Don't worry: under normal, healthy circumstances the mammary gland possesses the capacity to produce more milk than your baby needs in order to grow. Let's look at the milk production process and advice for producing plenty of milk.
Supply and demand
Producing milk is a process that evolves over time and adapts to demand. Two hormones, prolactin, and oxytocin, responsible for the production of milk and letdown (filling the breast with milk) respectively, are liberated by the pituitary gland. This physical process begins in mid-pregnancy so the whole "mechanism" is operational when your baby arrives, even if they arrive early.
- At childbirth (and sometimes just before) women produce colostrum, a thick, sweet "milk" perfectly adapted to the newborn baby's needs.
- Next comes the transitional milk, when the milk first "comes in", between two and five days after birth. Your breasts feel heavy, hot and hard. You might sometimes feel a crackling sensation which is, of course, very new and surprising. This is normal!
- After the first two weeks of breastfeeding, the milk produced becomes "mature". Its composition changes over the course of a feed and throughout the breastfeeding period in order to constantly meet the child's requirements for growth.
What should I do in practice?
Change breasts each feed (so that you completely empty each) or, alternatively, alternate breasts during the same feed. Do whatever suits you best and results in your producing the most milk.
Let your baby set the pace!
Now that you are reassured that you have the capacity to produce enough milk, perhaps you are wondering whether your baby is feeding often enough. Each baby is different; there are no fixed rules as to the duration or quantity of feeds. There is no minimum or maximum number of feeds, nor any particular interval you should leave between feeds. You can change breast each feed or, alternatively, alternate breasts during the same feed. Do whatever suits you best and results in your producing the most milk.
- During the first two months: babies feed on average 8 to 12 times every 24 hours, including at night.
- When breastfeeding is established: your baby will feed according to a regular schedule of their own devising.
Everything depends on how vigorously your baby drinks, but usually between 10 to 30 mins. Have faith in your baby and let them dictate the frequency and quantity of their meals!
Milk in abundance!
How much milk you produce also depends on you leading a healthy lifestyle. Here is your special breastfeeding checklist:
- No alcohol or cigarettes
- Plenty of rest (ask for help when it comes to preparing meals and doing housework!)
- Don't embark on a diet (breastfeeding naturally helps you lose weight)
- Don't skip meals (even if normal mealtimes slip a little!)
- Drink only limited amounts of tea and coffee, plenty of herbal and fruit infusions and water.
- Make sure you eat a balanced and varied diet. Every day, eat wholegrain cereals, carbohydrates, meat, eggs or fish (particularly oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon for those famous omega-3 fatty acids), fruit, cooked and raw vegetables, dairy products/milk and beans and pulses several times a week (lentils, chickpeas, broad beans, split peas, etc.).
- Drink plenty. This is essential for producing enough milk. Anything you fancy: still or sparkling water, infusions, etc.
- Foods/spices/herbs which encourage milk production: carrots, fennel, cress, lentils, Jerusalem artichokes, barley, millet, star anise, cumin, basil, caraway, coriander, fenugreek, and yeast extract.
Images: 2714-allaitement-quantite.png, 2714-allaitement-quantite.jpg
Sleep baby, sleep ... Milk contains a hormone called Cholecystokinin, which makes your baby feel full and sleepy at the end of a feed.
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