressed and that you sleep at least 6 hours a day.
The task can be impossible if your baby does not sleep through the night but you might be able to correct the situation by taking your baby with you to bed. Moreover, increasing the number of times you pump through the day so as to naturally simulate feeding session and thus increase breast milk production.