When Does My Milk Supply Regulate? Am I Producing Enough Milk?
Most breastfeeding parents notice that by 12 weeks, their milk supply has regulated, and that their breasts are leaking or feeling overfull as often. Many worry that they are experiencing low milk supply, but usually what is happening is that their supply is regulating. Beth Ann Martin (CLC) answers your questions below:
When does milk supply usually regulate and why does this happen?
I'll start off with a little bit of an anatomy lesson. After the placenta is born, there is a rapid drop of the hormone progesterone and the main hormone every nursing mother wants, prolactin in addition to a few others. These hormones activate mature milk to start "coming in."
Fortunately, colostrum is available to feed the baby until copious amounts of milk comes in around 48-72 hours after the placenta is born - then you start asking the question, "when will my breasts figure this out?!"
Typically, a mother's milk supply will regulate at the 6-week mark. If there is an oversupply issue or the parent is feeding multiples, this can be closer to 12 weeks. Unfortunately, there is no magic day or week. Every baby is different, so I encourage parents to focus on their journey!
I would also like to add that regulation does not factor in cluster feeding patterns during growth spurts. It can feel like a roller coaster!
*To help with discomfort like engorgement and potential clogs during this time, I highly recommend LaVie Warming Massagers for preventing clogged milk ducts and adding the LaVie Breastfeeding Comfort Pack into the freezer to help with engorgement.*
What are some signs that your milk supply has regulated?
You may stop leaking through your bra or breast pads, the "pins and needles," sensation of a letdown may decrease or you may not feel a letdown at all. You may enjoy not feeling as full compared to weeks past when you fed and then had to pump to "drain," the breast. I like to use that term lightly as it is overused and the breast is never fully drained.
Parents tend to worry that they are seeing a sudden decrease in supply when their body and baby are getting into a rhythm, but this is natural. Your baby or pump (pump sessions can also decrease in time when milk is regulating,) but as the demand decreases, the supply will, too.
For example, in my online breastfeeding course, Learning to Latch, I provide a sample breastfeeding schedule and pumping schedule. These sessions decrease as your supply regulates and the baby grows. The first two schedules are for newborns under 12 weeks.
*To increase the flow of milk or encourage more letdowns, I encourage the use of LaVie Warming Lactation Massagers. These can be used during your nursing and/or pumping session while tucking it into your PumpStrap*
How can you tell if your milk supply has actually decreased?
To answer this question best, I think it's actually better to reflect and ask yourself some questions. Majority of the time milk supply can dip from small changes, but can impact our supply quickly. Please ask yourself these questions:
- How frequently am I removing milk?
- Is my baby sleeping through the night?
- If so, am I sleeping through the night while the baby is?
- If the baby is sleeping through the night and is under 12 weeks, am I going longer than 4 hours without milk expression?
- Do I have damaged areolas, nipples, recurring mastitis, or clogs?
- Have I been taking over the counter (OTC) medications like Sudafed?
- Have I been ingesting herbs like sage or peppermint?
When should you be concerned about changes to your milk supply, and what's the best course of action to take if you have concerns?
First and foremost, it is important that someone speaks with a qualified lactation professional if they fear they have a decrease in their milk production. As always, consult with your OB/GYN, midwife, or GP, but please remember not all medical providers have a specialization in lactation.
Most feeding parents notice a decrease in supply after a cold, UTI, use of antibiotics, excessive alcohol use, smoking, birth control or their first period postpartum, pregnancy, introduction of new medications, trauma, and hormonal conditions that should be evaluated by an endocrinologist.
This is a topic that I take very seriously with my personal clients because I see the stress and the toll it takes on their bodies. A very important course of action if you are having recurring breastfeeding pains mentioned above (mastitis, clogs, etc,) a consult with a pediatric dentist is my best suggestion.
Fortunately, due to more education from lactation professionals, oral anatomical structure concerns like tongue and lip ties are being addressed and more women are having healthier breastfeeding journeys.
I would also suggest a diet rich in whole foods. Eggs, nuts, avocados, oats, dates, tahini, dark leafy greens and organ meats are wonderful for breastmilk supply, but also for postpartum healing.