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Ask an Expert: Milk Supply and Knowing How Much is Enough

By Wendy Wisner, IBCLC

Fan Question: I had my third child three weeks ago today. I wanted to breastfeed desperately but he was having difficulty latching. I had the same issue with my other two children. I think it has something to do with my nipple shape. I had resorted to pumping and giving him mostly pumped milk but with some formula as well. I had a huge milk supply and should have pumped more often than I did but with three kids it was difficult. A few days ago my son latched perfectly! Ever since he got a good latch he wants to breastfeed constantly. However, I realized at that point that my milk supply had dwindled to practically nothing. I get a tablespoon in maybe a half hour. I have been nursing on demand for hours. I really want to exclusively bf. Is it possible to get my full supply back? I have been topping him off with a little formula because I don’t know if he’s getting enough. Also I’m pumping to stimulate supply.

WENDY WISNER, IBCLC:  It is wonderful that you persevered and were able to build up a good milk supply despite a non-latching baby.  And it is extra wonderful that your baby has now latched on! Milk supply doesn’t just “go away” within a matter of days.  You say that your baby is nursing “constantly” – my guess is that your baby is drinking all the milk that you normally pumped, which is why you aren’t seeing much when you pump.  That would be a good thing, right? But how to know if this is the case?  First, is your baby generally wetting the same number of diapers, and pooping with the same frequency?  The most concrete way of knowing if your baby is getting enough, though, is to get a weight check.  So if diaper output is good, wait a few days and then request a weight check at the pediatrician’s office.  I would also suggest getting another weight check a week or two later just to be sure, especially since your baby never nursed at the breast before, and may still be figuring it out.  If both weight checks go well, then your body is producing all the milk your baby needs, and your baby is getting it!  If you were previously giving significant amounts of formula before, I suggest you wean off the formula slowly (a few ounces every few days), and get frequent weight checks to verify things are on track.

If anything is amiss or if you have any questions, a meeting with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) would be a good idea to rule out any latching or sucking issues.  Good luck, and nurse on!


unnamed Wendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys.  In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding.  She blogs at www.nursememama.com.