What does it feel like when you breastfeed? Do your breasts feel taut and tender, are they leaking milk? Or is the opposite the problem - does your baby seem hungry and cranky?
Later on, particularly during the child's growth phases, it may happen that your breasts don't produce enough milk. The solution is usually to try and breastfeed more.
When your breasts overflow
Whoops! You're leaking milk and your breasts feel taut and tender.
The size of your lactating breasts might come as a shock to you. It is common for the body to produce too much milk during the first few days of breastfeeding.
After a few days your milk production will adjust to your baby's needs, and your breasts will gradually get smaller. That's because your baby isn't completely emptying your breasts. You body gets used to producing less milk.
Read our Breastfeeding – getting off to a good start article, with ideas and advice.
How to avoid producing too much breast milk
It can be tough to know that it takes several days for your breasts to adjust and produce the right volume of milk. Having too much milk in your breasts can in fact be painful. Your breasts feel taut and tender. Your baby has difficulty latching onto your nipple and it can hurt. Too much breast milk can also increase the risk of blocked milk ducts.
These tips can help to reduce the discomfort:
• If your breasts are tender, you can let the milk drain from one breast while you breastfeed with the other. That reduces the pressure naturally.
• Warmth can help some of the milk to flow out by itself. Try letting warm water flow across your breasts while you're standing in the shower .
• If you are displaying symptoms of milk duct lumps and mastitis or tender nipples, or if your child isn't showing any interest in feeding, you can pump your breasts manually or with a pump. Don't pump too much, as pumping stimulates your milk production.
• If necessary wake your baby up and breastfeed to relieve the pain of an overfilled breast. Otherwise, it is better to let your baby's needs determine the breastfeeding intervals. So if you feel okay and are not troubled by your breasts, despite them being filled to bursting point and leaking milk, it's usually best to follow your baby's rhythm. Your milk production gradually adapts to your baby's needs.
After you've breastfeed, your breasts should feel soft and free from tenderness.
If you have far too much milk, for a prolonged period of time, donating milk to hospitals is usually very much appreciated, if they have a "breast milk bank". Your milk will be put to good use for newborn babies in need.
Not enough milk?
A lot of mothers worry that they are not producing enough milk.
Your child can get cranky when you breastfeed on certain days and at certain times of the day. It seems like they are not getting enough milk. That can happen occasionally.
It is said that breast milk is more watery in the evening, so your baby doesn't always want to let go of your breast at the end of the day. That can be a bit frustrating, because it stops you from doing anything else. But it could mean that the child sleeps for longer during the night.
More food is needed during the growth phases
Babies grow faster during certain periods. During the growth periods it's a good idea to breastfeed often, in order to stimulate your milk production.
It can be difficult to get your milk flowing properly if you are stressed or worried. Milk production is also affected by the way a baby suckles and how good their grip is.
Take a look at our short film, with some useful breastfeeding tips.
How to increase your milk production
Lack of breast milk leads to worry and frustration. There's no doubt about that. Your milk is the baby's only source of nutrition. In situations like this, try to make breastfeeding as easy as you possibly can.
Lay down on the bed or get comfortable on the sofa, place your baby on your breast, shut everything else out (as much as possible) and breastfeed.
Here's some interesting reading about how you, the partner, can help with the breastfeeding.
More advice on how to increase your milk production:
• Offer your breast to your baby often.
• Avoid interrupting your baby's feeding time. Let your baby decide when it's time to stop breastfeeding.
• Breastfeed every time your baby is hungry - even at night. More information in this interesting article: How often and how long should I breastfeed?
• Make sure your baby sleeps between feeds and doesn't fall asleep every time it suckles. If you baby doesn't suckle your breast vigorously and efficiently, it won't be long before you start producing less milk. Which is why it's important your child isn't overly tired when you breastfeed.
• Rest whenever you get the chance and drink a lot of water, about a litre and a half, so you don't get dehydrated.
• You should eat properly too, and make sure there's protein in every meal. More dietary advice for breastfeeding mothers.