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Can someone explain to me in very simple terms how supply works?

(4 Posts)
staryeyed Mon 01-Jun-09 11:22:50

I looked at the kellymom website but couldn't get my head around it. Sorry for possibly very dim questions

If Ds2 6 wks doesn't feed so much one day does that affect the next days supply?

If he feeds madly how long before the extra milk comes in?

Are breasts ever empty and if not why does Ds2 stop feeding on a side and take the other one?

If DS2 normally has both boobs does it matter if he switches between them when feeding?

Should they be encouraged to have both sides even if they seem happy with one- would the supply adjust to feeding from one breast per feed?

Does supply work from feed to feed or over a period of time- if not feeding well at night time can that reduce supply or do they make up for it in the day time. Would boobs then adjust to the needed day time and night time supply?

theyoungvisiter Mon 01-Jun-09 11:30:43

not an expert but here is how I understand it:

Supply and demand - the exact length of time it takes for your body to get the hint can depend on all sorts of things, including how old your baby is etc.

So if you baby feeds madly one day, yes, there might be a slight increase the next day, but it would take several days of mad feeding to up your supply considerably. Likewise if you stopped completely it would take several days for your milk to disappear completely.

How long before the extra milk comes in - I think this is a "how long is a piece of string" kind of question.

Breasts are not ever completely empty as you continuously produce milk, but there comes a point when the flow is so frustratingly slow that the baby stops. An increased flow (either from the other breast or from breast compressions) can respark their interest.

I think to ensure good supply it's supposed to be good always to offer both breasts but many women can feed successfully with just one (both my DSes usually only took/take one side and twins often have only one side each).

They often up feeding at night to increase supply because night feed seem to stimulate supply more quickly than day feeds, because of hormone levels.

BUT as I say I am not an expert, this is just what I have gathered from 3 years of bf and mning! So please don't take this a gospel...

tiktok Mon 01-Jun-09 11:55:58

Will try to answer, staryeyed:

"If Ds2 6 wks doesn't feed so much one day does that affect the next days supply?"

Not so you would notice, no....supply is driven by the removal of milk from the breasts, so if on one day for whatever reason, your baby feeds less often, he is not 'driving' the supply as much, but I can't think you would actually be aware of a drop in supply...in any case, if the baby needs to feed more the next day, he will simply feed more, either at each session or by feeding more often. He will get the milk he needs that way, and in addition, drive the supply more.

"If he feeds madly how long before the extra milk comes in?"

If he takes a lot of milk, he leaves less milk behind, and the replacement milk is made more or less on the spot. Established, effective bf (which is a description of your bf, I would guess) is very responsive - some milk is made as and when the baby feeds, and some of it is made in response to the emptier breast, between feeds. The rate at which milk is produced varies - long gaps between feeds = slower production; short gaps between feeds = quicker production. It is exactly like a fast food restaurant - their production rate gets faster during a rush, and slows during a lull.

"Are breasts ever empty"

No - unless bf is going badly for some reason.

" and if not why does Ds2 stop feeding on a side and take the other one?"

Because flow slows down and the baby wants a faster flow; because he wants the less creamy milk at the start of the next side; because he wants a break and a burp....because he wants to be turned the other way....whatever

"If DS2 normally has both boobs does it matter if he switches between them when feeding?"

No. He will just adjust his intake to meet his needs anyway.

"Should they be encouraged to have both sides even if they seem happy with one- would the supply adjust to feeding from one breast per feed?"

In the beginning of bf, or if there is any suggestion of the mum's supply needing a boost, or the baby's intake needing a boost, then offer both sides each time. Two sides increases volume of production, and gives more opportunity to the baby to increase intake. But if bf is going well and is well-established, and the baby is happy and thriving on one side only, no problem. Supply adjusts, downwards.

"Does supply work from feed to feed or over a period of time"

Well, both, really.

"- if not feeding well at night time can that reduce supply"

Yes it can - now this may not be an issue with an older who starts feeding less at night. He may have less need for calories because he's having solids, and he may also have a mother with a robust milk supply anyway. But in the early weeks and months, long gaps between feeds could be crucial- not as a one off, but over days or even weeks.

"Would boobs then adjust to the needed day time and night time supply?"

Not really - breastmilk production is very generous at night in the early days and weeks because prolactin has a diurnal/nocturnal pattern, but this is not very marked at all as time goes on. In fact, prolactin has less and less of a role in breastfeeding and milk production as bf becomes established as a 'supply-demand' process. I think you are saying 'can breasts tell the time?' and so produce a lot in the day and less at night, and the answer is really 'not in the way you mean'. There is always milk in the breasts. The clock has very little to do with this.

Hope this helps - ask again, if I haven't answered clearly enough

staryeyed Mon 01-Jun-09 19:02:45

thank you both so much for explaining my questions- its much clearer now. smile

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