By The Candices of GoldiLacts (IBCLC & CLS)
STIMULATION: The Key to Milk Supply
One of the most frequently asked lactation questions is, “how many minutes do I have to feed on each side?” The truth is, time at the breast varies between each parent and baby dyad. Supply is based on demand, let-down flow, breast capacity, baby’s anatomy, latch efficiency…and more!
What is most important is that both breasts are stimulated for the same amount of time over a 24-hour period. In fact, your baby takes in an average of 24-30 ounces (700-900ml) of breast milk a day, but this is not split equally across each feed. Your baby experiences every 24 hours differently, which means your breasts do as well.
The lactating human body creates breast milk based on demand. When a baby latches onto a breast, there is a continuous hormonal flow of prolactin and oxytocin in the brain which then signals a release of milk, or let down, inside of the breast the baby is latched onto. If one breast is demanded less than the other, that breast will make less milk. This is why it is recommended to alternate sides at the start of each feed. Whichever side baby latches onto first tends to receive a stronger latch, longer and more efficient drainage, and could also be the reason why baby is full after feeding on just one side. Each breast needs the same amount of stimulation and demand to maintain an adequate milk supply.
Some may notice their opposite breast leaking milk as they are feeding on the other. This is normal and a great indicator that your breasts are communicating. That being said, if this does not happen when you breastfeed, it is not an indicator of low or insufficient milk supply. Some parents never leak or feel any sensation at let-down! The development and behaviour of your baby at the breast is always the best indicator of a sufficient milk supply.
If you DO leak often, the Ladybugs by Haakaa can help collect this for later usage! Lightly suction a Ladybug milk collector on the side that isn’t being actively stimulated and allow that extra milk to be saved! It is important to note: drainage from Haakaa or Ladybug does not cue milk supply. Baby or pump must be latched onto the breast to fully stimulate milk production.
Remember that breasts, even two breasts on the same body, are asymmetrical. You may have more milk ducts on one side than the other, different milk capacities, different let-down speeds, etc. You essentially have totally different breasts on each side of your body! Your breastfeeding system is entirely unique and beautifully complex, making milk that is tailor-made to your baby. This explains why every breastfeeding body responds to stimulation differently!
The importance here should be placed on feeding on demand and balancing stimulation between the breasts, alternating sides any time you are signalled that baby has completed a feeding cycle. It is less about minutes and MOST about your individual baby’s signs of satiety, hydration, growth and development. Alternating sides is critical in the event they do not get enough milk or “enough time” during a feed on the last side because they know they can give cues and eat again! Babies are amazing communicators. They know what they need. Trust them, and trust your amazingly powerful body.
If you have questions about your milk supply, adequately and evenly stimulating, or if you are wondering if your baby is getting enough time for YOUR specific dynamic, schedule a lactation consultation with a trusted lactation professional. We are here to help!