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How Your Body Makes Milk for Your Baby

How do I make milk?

  • Your breasts change during your pregnancy to get ready to produce milk
  • Once you deliver the baby, the hormone that is needed to make milk, prolactin, 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 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-ish, clear, yellow, orange, or even green-- it is all good!

How the pump works©Medela

  • 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 breastmilk 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 breastmilk
  • 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 breastmilk 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 the baby. Please check with us if you are not sure
  • Safe alternatives for medication are usually available. Never stop pumping without checking with the ISCC doctors or lactation team
  • 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!


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