Managing your milk supply when expressing

Your milk supply is usually established in 3 to 4 weeks. The average supply is 700ml to 900ml of milk in 24 hours for 1 baby.

You need to express 8 to 10 times in 24 hours for the first few weeks to reach this level.

It can help to keep a log of the amount of milk you express every day so you notice any changes. There are also free apps that can help you keep track.

It may take longer to reach this amount if your baby is very premature. But every drop of breast milk is helping your baby. Talk to a lactation consultant and your nurse or midwife if you have concerns about your supply.

Milk supply varies from person to person. If you cannot produce enough breast milk, donor breast milk may be an option. Your baby's care team will discuss this with you if needed.

Some premature babies need additional protein, minerals and vitamins. These can be added to your expressed breast milk through fortifiers. Your doctor will prescribe fortifiers if your baby needs them.

Watch a video on establishing a good milk supply

Senior dietitian Jennifer Wilkinson shares some tips on establishing a good milk supply for a premature baby.

Managing your milk supply

When your milk supply is established, you can reduce the number of times you express each day but still keep a full supply. Try dropping to 5 to 7 expressing sessions a day or pumping for shorter times.

If the milk supply drops, you need to express more often. You can increase your milk supply by doing some power pumping.

If your supply stays the same, then you are maintaining your supply on fewer expressing sessions.

You can also manage your milk supply by increasing or decreasing how often you pump.

Increasing milk supply

You may find that your breast milk supply reduces after a few weeks.

When a baby can feed at the breast, they have growth spurts every few weeks. This helps to increase your breast milk supply. Growth spurt days are days when a baby feeds more often.

When you are pumping for a sick or premature baby, you need to do power pumping (extra pumping) every few weeks to increase your supply. These are days when you do more pumping sessions than usual.

Use a combination of breast massage, hand expressing and pumping. It can be difficult to fit in more sessions. Try to plan them for when you have more support if possible.

Power pumping

To help increase supply, try to add 2 or 3 pumping sessions in 24 hours. Or add 1 hour in the evening.

During these sessions:

  1. Express for around 20 minutes.
  2. Turn off the pump and do some breast massage for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn on the pump for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn off the pump and do some breast massage for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn on the pump for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn off the pump.

In these sessions, you may express very little milk or no more milk than usual. It can take 2 to 3 days before you notice any change in supply.

Your milk supply should increase if you do power pumping for a few days. But any more pumping than usual can help increase your breast milk supply.

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 10 November 2021
Next review due: 10 November 2024