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How Your Body Makes Milk For Your Baby

SILKHow do I make milk?

  • Your breasts change during your pregnancy to get ready to produce milk.
  • Once you deliver your baby, the hormone (known as prolactin) that is needed to make milk increases.
  • Glands in your breasts then start making milk.
  • When your baby sucks on your nipple (or when the breast pump sucks on your breast), your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin. This causes milk to flow out of the breast's glands into the small tubes or ducts you can see in the photo.
  • The milk then moves down the ducts to the nipple.
  • At first you will notice drops of yellow colostrum. Remember that every drop is liquid gold!
  • In 3-7 days your milk will start to change in color, thickness, and quantity.
  • Colostrum and milk can be all different colors. Do not worry if your milk is blue-tinted, clear, yellow, orange, or even green. It is all good!

How the pump works

  • The machine's suction on your nipples makes your body think the baby is sucking.
  • Using your hands to compress or massage the breast will help the milk move down the ducts.
  • The suction of the pump will remove the milk.
  • Emptying the milk from your breasts sends your body a message to make more milk.
  • More pumping + good milk removal = more breast milk for your baby!

How much milk does a preemie need?

  • In the first days, your baby needs only a tiny amount per feeding.
  • However, the first few weeks after delivery are critical for successful milk production later.
  • Very quickly we will feed your baby more and more of your breast milk.
  • By the time your baby is ready to leave the hospital (around your due date) your baby will need about 500 mls (1/2 quart) a day.
  • When you have a good milk supply it helps your baby learn to breastfeed more easily when he/she is ready (at about 32-34 weeks).
  • Even though you may have a lot of stored milk in the first few weeks, you will quickly use it when your baby gets bigger and eats more and more. Do not be tempted to pump less!

Is it safe for me to keep taking my medication?

  • You can continue to take most prescribed medications while pumping breast milk for your preemie.
  • The pain medication you are given in the hospital is safe for your baby (only small amounts get into the milk.)
  • Tylenol and ibuprofen are safe.
  • Cold medicines can decrease your milk supply.
  • Coffee and caffeine in soda is fine (in moderation.)
  • Ask your doctor if any new medication you start taking is okay for your baby. Please check with us if you are not sure.
  • Safe alternatives for medication are usually available. Never stop pumping without checking with the NICU doctors or lactation consultants.
  • When you are sick, you make antibodies that can protect the baby from the same illness, so there is no need to throw out the milk when you are ill.
  • Do not throw your milk out without checking with us first!
    The Chester County Hospital Lactaction Consultants: 610.738.2582

Last Updated: 6/23/2011