My magic number is 8-9. I think. That’s what I go with, anyway. What’s that mean, you wonder? It means to keep my milk supply afloat, I need to empty my breasts 8 to 9 times a day.
When I breastfed Hooper, I fed him on demand like all the hippie people told me I should. I read his feeding cues and offered him the breast whenever he wanted and for however long he wanted. What I found, in hindsight, is that while it was enough for him (insert question mark here), it was not enough for me. I stopped breastfeeding just a week shy of a year because my supply was next to nothing. I had no pain physically while weaning because my supply had steadily been declining. I had little milk stored away in the freezer and was always anxious about the ambiguity in regards to how much Hooper was getting or how much I was producing.
This time around, I’m doing things differently. As Maya Angelou once said, “I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better, I do better”.
Van’s magic number is only 6. This means he only wants to feed 6 times a day. I try to offer the breast more often for my own agenda of keeping a plentiful supply but find that Van will fuss or have a lazy feeding because he’s simply not hungry. Thus, I pump. I started pumping with the goal of having a healthy supply stashed away in the freezer. Then I quickly realized how much these additional pump sessions were helping my milk supply. Now I have more milk than I can fit in my freezer but I continue pumping for the sole purpose of maintaining a hearty supply.
My midwife/lactation consultant shared this article with me that coined the term “The Magic Number”. Determining your magic number, the article states, depends on breast fullness and breast storage capacity. Here’s the breakdown:
-Breast fullness. Many woman make the mistake of only pumping or feeding when their breasts feel full. Having full breasts, however, actually causes milk production to slow. Imagine breastfeeding as a supply and demand system. If your breasts are full, they are telling your milk factory workers that you do not need any more milk. When your breasts are empty, on the other hand, those little factory workers get to work to fill you back up. Thus, the more you empty your breast, the faster they fill. The opposite is also true: the more full your breast, the slower milk production becomes.
-Storage capacity. This does not relate to breast size, though for me it’s easier to visualize a larger versus a smaller breast for ease of understanding. Storage capacity affects how long it takes for a breast to become full. A woman with a large storage capacity is going to take a longer amount of time to fill, thus milk production will continue until the breast is full. A woman with a small storage capacity, however, will become full quicker and thus milk production will slow when the breast becomes full. Therefore, a woman with a smaller storage capacity must empty her breasts more often than a woman with a bigger storage capacity to maintain milk production.