What decides the amount of milk your breasts will produce? I'll give you a hint. It has nothing to do with size, lactation cookies, or herbal teas. The amount of milk you will produce for the longevity of your child's breastfeeding is decided very early in your baby's life. In fact, this little known piece of information can completely transform your breastfeeding experience. Here's why.
In the first 24 - 72 hours of baby's life, your breasts are releasing a very special, high- caloric content milk known as colostrum. Not only is this food the perfect medicine for your baby, it is also helping your breasts do some investigative work. You see, the more baby can feed in this window, the more receptor sites will form around your nipple. That's right. The more voracious baby is on arrival, the more storage sites for milk your breasts will form. Nature is very intelligent. It knows how to make enough to sustain while not having surplus and wasting resources. And colostrum takes some serious mouth muscles from baby to get adequately fed. This sucking/ site forming window is only open in the first few days of babies life, and will remain that way until you deliver another baby. And so it goes with every woman who has ever birthed a child from the beginning of time, and so it goes forever.
The reason why it's important to know this is because there are certain instances where a mother and baby may not get the most successful start to their breastfeeding relationship due to various reasons. Mother and baby could be separated for medical reasons, or baby could arrive sleepy from an extra long or heavily medicated birth. In these cases, hand expressing as often as possible can give your receptor sites the cues they need to grow adequately in size. Having baby as near to the nipple as possible, even asleep on the nipple, is enough to do the trick, but having a successful latch and vigorous suck from baby should be the ultimate goal, especially in the second dark period of baby's life (if baby is born at night, this would mean the following night).
Always check with your doula, nurse or lactation consultant to make sure you and baby are getting a good position and deep latch. Listen for little puffs of air to know baby is swallowing. Take a deep breath and give yourself time to really appreciate the marvel of nature. This relationship between breast and baby, mother and child, milk and newborn mouth takes time and patient persistence, but the rewards are innumerable. Breastmilk is the best milk. I wish you many blessings on the journey!