There is extensive research that supports the short and long-term health benefits of breastfeeding, but for many new mothers, it is only natural to ask yourself – how much breastmilk should I be producing?
Every woman’s body is different, and the amount of breastmilk she can produce will also vary accordingly. The amount of milk a baby needs also will vary, depending on the age and weight of the baby. Other factors that can affect breastmilk production can include the frequency of nursing and whether one is exclusively breastfeeding or pumping too. So is there an definitive answer to the question how much breastmilk should I be producing?
With so many factors to consider, it is necessary to turn to the experts to determine how much breastmilk a mother should produce.
What the Experts Say
The amount of breastmilk production depends on several factors. Primarily, it is normal in the first few days after birth for milk production to be low. But after the first week, breastmilk output will increase, and so will the baby’s hunger. Breastmilk production will greatly increase in the first month after birth.
When exclusively breastfeeding, milk production may start out at 30mL on the first day. Given time, at its peak, milk production may be as much as 900mL per day. So how much should your little one be getting?
According to renowned lactation consultant, Jessica Barton, “There is no hard and fast rule for how much milk a breastfed baby should get at each feeding. Most babies vary their feedings and eat more at some times than others.”
But Barton has formulated a guideline for babies who weigh 10 pounds or less. To determine how much breastmik they need, Barton recommends taking the baby’s weight, in lbs, and multiplying it by 2.5 to calculate the amount of milk the baby needs in a 24 hour period.
So for example:
- 6 lb baby – 6 × 2.5 = 15 oz per 24 hrs
- 7 lb baby – 7 × 2.5 = 17.5 oz per 24 hrs
- 8 lb baby – 8 × 2.5 = 20 oz per 24 hrs
- 9 lb baby – 9 × 2.5 = 22.5 oz per 24 hrs
- 10 lb baby – 10 × 2.5 = 25 oz per 24 hrs
This is a helpful hack for parents of newborns, who most often question how much breastmilk they should be producing and their baby should be consuming.
For babies that are exclusively breastfed it is very hard to equate time on the breast to an exact number of mL or ounces the baby has consumed. A milk production calculator can come in handy if you are not sure how much you are producing.
Milk production is not just determined by the mother’s body. The general consensus is that the frequency of feeding impacts breastmilk production. The more your baby feeds, the more your body will respond by producing more milk. Experts recommend nursing frequently to ensure the baby gets all the essential nutrients.
As the baby develops, the expectation is that the child’s hunger will increase, and the mother’s production also will increase. But our bodies are unique, and for some mothers, it is not possible to produce as much breastmilk as they had hoped. To increase production, some mothers use pumps, while others turn to supplementing with formula.
All these factors entail that there is not a set number that mothers must aim for to feel they have achieved adequate milk production. Instead, the right amount of breastmilk mainly depends on how much the baby feeds. Here’s what the experts have to say:
“Human milk is a complex secretion that is the sole ideal food for babies for at least the first 6 months of life….The amount of milk produced depends on the amount of milk removed from the breast.”
Jacqueline C. Kent, PhD, Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health
“During exclusive breastfeeding, human-milk production rates gradually increase from ~700 g/day to 850 g/day at 6 months.”
Nancy F. Butte, PhD; Mardia G. Lopez-Alarcon, MD, PhD; and Cutberto Garza, MD, PhD; World Health Organization
“When milk production is not regulated solely by the baby, one teaching concept used successfully is the Magic Number… This term refers to the number of times each day a mother needs to remove milk from her breasts to maintain her milk production.”
Nancy Mohrbacher, Clinical Lactation
Keep It Pumping
To keep the breastmilk flowing, many women turn to pumps. Since so much of breastmilk production depends on the baby’s intake, pumps help to keep the milk flowing.
Many women assume that the amount they pump is a measure of their breastmilk production, but this is not necessarily the case. If a mother has just finished nursing, then the amount she is able to pump will be less. If she missed a feeding, then she will be able to pump significantly more.
On average, if a woman is pumping between feeds, she will be able to get about 45 to 60mL of breastmilk. If she has missed a feed, she can expect to get a full 90 to 120 mL with pumping.
The quality and fit of the pump will also determine how effective pumping is. The right-sized pump is not about matching the breast size but matching the nipple size. The nipple tunnel, known at the flanges or breast shields must be the right size because too small of a tunnel can restrict the flow and reduce the amount of milk you pump.
Factors that Influence Breastmilk Production
In addition to the frequency of feeding, there are several factors that can influence milk production:
- Baby’s age and weight
- Exclusively breastmilk or also formula
- Time of day
- Breast storing capacity
- Time since last breastfeed or pump
- Mother’s emotional and mental state
If you have concerns or difficulty producing milk and breastfeeding, it’s okay—in a survey published by NPR back in 2013, only 13% of mothers claimed they were successfully able to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months. In that survey, 40% of mothers said they worried they weren’t producing adequate breastmilk. So if you have concerns, you’re not alone. What’s important in thinking about breastmilk production is that your baby is getting all the right nutrients.
Making Sure Your Baby Gets All the Nutrients
The main reason mothers have concern over whether they are producing enough breastmilk, of course, is their babies. Mothers want to know their babies are getting the right amount of nutrition. So how much does a baby need?
In the first few days up to a week after birth, the baby may only need a small amount of breastmilk. It is normal for babies to only take in 30 to 60mL at feeding. Experts suggest that by day 11 after birth, a baby should intake around 440mL per day.
After about a month, the baby will reach a peak feeding capacity. Daily intake after this will increase to 90 to 120mL per feed and up to 900mL per day. The baby’s intake will stay at this level for up to six months or until solid foods start being introduced to the diet.
Balancing Breastmilk and Your Baby’s Needs
In the end, taking care of your baby is less to do with tracking the exact amount of breastmilk you’re producing and more about making sure your baby is getting all the nurture and nutrients she or he needs. As your baby learns to respond to you, your body will also respond to your baby. The two of you will grow together to form the beautiful bond of mother and child.