Lactation + breast milk supply is something that nearly every nursing or pumping mom spends a ton of time and energy trying to understand and optimize.
Like a lot of things in the pregnancy and post-partum world, breast milk production + supply can be surprisingly hard, intimidating, frustrating, and sometimes defeating - and is often not talked about. Larken founders, Katie and Maggie, designed the bestselling Larken X nursing + hands-free pumping bra after their own struggles to feel heard and supported in their breastfeeding journey. From Larken’s original product release grew a community of supportive, badass moms mentoring one another through their motherhood musings.
While you sit in awe of the amazing abilities of your body, you probably have some a lot of lactation questions. Thanks to our wonderful Larken community, we’ve compiled all things milk production into one place.
Keep in mind this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. We also know no two breastfeeding journeys are the same, so don’t worry if yours is different from those you read here. When in doubt, reach out to your doctor or lactation consultant for help!
Your body will begin to make breast milk long before your baby arrives. This milk is called colostrum, and can begin to appear as early as your second trimester. Colostrum will appear as small drops of clear or yellow fluid. Baby’s stomach is only as big as a marble when they are born so they don’t need a lot of milk at first!
For most women, it takes about 2-3 days for milk levels to increase and 3-5 days for it to reach full potential after your baby’s birth. This is often a gradual change that is indicated by breast fullness and a change from colostrum to thin, white milk. Liquid gold!
If you’re experiencing delayed onset of lactation after giving birth, don’t panic. As many as 25% of mothers report it took longer than 3 days for their milk to “come in”. A lactation consultant and your pediatrician can help if you have concerns about your early milk supply.
New moms can be surprised to learn that their milk won’t come from a single hole in the center of their nipple. Think shower head, not garden hose. Your nipple is made up of tiny ducts that all work together to supply milk to your little one. Amazing, right?
Milk stains on your new favorite shirt is a tad annoying, but understanding why your breasts are leaking milk might make you appreciate your beautiful bod a little more. Cue: Your Maternal Instincts! While your body adjusts to breastfeeding, your letdown reflex may react to certain stimuli or sensations such as hearing your baby cry. The rush of oxytocin leads to milk release or to even spray, with or without your baby present. For many women, leaking decreases as their milk supply regulates (around 12-16 weeks), but others may find they leak as long as they are breastfeeding. Reusable breast pads that you put into your bra help avoid those embarrassing moments!
Oversupply can occur for about four weeks (or more) after you begin breastfeeding and is a result of your body trying to reach an optimal supply/demand equilibrium with your baby's feeding schedule. Signs of oversupply can include a fast flow, especially during the first let down. Your baby may also cough or sputter near the start of your feed, clamp or bite down, and frequently spit up. If you’re producing more milk than you need, try reclining while feeding to give your baby more control over flow, avoid lactation tea and supplements, and use milk collection shells while your breasts get into a better supply rhythm.
As a last resort, you can pump a small amount of milk out of your breasts before feeding, but be warned that this quick fix actually sends your body a message to keep producing this excess. Meeting with a lactation consultant about this can be hugely helpful - they can help you create a plan to regulate your supply.
Be patient with yourself as your milk comes in. If you’re worried your supply is running low there are some quick fixes you can try on your own before turning to the professionals.
Overall, a balanced diet is important when breastfeeding, but there are certain foods that help boost milk supply. Complex carbs such as barley and oats are great for improving lactation. If plain oats aren’t your favorite and you want to get creative, consider baking them into some yummy lactation cookies! Lots of veggies, beans, and legumes are important to a balanced diet and to help provide your baby with important nutrients through milk. Remember - you need about 500 extra calories when breastfeeding, and lots and lots of water.
It is common for your nipples to be sore during early stages of lactation and breastfeeding. And by sore we mean downright painful, and cracked and maybe even bleeding (just keeping it real over here). We’re here to say - it does (or should) pass! However, if pain is severe beyond the first week of breastfeeding, you should consult with your doctor. Usual pain should remain only for the first minutes of latching and subside throughout the breastfeed. Breastfeeding really shouldn’t hurt - if it does, a lactation consultant can help you to ensure baby’s latch is correct, check to see if baby has any tongue or lip ties and help you find solutions to make you more comfortable.
Over the counter products like Motherlove Nipple Cream can help soothe painful cracked nipples. This formula in particular not only provides relief, but also works as a pump lubricant!
Remember, like all aspects of pregnancy and motherhood, you are not alone! Mamas all around the world rejoice and respect you for your sacrifices. Join our community and spark a conversation over on our Instagram, @larken_shop.