Your breast milk supply is not a constant, your body reacts to a variety of internal and external stimuli to either increase or decrease your breast milk. You can take advantage of these mechanisms to increase your supply and alleviate any concerns about not having enough milk for your baby.

Breastfeeding and your baby

Your body starts to produce milk before your baby is born. You might have experienced leaking nipples many weeks before childbirth as your body prepares itself for motherhood.

In the first few days after birth, your breasts will be producing colostrum. This is a thick, yellowish liquid full of protein and antibodies to help your baby grow and develop their immune system. After this, your body will switch over to regular breast milk.

How much does a baby drink?

Babies often feed between eight and 12 times per day, and their sessions can range from a few minutes to 30 minutes. Younger babies ingest less milk per session because their stomachs are smaller.

How your body knows to increase supply

The suckling action of breastfeeding and the contact of your baby’s skin stimulate nerve receptors in your nipple. These send chemical signals to your brain that you are breastfeeding and prompt your body to produce, and express, more breast milk.

Methods for increasing supply

  • Increase frequency; offer your breast to your baby more often, up to every two hours per day. Babies have reflexes that prompt them to turn their heads and search for your nipple when their cheeks are held to your breast.
  • Offer an additional feed; after a feed, wait a few minutes and offer your breasts again to prompt your baby to top-up.
  • Massage your breasts during feeding; you can encourage your breasts to express more milk by massaging them from your chest towards the nipple while your baby is feeding. Be careful not to disturb them.
  • Try alternating breasts; by alternating your breasts you keep your baby relying on both their left and right cheek reflexes, prompting them to start feeding again.
  • Enjoy feeding time; use feeding time as a chance to relax and do something that makes you happy. The release of oxytocin – which is also released by your baby’s suckling – assists in the expression or ‘letdown’ of your milk.
  • Seek advice on your technique; some techniques for breastfeeding are more optimal than others, and each technique will be different for every woman. Maternal healthcare providers and midwives can provide advice about your breastfeeding technique, and this will help improve the frequency and efficiency of your breastfeeding.