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When you start on your breastfeeding journey, you will no doubt have many questions. Some of these questions may be “how long does it take for your breasts to refill?”
Do you have to wait a set time between feeds in order for your milk to be replenished? These are great questions and completely normal things to ask when you are starting out with breastfeeding.
Many people think of breasts like a bottle that gets completely drained by your baby and then needs a specific amount of time to refill. But this is not the case, there is no magic timer that goes off to let you know they are full and ready to go again.
We have taken a deeper look at this question and the science behind how your breasts refill and how breastfeeding really works.
Table of Contents
- 1 Do Breasts Really Refill?
- 2 How Fast Does Breastmilk Replenish?
- 3 Wait To Pump Or Nurse
- 4 How Can I Get My Breasts To Refill Faster?
- 5 Will My Baby Unlatch When There Is No More Milk?
- 6 The Final Thought
Do Breasts Really Refill?
The quick answer is not in the same way as a bottle refills. Extensive research has shown that babies rarely take all of the milk available to them. Your baby removes around 75-80% of the available milk at each feed.
This means that your breasts are never completely empty. Your body is a fantastic machine and is continually producing breast milk, this is how the supply and demand feature of breastfeeding works.
How Fast Does Breastmilk Replenish?
Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis as we have mentioned above. So, if your baby is really hungry and empties your breast at a feed your body will respond by increasing milk production to replace what has been consumed.
But how long does it take for your body to replenish this stock of milk and for your flow to increase again? Once you have nursed or pumped for so long your breasts will have no significant amount of milk to give.
From the time that you reach this point, it usually takes between 20-30 minutes for your breasts to “refill”.
This does not mean that you will get the same flow as you were, it means that your flow would be quicker than at the end of your nursing or pumping session.
If you are looking for a faster flow then it is advised that you wait around an hour from your last nursing or pumping session.
The time it takes for your flow to increase is not determined by whether you are nursing or pumping as your body has no way of telling the difference.
Your body is simply working on the basis that a certain amount of milk has been used in a certain time period.
In the first few weeks after birth, your body is still trying to figure out how much milk it needs to make and when. These first few weeks are a perfect time to get a reliable milk supply on track as your prolactin levels are high.
Wait To Pump Or Nurse
You must remember that breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, the more you remove the more your body will produce. So the more your pump or nurse could potentially lead your body to produce an oversupply of milk.
This doesn’t sound like a bad thing does it, but it can lead to some painful side effects such as engorgement, clogged ducts, and even mastitis.
To prevent this oversupply it is advised that you do not pump or nurse from the same breast within 30 minutes of a previous pumping or nursing session.
Try to alternate breasts at every feed or pump to ensure that your body is producing the milk needed and not oversupplying.
How Can I Get My Breasts To Refill Faster?
There is no guarantee that any of the following will work for you as every woman is different but there are ways that you can try to increase your milk supply.
Nurse on demand
Your milk supply is very much based on supply and demand. The more demand for milk the more your body will supply, this is the theory anyway.
This is a good way to increase your milk supply and here is a very basic plan. For 2-3 days in a row, you need to pump after every session for 10-20 minutes at a time.
This will ensure that your breasts are completely empty and tell your body that it needs to produce more milk.
These are both effective and delicious. There are a few different recipes on the internet but the main thing to include in your cookies is galactagogues or milk stimulating foods such as brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, flaxseed, and whole oats.
Drink Pre-mama lactation support mix
This drink provides natural lactation support as it is formulated with fennel seed, fenugreek, and blessed thistle to help boost milk production. It also includes key lactation vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin D3, and calcium.
Massage your breasts while nursing or pumping
By massaging and compressing your breasts during every feed or pumping session will help to push out more milk. You are then back to the supply and demand theory.
Eat and drink more
In order to increase their milk supply, nursing mothers must ensure that eating and drinking are prioritized throughout the day.
Nothing will make your milk supply drop quicker than being hungry or dehydrated. It may be an idea to have plenty of snacks already prepared so they are easy to access.
Get plenty of rest
When you are burning the candle at both ends which many new moms are doing this does not help your milk supply. I know that it is easier said than done but you really do need to ensure that you are well rested so that your body can operate at its peak.
When nursing offer both breasts
Even if your little one does not seem interested, offer both of your breasts when nursing. This will help to stimulate your body to make more milk.
If you do find that your baby is too sleepy to feed on both breasts, you could try removing his clothes until they perk up. If this doesn’t work you could always just pump from the side that your baby is not feeding on.
A lactation consultant
If you find that you are still not increasing your milk supply it may be time to bring in the experts and finding a good Lactation Consultant may be the answer to your problems.
Replace pumping parts
This may be something that you would not think of but it is recommended that pumping parts such as valves and membranes are replaced every 4-6 weeks if you are pumping on a daily basis.
Will My Baby Unlatch When There Is No More Milk?
When you first start breastfeeding you will think that all the time that your baby is nursing they are actually drinking milk, gaining weight, and growing.
When in fact many baby’s may latch on at the breast and appear to be nursing when they are actually passively nursing and not pulling any milk from your breast at all. This could potentially end up with your baby not drawing adequate milk in order to gain weight.
A breastfed baby often uses their feeding as a way to be close to mom, so they can be able to feel her heartbeat and to reassure themselves when they feel insecure.
The Final Thought
Our bodies are a fantastic machine and our breasts are amazing. They can detect the supply of milk needed simply from what is being removed, they produce milk continually and take no time at all to refill and be able to nourish your baby again.