So, here’s how milk-making boobs work:
Your body starts making colostrum in the last few months of pregnancy. It is sitting there, ready to go, just waiting for baby to be born.
Your baby eats colostrum for the first three days or so. Colostrum is small in quantity, thick, and super duper nutritious and usually all baby needs for the first three days.
Your baby will nurse a lot for the first few days, not just because she is eating all that thick colostrum (which takes a lot of work to get out, by the way–think of trying to suck a triple thick milkshake through a coffee stirrer) but also because she is telling your body to bring on the milk.
This is the demand. Demand comes first, then supply. Not the other way around.
That means if baby doesn’t ask for it, your body doesn’t make it.
That also means that if your baby can’t ask for it, you need have a pump step in to ask your body for the milk.
Phew! That takes the pressure off, right? Instead of freaking out thinking that if the baby isn’t nursing well or can’t nurse for whatever reason, know that you can still protect your milk supply by pumping!
Here’s the math:
In a 24-hour period:
If baby nurses five times and drinks four bottles (a total of nine feedings), your body thinks that your baby ate five times.
If the baby nurses five times and you pump four times, your body thinks baby ate nine times.
Now you are even-steven!
It isn’t about volume of milk pumped out; it is about number of stimulations.
(Stimulation means pumping or directly breastfeeding.)
Total number of baby feedings must equal
total number of breast stimulations in any given 24-hour period.
Once a milk supply is well-established, after about six weeks, there is more room to wiggle with number of stimulations in a day. But, in the first six weeks, you can rest assured that as long as you provide the demand, your supply will come. Want to know what kind of milk supply you have?