The first several weeks of breastfeeding are very important in determining how much milk your body will make. It’s as if your baby is placing his order for the amount of milk he will need to grow. Each time you feed your baby, you’re stimulating your body to make more milk.
Here’s how it works. Prolactin is the hormone that tells your body to make milk. In the first few weeks after your baby’s birth, your breasts grow special nerves (called receptors) that sense prolactin. The more your baby breastfeeds in the days and weeks right after her birth, the more prolactin receptors you will have. Having more prolactin receptors makes breastfeeding much easier, since these receptors will help your breasts make more or less milk based on your baby’s needs. .
If you use bottles or pacifiers in the first few weeks, you’re missing chances to stimulate your milk production and risking setting your supply too low. Similarly, if you use formula in the early weeks, your milk supply may be set at a lower quantity than your baby needs. Avoid the use of formula until your baby is at least 4 weeks of age.
- Nurse your baby whenever she is hungry, even if she has eaten very recently
- Encourage your baby to fully empty each breast (and get the hindmilk) at each feeding
- Do not give bottles or pacifiers (in addition to reducing your supply, these can also cause nipple confusion)
- Do not supplement with formula or artificial milk