A lot goes into a new mother's decision to breastfeed: health, economics, convenience -- and fear. A big concern is often whether you will have enough milk for your new baby. In the absence of extenuating circumstances, the amount of breast milk a healthy mother produces in 24 hours should be adequate to meet the daily demands of a hungry infant.
During the fourth to sixth month of pregnancy, hormones facilitate the formation and enlargement of small sacs called alveoli in the breast tissue. These sacs secrete milk during nursing in response to your baby's suckling. The size of your breasts does not affect milk production. Mothers don't store a lot of milk in their breasts -- 3 to 4 ounces, about enough for one feeding, is average. Most of the milk you'll produce will come during feeding or pumping.
The volume of mother's milk will follow a curve similar to the growth of your baby. Immediately after birth, milk production may seem low. Your newborn's tiny stomach cannot tolerate much volume, so the first days of nursing deliver an ounce or so of a nutrient- and antibody-packed substance called colostrum. However, as your baby begins to grow, the strong suckling action or regular pumping will increase your production and volume. According to certified lactation consultant Nancy Mohrbacher, at the peak of nursing -- usually around the 40th day -- a lactating mother will produce up to 30 ounces of breast milk every 24 hours.
As a nursing mother, you are not a machine; many things affect your milk production. Mothers who breastfeed exclusively, using no formula, will produce more milk because the baby is suckling harder and longer. Emotional state is also a factor in milk production. Adrenalin, produced when you are angry or anxious, interferes with the hormone mix you need to produce and let down milk. The final factor is the age of your baby, who will take in 1 to 2 ounces per day in the first week of life to a peak of 30 ounces from 1 to 6 months of age. Your breasts will work hard to supply what your baby demands. As you introduce solids to your baby, your milk production will begin to drop off until your baby is fully weaned.
Don't Fall For It
Misinformation abounds about breastfeeding. Quantity of milk is rarely an issue with the mother, but a result of poor nursing technique, says The Breastfeeding Centre. If your baby isn't latching on and stimulating production, the resulting anxiety may interfere with your let-down reflex. Second, your breastfed baby does not need vitamin supplements. Your milk has all the nutrients your baby needs. Successful nursing is a skill that takes practice and patience. If you are experiencing any difficulty, contact your doctor or the lactation specialist at your local hospital for guidance.
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