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Breast Storage Capacity Part 2

posted Jul 9, 2014, 7:30 AM by Carolyn Honea, IBCLC, CLC   [ updated Jul 9, 2014, 8:27 AM ]
If you read my previous post on breast storage capacity, you may be wondering… Am I a shot glass or tumbler? How can I tell?  Breastmilk storage capacity is not always related to breast size (some women simply carry more fat in their breasts, not necessarily more milk ducts), so looks can be deceiving. The good news is, your baby will tell you

At first, newborn feeding patterns are all over the place since newborns have such tiny tummies (the size of a marble at birth!), so no matter how abundant your milk, feedings will be small and frequent. During the first days and weeks you will get to know your baby's feeding cues - the universal language of babies that communicates their need to nurse for hunger, thirst and comfort. Those frequent feedings in the first two weeks play a very important role in activating your milk ducts. If all the ducts aren't "activated" by frequent feedings the first two weeks, your body won't be able to utilize your maximum storage capacity later. As you respond to your baby's feeding cues, letting her guide the way and set your milk supply, she will eventually settle into a rhythm that fits her metabolism, personality, and your breast storage capacity. After 6 weeks, you may be able to identify your breastmilk capacity by looking at baby's feeding frequency, your pumping output (only applicable if you pump regularly), and baby's milk transfer at the breast (determined by a breastfeeding professional by weighing baby before and after feeding):
Average milk intake (25-30oz) stays constant from 1-9 months of age, so most babies don't drop feedings over time unless mom has a tumbler size storage capacity. However, older babies do tend to move nighttime feedings more into the daytime - a blessing for sleep deprived mothers everywhere! Babies also get faster and more efficient at breastfeeding, so a nursling who took 30 minutes to nurse as a newborn may take only 10-15 minutes as a 4 month old. Older babies are more likely to have a predictable feeding pattern/routine, especially if they have a nap routine/schedule. I often help moms learn how to guide their baby (at least 2 months old) into an age-appropriate sleep routine and then baby naturally sets her own feeding routine around it. The more you focus on learning and responding to baby's feeding and sleep cues the first two months, the easier it is to identify their ideal routine later. (But if you need more guidance, consult The No-Cry Sleep Solution. It is the only book on routines that I recommend. Many other books that focus on schedules, including Babywise (click for info), are not compatible with successful breastfeeding for most women.)

One of the most important take-aways with your new understanding of milk storage capacity is not to compare you and your baby's feeding rhythm to other mothers and babies. Each mother/baby pair has a unique rhythm that should be respected and embraced, since doing so is the key to a truly happy, successful breastfeeding experience. The other take-away is that your baby is your best expert on setting a feeding rhythm, since only baby truly knows how much milk she is getting at each feeding.

Further Reading
Breastfeeding Made Simple (great info on breastfeeding rhythms and storage capacity)