When it comes to building and maintaining your milk supply there are two factors that you should know about: your breast storage capacity and 'magic number'.
Breast Storage Capacity
Every woman's breasts have a maximum storage capacity (which you may have found out first hand during the early days of postpartum and engorgment). This capacity is reached when your breasts are at their fullest. It's also based on the amount of room in the glandular tissue of the breast, not breast size! So naturally, this means that breast storage capacity will vary from woman to woman.
Your storage capacity affects how many times your breasts need to be drained well within a 24 hour period, either by breastfeeding or pumping, in order to maintain your milk production.
Did you know that when your breasts are full this sends a signal to your body to slow down milk production??
This means that a woman with a larger storage capacity is able to store more milk before a signal is sent to slow milk production, versus a woman with smaller storage capacity whose breasts fill up faster and can hold less milk. IN GENERAL, this could mean that if you find your breasts feel full often you may need to incorporate more breastfeeding or pumping sessions into your daily routine in order to maintain your supply.
The 'Magic Number'
This number refers to the number of times your breasts need to be well drained in order to maintain your milk supply. This magic number could be 4-5 times/day or 9-10 times/day, depending on your breast storage capacity. This becomes increasingly helpful to know for moms who spend any time away from their baby due to work or whatever the reason may be!
Babies, on average, need between 25 and 35 oz of milk/day for the first 6 months. So, depending on your breast storage capacity you may be able to express that amount in 4, 5, 8, or 10+ sessions/ day.
Think back to your maternity leave.. if breastfeeding was well established and your baby was gaining well, how many times per day were you breastfeeding or pumping? Now that you have that number in mind.. how many times are you breastfeeding or pumping per day now?? Do those numbers differ?? Are you experiencing a drop in your supply?? Is your baby now sleeping longer stretches at night so you've dropped the nighttime feeedings?? If you're wanting to increase your supply you may want to consider one or some of the following:
- Add a breastfeeding or pumping session before work
- Add a pumping session at work
- Pump before you go to bed (try to avoid going longer than 8 hours without breastfeeding or pumping)
- Remember that full breasts make milk slower.
- Try incorporating galacatogogues into your diet to help boost milk production.. cue MilkBliss lactation cookies!!
And as always, if you have specific questions it's always best to reach out to a lactation consultant that is local to you. They can provide you with valuable one-on-one help!
Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash