Producing breast milk
Pregnancy hormones prepare the breasts for breastfeeding. Milk production begins at the end of pregnancy, which is why some women experience some leaking during this time. Whether your baby is born on his due date or earlier, there will be milk for him.
When milk is removed from the breast, it stimulates the breast to produce more. This stimulation can come from the sucking action of your nursing baby or from expressing milk by hand or with a breast pump. Your breasts will produce milk as long as your baby nurses or the milk is expressed.
The breast produces milk continuously all day long. It accumulates in breasts waiting for your baby to nurse or for the milk to be expressed. The speed at which milk is produced depends on how much milk has accumulated in the breast. Breasts have a natural mechanism that adjusts to the baby’s needs and prevents the mother from being uncomfortable. It works like this:
- The more the breast is emptied, the more quickly it will produce milk.
- The longer the breast is left full, the more slowly it will produce milk.
- The more often the breasts are emptied, the more milk they will make.
- The less often the breasts are emptied, the less milk they will make.
The more often the breasts are emptied, the more milk they will produce.
If the breasts are stimulated more often, milk production self-adjusts in a few days.
If you gradually stop removing milk from your breasts, they will progressively stop producing it. This will prevent your breasts from becoming engorged and sore. If you stop all at once, your breasts will become engorged and stop making milk after a few days.
Each breast produces milk independently. If only one breast is stimulated, the other breast will stop making milk within a few weeks.