5 Essential Things to Know About Milk Supply When you Have a New Baby

You asked. So we answered.
In this blog series, I answer reader questions to help the newborn period make more sense to you.

Reader Question
My baby is 13 days old, and I haven’t started making milk. My baby’s latch is fine, but I don’t get any milk when I pump, Please help.

When you are having a new baby, one of the most common worries and concerns is wondering whether or not you will have enough milk to meet your baby’s needs, especially if you are feeding them from your breast because it’s hard to know if they are actually getting enough milk.

When you don’t have a lot of experience with babies, it makes everything more confusing. Here are 5 things I think every new parent should understand about milk supply in the very early days of feeding.

💡 # 1. The Pump Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

The first and most important thing to recognize is that your baby, not your pump, is the true indicator of your milk supply. If your baby is thriving, gaining weight, and feeding well, while you're not getting a substantial amount when pumping, there's likely no need to worry. Your milk is going right where it needs to go….which is into your baby’s belly.

If you feel like your baby is fussy during or after feedings and sleeps for short stretches between feedings (like regularly less than an hour) AND you don’t get very much milk when you are pumping, then that can be an indication that you want to look closer at what’s going on with your supply, and always listen to your baby first. 

Expert Tip:

A pump that fits you well can make a huge difference in your output, and most women have a pump that’s way too big for them, because they are using the sizes that come in the box, which makes absolute sense.

Unfortunately, the sizes that come in the box are usually a 24mm and a 28mm flange, and the vast majority of women actually need something between 17-21mm. If you haven’t gotten measured for your flange yet, you can print off a downloadable guide right here.


💡#2. Frequent Milk Removal is Crucial

During the initial weeks few weeks after birth, the most important things you can do to help establish your milk supply is to take care of your own body and remove milk regularly.
Taking care of your body allows your body to do its work and removing milk regularly tells your body that your baby is out of the womb, and ready to feed. It helps to get all your milk-making cells and hormones kicking in so they can do their job.

If this feels daunting, it’s because feeding your baby IS really time-consuming in the beginning. When people say feeding your baby is a full-time job, they aren’t exaggerating.

It’s a full-time job. But while the first few weeks are really intense, feeding doesn’t have to stay hard for the whole time you have your newborn. Things will start to settle down between 3-4 weeks, and by then, you should be able to have a plan that feels sustainable for you for the next few months of feeding.

Expert Tip:

In the first 3 weeks, it’s normal for newborns to feed every 1.5 to 3 hours around the clock, so they are removing milk 8-10X per day. If you are pumping exclusively, you also need to pump around 8X per day in order to establish a supply. 

As a rule of thumb, if feel like you need to give you baby a bottle after you feed, it’s a good idea to pump for 5-10 minutes. If your baby is fine without a bottle, you do not need to pump.

💡#3. Have Patience with Pumping

If you're concerned about low supply because you aren’t pumping very much after nursing, don't get discouraged, especially in the early days after birth. It's not uncommon for milk supply to continue to increase over the course of several weeks after birth, so what you get in the beginning isn’t necessarily where your supply will end up.

The purpose of pumping isn’t just as a means of collecting milk, but it also tells your body to make prolactin, which is the hormone your body needs to make milk. Even if you don’t yield a significant amount during a pumping session, just the hormonal response is beneficial to your supply.

So, if you don’t get much milk at first, don’t give up right away. Your body may just need a little more time, and if your baby is latching, remember what counts is what goes into their belly not into the bottle.

Expert Tip:

Your body’s milk production changes throughout the day, and you may get different amounts at different times, and that’s normal. If you are removing milk regularly and you are 3 weeks past delivery, it’s unlikely that you are going to make more milk with just more time OR more pump removals, but there may be other things you can do to help support your supply.

We have a low supply support inside the Nourished Young Community where you can get more tips and tricks about things you can do to help maximize how much milk you make.


💡#4. Pumping Isn't Always Necessary

If your baby is latching well and feeding successfully, you don’t need to pump at all. Remember that pumping is a substitute for nursing, and if your baby is nursing efficiently, nature has already taken care of optimizing your milk supply.

Pumping is only needed if your baby isn’t latching if you are supplementing or if you are at risk for low supply and want to make sure that you doing what you can to get your milk-making cells turned on.

There is a common thought that more pumping = more milk, and that isn't completely true. We need to remove milk to hit a certain threshold for our body and hormones, but above that, more milk removal doesn’t yield increasing returns.

You want to make sure that you are pumping enough so that if you have a low supply, you can easily rule out that it isn’t low *just because* of not removing milk frequently enough, so you can get to addressing other reasons why your milk supply is lower than is needed to provide all the calories your baby may need.

Expert Tip:

Some health indicators for potential low/slow-to-transition milk supply are: PCOS, Gestational Diabetes, Insulin Resistance, and Hypothyroid.

If you have any of these conditions, it doesn’t mean you WILL have a low supply or even a slow-to-transition supply. It just means you are at higher risk and want to monitor your baby more closely. First-time parents often have a slower transition to their full supply than parents who have given birth before.


💡#5. Seek Professional Support

Working with a certified lactation consultant can be immensely valuable for addressing both your baby's needs and your own, both before you have a baby and after.

A lactation consultant can assist you in fine-tuning your pumping routine, addressing potential latch problems, and tailoring a feeding plan that aligns with your preferences and goals. Their expertise can guide you through any challenges you may encounter, ensuring that you and your baby have the best possible feeding experience.

The earlier you get support, the more likely you will be to get your own feeding goals.

Expert Tip:

Lactation support is more accessible than ever, even if you live in remote areas. Many lactation consultants are skilled at working virtually, even with brand-new babies to help you assess your supply and troubleshoot your problems, and lots of insurance companies (in the US) will pay for your visit.

If you need a good lactation consultant in your area, and you don’t have one, let us know, and we will help connect you with someone who can help.

Whether you have a new baby or you are preparing for one to arrive soon, thinking about your milk supply is one of the most common reasons for new parent stress. The good news is that no matter how much milk you make, you can have a breast/chestfeeding relationship with your baby, and with the right support you can also maximize your milk supply in a sustainable way so you can feed your baby how you want for as long as you planned.

Do you have a question about feeding that you would like me to answer? If so, send your question(s) to [email protected].



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