Many breastfeeding mothers worry that they don’t have enough milk because their breasts feel empty.
It’s only natural that you’re going to be constantly checking and caring that your baby is receiving enough nourishment from you and your breastmilk.
The below tips and facts will help to reassure you, and allow your breastfeeding journey continue with less worry. Here are 6 things to do when you feel like you have empty breasts:
#1: Relax, it’s normal!
Particularly after the early weeks, it’s perfectly normal for your breasts to feel soft and comfortable. This is because the amount of milk you make by this time will be in sync with the amount of milk your baby will be drinking.
Some mothers, even in the early weeks, find that their breasts feel comfortable. This may be due to your baby feeding well and often.
#2: Feed your baby when he or she wants to
Feeding your baby when he or she is showing feeding cues will help to ensure that your supply matches your individual baby’s needs.
While most mothers are able to make plenty of milk for their baby, different mothers have different storage capacities. This is the amount of milk a mother can store in her breasts between breastfeeds. Babies whose mothers have smaller storage capacities tend to need to feed more often. Whereas, babies whose mothers have bigger storage capacities may not need to feed as often to ensure they get what they need.
Either way, feeding your baby when he wants to feed will help make sure he gets what he needs.
Also, the volume of breastmilk a baby needs in 24 hours varies quite a bit. The average amount that a breastfed baby drinks between the ages of 1 to 6 months is between 750-800mL. However, some babies only need about 500mL in 24 hours whereas others need over 1L.
So, the only way to make sure your baby gets the amount of milk he needs is to feed him according to his own individual need (when he is showing feeding cues).
#3: Get your skin-to-skin on!
Spending as much time as possible with your baby on your chest in skin-to-skin contact helps to boost your milk supply. It also helps you recognise your baby’s feeding cues. This is because when placed in skin-to-skin contact with a mother, a baby’s instinctive behaviours to find his mother’s breasts are more likely to kick in.
#4: It’s usually a good sign
Most of the time, if your breasts feel soft and comfortable, it means your baby is feeding well and often. This helps to keep up your supply and ensure your baby gets what he needs.
#5: It helps to keep up your supply
Keeping breasts well drained means that the rate at which they make more milk is kept high. The ‘emptier’ the breast, the faster the rate at which more milk is made. Whereas, the fuller the breast, the slower the rate more milk is made.
So, when you feed your baby when he needs to be fed, your breasts are more likely to be kept mostly well-drained for more of the time. This helps to keep up your milk supply.
#6: Lactating breasts are never fully empty
While breastfeeding, a mother’s breasts are never fully empty.
As long as milk continues to be removed, milk will continue to be made. The more milk that is removed, the more milk your breasts will make and vice versa.
See our article about reliable signs that your baby is getting enough milk – this will help you work out if your baby is getting enough milk.
Still worried that your baby may not be getting enough milk? Call the Australian Breastfeeding Association (or La Leche League in the US) or see a qualified lactation consultant.