Have you noticed your breasts feel empty? It’s a common concern among new mums, especially around 6 weeks to 3 months postpartum. After giving birth, it’s normal for a new mum to feel full or leak, and even experience breast engorgement. After a couple months of this, when your breasts start feeling empty it can be surprising! This is actually no cause for concern, and completely normal: It means your breastmilk supply has regulated – and, this is a good thing! Here’s what you need to know about your breastmilk supply.
When will my milk supply regulate?
If you’re used to feeling full or leaking during the first few months postpartum, if you notice your breasts feel empty you might be worried about your milk supply. What’s most likely happening is that your supply is just regulating. This usually happens between 6 weeks and 3 months postpartum. In the early months, levels of prolactin, the milk-producing hormone, are at their highest. The amount of prolactin you produce decreases as your baby gets older. This is when breastmilk production becomes more dependent on supply-and-demand: You won’t produce more milk than your baby or your pump is removing from your breasts, and you’ll likely stop leaking and feel less full.
Does breastmilk supply decrease at 3 months?
According to an article by Breastfeeding USA, “Lactation consultant Karyn-grace Clarke points out that when the baby is about three months old, milk production stops being controlled by the mother’s postpartum hormones, and starts being controlled by the information that the body has gathered during the previous weeks of breastfeeding.” This is because the mother is no longer producing as much prolactin on her own.
How do I know when my breastmilk supply has regulated?
Every woman is different, but here are some signs that your breastmilk supply may be regulating:
- Your breasts are not leaking between feeds, or leaking less than they have been.
- Your breasts feel softer in the morning, or after baby has gone longer without feeding.
- You can go longer between feeding or pumping before feeling uncomfortable.
- The other breast is not leaking while you’re breastfeeding or single-pumping.
When to be concerned
Although you may experience changes in your supply throughout your breastfeeding journey, it’s important to make sure your baby is getting enough breastmilk. If you’re feeding directly from the breast it can be hard to tell how much breastmilk your baby is drinking. If your baby is making plenty of wet nappies each day that means she’s getting milk (if you’re exclusively breastfeeding). To be sure your baby is getting milk, aside from watching and listening for swallowing, you can do weighted feeds: Weigh your baby, breastfeed, and then weigh again to see how many ounces your baby has consumed. If you have any concerns you should talk to your baby’s care provider or a lactation consultant.
If your baby is showing signs of dehydration such as vomiting, fever, and a decrease in wet diapers, then you should seek help right away.
What if I’m not pumping enough milk for baby?
When your breastmilk supply regulates, you might notice a decrease in the amount of milk you express. The amount of milk you pump is not an indication of your breastmilk supply. However, if you feel you’re not pumping enough breastmilk – or, if you’ve noticed a decrease in the amount of breastmilk you normally express, there are some things you can try to increase milk output while pumping.
It’s important to note that if you’re not feeling fully-drained after pumping that you should check your breastshield size, and check that you’ve replaced your valves as regularly. If you’re pumping regularly to maintain supply, you should always pump until you feel empty – and for 5 minutes after your milkflow has stopped.