My milk output is low, does that mean my breast milk supply is low?
There are a number of concerns that go through a breastfeeding mothers mind, the most common being whether or not their breast milk supply is adequate. Breastfeeding mothers that pump are often times subjected to this more so, mainly because it’s a common misconception that their milk output should somehow reflect their breast milk supply. Let me first explain the difference between breast milk supply and milk output.
The amount of milk produced and found in the breast is called the breast milk supply, whereas milk output is a measure of how much milk is being expressed. Your milk output is in no way a measure of how much milk you are producing, the reason being that there is no way that you can express milk by hand, or by breast pump, as effectively as a nursing baby. Say for instance your baby nurses about 8 times a day, he/she is probably getting about 3 ounces of breast milk each feeding. Now let’s say you sit down and pump until the last drops have been expressed, chances are you’ll have no more than 2 ounces to show for it. This is normal. Your baby is a pro at expressing milk, no man-made object can compare.
A breastfeeding mom that nurses full time will typically only be able to pump anywhere from 1/2 to 2 ounces of milk total, from both breasts. This is average. Anything over 2 ounces is actually considered to be an over-supply of milk. Often times breastfeeding mothers have it in their head that they should be able to pump an entire feeding in one pumping session. In all actuality, it will probably take several pumping sessions just to get one bottle ready. This does not mean that you have a low breast milk supply, it means you are normal! Now, it’s also normal to have a milk output that varies from day to day. Some days you may feel like you are the pumping queen, getting close to 3 ounces in a pumping session, while other days you’ll struggle just to pump 1 ounce. Totally normal, so don’t beat yourself up!
How do I increase my breast milk supply and output?
Depending on how you choose to express your milk, whether you’re doing it manually (with your hands) or using a breast pump, there are ways to increase your milk output, as well as your breast milk supply. To learn more about hand expression, check out this article, Hand Expressing Your Milk. Some women are much more successful at hand expression than others. Every women develops their own technique over time. I personally found using a breast pump much more efficient, but I still used hand expression combined with massage to get things moving. Now the trick to increasing your breast milk supply and therefore increasing your milk output, regardless of which method you’re using, is to do it often and completely empty your breasts each time. This is were a breast pump comes in handy. If you’re breastfeeding full time and using a breast pump, try to pump after each feeding. A double breast pump is recommended for those either trying to establish their breast milk supply or trying to increase it. Try pumping for at least 15 minutes from both breasts, and then 2 to 3 minutes after the last drops have been expressed. This will signal your body that it is time to produce more milk.
When using a breast pump to increase your breast milk supply, the quality of the breast pump is extremely important. You will need a double breast pump, one that will stand up to frequent use. Some choose to use a hospital-grade breast pump, which are the best, but are also extremely expensive. If you will only be using it temporarily, I would suggest renting one from your local hospital or medical supply store.
Breast Milk Production – How Does It Work? – Understanding the basics of breast milk production is an important part of breastfeeding and pumping. The more you know about how your body works, the better.
Breast Pump Guide – When it comes to choosing a breast pump that’s right for you, understanding what each one has to offer will enable you to make a better decision.