Establishing Breastfeeding to Maintain Milk Supply

Developing a healthy breastfeeding routine right away is crucial to establishing and maintaining a strong breast milk supply.

As you grow accustomed to life with a new baby and continue establishing breastfeeding, one of the most important things to remember is that your breasts make milk on an “on-demand” basis. This means that how often and how much milk is removed from your breasts, whether by nursing or pumping, are the main factors that determine the volume of milk that your body will continue to produce. The more often that milk is expressed, then the more milk your breasts create.

Understanding How Milk Supply Works When Establishing Breastfeeding

In order to maintain milk supply later, nursing and/or pumping frequently throughout the lactation phases is vital to first establishing successful breastfeeding. The Initiation Phase, Building Phase and Maintenance Phase are all important, individual stages of the breastfeeding journey and take place from the day you give birth to about six months after. Developing a healthy breastfeeding routine right away is crucial for a number of reasons like:

  • Frequent nursing and/or pumping expresses the colostrum from your breasts, which is both an incredibly valuable source of early nutrition for your newborn and a signal to your body that more milk should be made.
  • There is compelling evidence that suggests these early steps in the breastfeeding journey set the groundwork for more seamless success later, including maintaining your milk supply.

Learning as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby is born is helpful, so you can begin your journey with confidence, valuable knowledge, and realistic expectations. Doing research ahead of time can also help you nurse most efficiently after your baby is born. This means ensuring that your milk has been completely and effectively removed from your breasts during each nursing or pumping session, as this is a major factor in the amount of milk that continues to be produced. Since your breasts make milk on an on-demand basis, if your body senses that your milk is not being expressed completely and your breasts aren’t fully emptied, then it will naturally slow future milk production.

Ensuring that breastfeeding positioning is comfortable for you both and that your baby is latching properly can help your little one most efficiently drain your milk. If they don’t fully empty the breasts during a nursing session, be sure to express the extra milk after or between feedings to maintain milk supply. If you’re encountering frequent or ongoing issues with your baby’s latch or him or her not draining the breast, our 24/7 LC™ service connects you with a lactation professional for a live consultation and real-time assistance.

Other Important Factors to Consider When Establishing Breastfeeding

To maintain milk supply, it is also important to breastfeed at night during the first few weeks after birth while in the Initiation and Building Phases of lactation. This is because prolactin - the hormone primarily responsible for milk production - is present at higher levels at night, so nursing and/or pumping at night during this time in these early phases can help encourage ample breast milk. Self-care is also essential as you’re establishing breastfeeding, maintaining your milk supply, and bonding with your baby. Be sure to rest often and try to sleep when your little one sleeps. Frequent stress, being in pain, and getting sick can actually suppress milk production and reduce your supply, so focusing on your wellness is important for both you and your baby! 

As you begin your breastfeeding routine, it can be especially helpful to use a printable feeding and pumping log to keep careful track of your baby's feedings and your pumping sessions during these early days and weeks. This can help you understand when and how frequently your little one feeds while recording important information that you might forget later, because we know how tiring those first weeks at home together can be!

Today, moms also have a rent-to-home option when it comes to our multi-user, hospital-grade Symphony PLUS® breast pump, which has been shown to significantly increase breast milk production when used soon after birth. With research-based Initiation Technology™, Symphony PLUS helps moms to initiate, build, and maintain their breast milk supply and is available for comfortable, convenient at-home use as long as you choose. Visit for more details or to place your rental order today.

Additionally, you may want to consider avoiding the integration of solid foods, water, and formula into your baby’s diet for as long as possible (without sacrificing the health and wellbeing of yourself or your little one, of course), usually until about six months after birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life and continued breast milk feeding until his or her first birthday, or so long as mutually desired by both you and your little one. Exclusive breastfeeding until other foods are introduced, usually around the six-month mark, will encourage continued milk production and help prevent your baby from losing interest or taking in too little breast milk, which can lead to a decrease in supply.

Lastly, starting your period, becoming pregnant again, and taking hormonal birth control (especially birth control containing estrogen) can all be factors that influence your milk production and may even significantly decrease supply if you are still nursing or pumping.

We understand that breastfeeding can sometimes have challenges, especially when learning how to maintain milk supply and understanding this new responsibility that your body has. Rest assured that you are providing the best possible nutrition to your little one right away in life and Medela is here for you through each stage of your breast milk feeding journey.