People ask how I make so much milk. Honestly I feel like I’m winging it, but here’s what I’ve figured out, based on my personal experience of a loooonnnggg 6 1/2 weeks of making milk.
When Lioness was in the NICU, she ate every 3 hours, which equals 8 times a day. So I was told to make milk 8 times a day as well, but to pump for 15 minutes every 2 hours all day long that way I could go longer stretches at night.
What I learned from that is I make twice as much milk during the day as I did during the night, probably because I was sitting with the baby and pumping every 2 hours. Being away from the baby over night and going longer between pumping results in less milk.
During the day, I could make 8 ounces in a 15 minutes. The nurse said she had never seen someone make that much milk on day 4. After going home from the hospital, there were times I’d make as much as 12 ounces in one milk-making session.
I pretty sure there’s a direct correlation between making excessive quantities of milk and getting clogged milk ducts. So don’t be envious! I spent 3 weeks working that out. Each day there was a new painful spot. Hot showers helped, and finally one day all the trapped milk was released and a record setting 17 ounces of milk came forth.
That was around the same time I decided I had plenty on milk in the freezer and pumping every 2-3 hours was unrealistic, so I started going 4 hours between pumping sessions, which sometimes turned into 5 hours, at which point my body said, “What? You want me to keep making milk? I thought the baby was weened already.”
I’ve heard I should stockpile lots of milk in the beginning, because at some point the milk production slows down. For me that seemed to happen around 6 weeks.
Between clogged ducts and being a slacker, I now make normal milk quantities. I usually make a 4 ounce bottle for the baby, but sometimes its a 3.5 ounce bottle, especially during the night. During the day I usually make about 6 ounces at a time, so there’s an extra ounce, since I separate the milk and don’t feed 1 ounce of formilk “skim milk” to the baby.
Cutting it so close is stressful, thankfully once a day I make a higher amount of milk, usually in the morning after a hot shower. I tried taking a hot bath in the evening, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. I have figured out for optimal milk production, I wake up, make milk, eat breakfast etc, then take a hot shower and make milk around 2 hours since the previous milk-making time. That results in 10-12 ounces of milk, so I can freeze some and get ahead in preparation for the lower milk production during the night. I guess I could try taking a hot shower before every time I make milk, but who has time for that?
I’m now attempting to resume a daytime schedule of making milk every 2 1/2 – 3ish hours. That’s unrealistic on days when we’re out and about, but when I’m home all day, I need to be making milk. I’m hoping pumping more often will lead to an increase in the quantity of milk per pumping session, but if nothing else I’ll have more milk simply because I make milk more times per day. That way I can stockpile lots of milk in the freezer, so I can quit pumping, but baby girl can keep drinking Mama’s milk. Because pumping sucks and I’d like to be done already!
Added thoughts on Oct 17th
Today my body decided to disprove every theory I had based my experiences the previous few days. I made lots of milk first thing in the morning without a hot shower. 2 hours later I attempted to make milk, but nothing happened. After a hot shower, I got a record low of 3 ounces. Clearly there is no rhyme or reason to this. But when all else fails, make milk while holding a hungry, wailing, squirming infant. Be sure to wear a hands-free-pumping-bra to keep everything securely held in place, otherwise you’ll end up with a milky mess.