- In This Feature
- Optimizing Breastfeeding
- What Are the Signs that My Body Is Making Milk?
- What Is Normal Engorgement?
- What if Normal Primary Engorgement Goes Untreated?
- What Is Abnormal Engorgement?
- How Do I Treat Engorgement?
- How Do I Build a Strong Milk Supply?
- Is There Anything That Will Interfere with My Milk Supply?
- The ABCs of Building a Milk Supply
How Do I Build a Strong Milk Supply?
Brenda wanted to see me for a prenatal consultation because she was worried that she might not develop a strong milk supply for the baby she was expecting. Brenda was having an excellent pregnancy. Early on, Brenda's breasts felt sore, her nipples darkened, and her breasts became noticeably larger in size. Brenda was healthy and had never had breast surgery or any other risk factors that could predispose her to a low milk supply.
After talking with Brenda, I assured her that the breast changes she described meant that her breasts were ready to make plenty of breast milk for her baby. After our appointment, Brenda was able to trust her body. Once her son Finn was born, Brenda followed some simple steps designed to send her body the message that she intended to breastfeed. Sure enough, Brenda developed plenty of breast milk right on schedule.
Chances are that you will build a strong milk supply to nourish your baby. Your body is well suited for motherhood, and as your milk supply matures, your body will err on the side of abundance. As I explained to Brenda, there is no shortcut to developing a strong milk supply. By putting forth effort during your baby's first few weeks of life, you and your baby can enjoy a strong milk supply later. The steps described next are designed to help you develop a full supply of mature breast milk.
Breastfeed at birth: Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth. These early feeding experiences give you a head start on your way to developing a full milk supply. Breastfeeding in the delivery room or the recovery room after a cesarean section gives your baby your early breast milk and lays the hormonal groundwork for your future supply of mature milk. Keeping your baby close to you makes getting an early start easier.
Breastfeed frequently: Breastfeed your new baby as frequently as possible. Frequent breastfeeding sensitizes your hormonal receptors to prolactin, the hormone that helps build your milk supply. Once your baby is born, pregnancy hormone levels decline, and prolactin levels rise. This is a crucial time in the development of your future milk supply.
Breastfeeding your baby during this hormonal shift enables you to capture the crest of this prolactin wave. If you become separated from your baby or your baby is unable to breastfeed, then pump your breasts with an electric breast pump every three hours. Pumping will send your body the message that you intend to breastfeed.
Cope with engorgement: About three to five days after giving birth, your breasts will swell with the arrival of your high-volume mature milk. This signals a turning point in your breastfeeding relationship. By now, your colostrum or early milk has prepared your baby for your mature breast milk. It is important to navigate smoothly through this period of primary engorgement.
Take your bra off while you are engorged to prevent compression of your breasts. If your breasts become swollen and painful, plan to use cold or heat treatments as previously described. Softening your breasts with repeated ice or heat treatments will enable your milk to flow and allow for milk removal. Breastfeed your baby or pump to prevent milk stasis and escalating engorgement. Reducing the swelling of your breasts and removing milk will preserve your future milk supply. (Read these other ways to soothe the soreness.)