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Milk Supply

Nursing Your BEST

Human milk supply is based on a supply and demand cycle.

The more your baby nurses, the more milk you will make. Nursing every time your baby is hungry is the key to making enough milk.

Supply & Demand

Since each nursing parent and baby is different, nursing can be different for each nursing parent and baby pair. The first hours, days, and weeks of nursing determine how much milk your body will make. It’s as if your baby is placing an order for the amount of milk needed to grow. Each time you nurse, you’re telling your body to make more milk.

To build a big milk supply, make sure you:

  • Nurse or hand express your colostrum in the first hour, if possible.
  • Nurse your baby whenever hungry, even if baby has eaten very recently.
  • Recognize early hunger signs or cues such as bringing hands to mouth, making tongue or mouth movements, or searching for your breast. Nurse as soon as you see these.
  • Encourage your baby to fully empty each breast at each feeding by allowing baby to end every feeding by coming off the breast.
  • Do not give bottles or pacifiers. If baby is sucking on a pacifier, you’ll miss early hunger signs, and then you miss the chance to feed and build your milk supply.
  • If you have to use human milk substitute (formula), make sure you are removing your milk with hand expression or pumping (link to Pumping and Storing Milk) each time to keep up your milk supply.

Following these guidelines will help your body make enough milk for your baby. The key is to nurse EVERY TIME baby is hungry.

Increasing Milk Production

Here are some additional ways to make sure you produce enough milk:

  • If you think you are not making enough milk, see a lactation professional, preferably an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
  • Make sure baby is nursing efficiently, removing all or most of your milk at each feeding. Try hand expressing or pumping (link to Pumping and Storing Human Milk) after a feeding to ensure your breast has emptied. Your goal in pumping is to remove more milk from the breasts and/or increase the number of times you empty your breasts.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. Make sure you get rest and drink water whenever you are thirsty. Don’t force liquids—drinking extra water does not increase supply. Try taking short naps when your baby sleeps.
  • Check that the baby is positioned correctly at the breast. Your baby’s mouth should be over much of your areola to squeeze milk out of your milk ducts. Poor latch or positioning can prevent the baby from getting enough milk from your breast. If nursing feels uncomfortable or painful, readjust and start again. This will make it easier for your breasts to produce milk and more comfortable for both baby and you.
  • When your baby slows sucking on one side, switch to the other. Repeat sides if necessary to drain your breasts and encourage additional milk production.
  • After the first few weeks, try pumping your milk once a day after you have finished nursing. This will naturally increase your milk production and provide your family with human milk for your baby, or milk for your caregiver to use after you return to work or school (link to Returning to Work or School). If you are away from your baby, remember to pump at the same times your baby would normally be nursing. This will keep your supply strong.