How to Build an Effective Milk Supply

    The body of a breastfeeding mother is truly amazing and very ecological! It responds to the sucking of the baby by either increasing or decreasing the milk supply. The more the baby nurses, the more milk will be produced. The less the baby nurses, the less milk will be produced.

    At birth the mother often is blessed with an overabundance of milk, but baby’s nursing soon customizes the quantity of milk to meet his / her needs. This can take a few weeks but usually by 3 months the mother notices that she no longer feels overly full or engorged. This is natures way of not ‘over producing’, not wasting resources. Mother has not lost her milk as some may feel.

    At birth there is colostrum present in the breasts. As baby nurses he is telling mom to bring in the mature milk. This usually happens on day 3-5 after birth. The first days after birth are the ideal time for baby to learn how to latch on and nurse. The breast is less full and baby learns quickly when held in the correct cradle or lap nursing holds.

    A typical breastfeeding newborn pattern, once the mature milk has come in, is that baby will nurse every 1-3 hours with a longer period of sleep during the night. Some nursing sessions will be long and some may be short, only a few minutes. This is similar to an adult who eats some big meals during the day and may also have some small snacks or something to drink in between.

    As baby grows the nursing sessions may stretch out in time. Babies will also have growth spurts, where they seem to want to nurse ‘all of the time’. This is their way of increasing the milk supply to what their growing body needs. This may last a few days, then usually reduces to a less demanding schedule.

    As babies mature they get more efficient and effective at nursing. They can get more milk in less time than they did as newborns and can control the milk supply by their nursing, according to their developmental needs.

    We encourage you to ‘go with the flow’, to listen to your baby, what is he / she asking for? More nursing? more in-arms time? a clean diaper? movement? Keeping baby close helps mothers to see and hear baby’s clues more quickly and to understand them.

    Try not to compare your baby with other babies growth patterns. Every baby has their own growth schedule. Breastfed babies usually gain 4-7 ounces a week, once the mature milk has come in. But sometimes a baby will gain a pound in a week and another time he may not gain any weight in a week but may grow in length significantly. One needs to look at total weight over the coarse of time and make sure that he is gaining in weight, length, developmental steps, etc.

    If he is not averaging 4-7 ounces a week then a red flag should go up. Make sure that the correct cradle or lap nursing hold is being used and that no products are interfering with the milk supply. Make sure that a health care professional is monitoring the situation and check for other possible health problems. (Usually health problems are identified at birth and your doctor would have told you about them.)

    Weaning begins with the first bite of solid food that a baby takes and ends with the last nursing session. This process, ideally, is gradual so that baby is willing to go onto the next developmental step without regrets. Baby-led weaning allows mother’s body to gradually decrease the milk supply. This means no discomfort for mom. Nursing sessions are fewer in number each day and shorter in duration. When the baby/child is no longer interested in nursing he will stop, and if you have gone through this process you can understand that the child truly is NOT interested in nursing anymore. He’s all done.

    In observing the natural breastfeeding process one can see that to make more milk the baby nurses more and as he transitions to solids he nurses less.

To make more milk;

        -the baby nurses more; more times in a day and for longer sessions

        -switching sides while nursing helps stimulate the milk supply as does.....

        -closeness to mother, skin to skin contact, keeping baby close at night, mom’s body scent and

                sounds (heartbeat, breathing) stimulate baby to want to nurse

        -mother should be drinking lots of pure water, many nursing moms drink one gallon a day,

                drink water before, during, and after nursing - this helps the milk to flow and helps mom’s

                body stay healthier, mothers mouths and throats often will feel dry when mom is not

                drinking enough water

        -mother should be eating healthy meals and snacks



    Mothers are sometimes told to space feedings out so that their breasts have time to fill up again.

Because of the supply and demand process of breastfeeding this practice will actually REDUCE the milk supply. The less a baby nurses (the less he demands milk), the less milk (the less supply) will be produced.

    Pacifiers may reduce the milk supply. The sucking a baby does on a pacifier is not telling the mom’s body to make more milk. Many people try to differentiate between nutritive sucking and comfort sucking and use a pacifier for comfort. Actually, ALL sucking is both nutritive and comforting, as there is always some milk in the breast. If there is a concern about baby’s weight and the milk supply, hold off pacifier use and see if it helps.

    Nipple shields can reduce the milk supply because mother may not be getting sufficient stimulation through the nipple shield.

    See    How to Wean from Products   page for information on how to get rid of the nipple shields.

    CAUTION, CAUTION, CAUTION     Birth control pills can decrease the mother’s milk supply as they affect mother’s hormones. Research is also showing that they can affect male fertility as they pollute the drinking water via excreted urine. Many mothers are using Natural Family Planning methods instead. Every baby is a blessing! See the    Links of Interest    page for more

information on NFP.

    If a baby is losing weight and mother is told that the problem is her milk supply I recommend the following;

    -Of primary importance is that baby eat enough, one way or another!

    -That being said, we have worked with hundreds, thousands (?) of moms whose milk supply was corrected and baby started nursing effectively after they stopped using the cross cradle, football, and log holds and they changed to the correct cradle hold. Their nursing problems ended, soreness healed, baby started thriving and no products (no pumps, bottles, or nipple shields) were needed.

    -So if someone says that a mom has a milk supply problem and wants her to pump, please know that there is a more effective way, the correct cradle hold.

        See the following web pages for more details.


Breastfeeding Positions

  Cradle Hold Text

Cradle Hold Movie

Problems from Cross Cradle, Football, and Log Holds

How to Wean from Products

Links of Interest

Website Index