How much breast milk does a newborn need?

For the first few months after delivery, when hormones are balanced and the breast is well stimulated, the breast makes lots of milk. Research shows at any given feeding, breastfed babies take 65-80% of the available milk in the breast. When feeding is well established, most babies eat until they are full, not until the breast is “emptied”. In fact, the breast is constantly making milk and can never truly be emptied. Your body knows a young baby is growing quickly and frequently cluster feeding, so your body has milk available all the time. This is why people can create a stash. They are pumping the extra milk that baby leaves behind.

Efficient and frequent milk removals helps to produce more milk quickly. The extent to which the breast is drained during a feed is what research has shown to drive milk production. The more often a breast has milk moved from it, the faster milk is made to replace that milk. The longer you go between feedings, the slower milk is eventually is made. Breastmilk fat/calorie content is also driven by a similar mechanism. The fuller the breast, the lower the fat content of the milk; the body thinks baby is dehydrated and focuses on hydration. The more often milk is moved, the higher the fat content of the milk; your body knows baby is in a growth spurt or needs higher fat to help sleep. If you go multiple days with fuller breasts where less milk is being moved, supply will drop to protect the breast from sitting milk which has a higher risk of inflammation that causes plugs and mastitis.

As baby ages, this extra milk goes away and your body makes what baby is routinely taking. Because your body AND your baby become more efficient. If you think baby isn’t moving milk well, and supply is suffering for it, it is important to address it as early as possible.


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