“The Magic Number”
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.
You can view the whole article by clicking here.
What’s your magic number? Did you find this explanation helpful?

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8 Responses

  • Interesting. It reminds me of what they say about eating and metabolism… It’s better for the body to have frequent meals throughout the day so it knows to keep burning. If it goes too long without food, it’ll just slow down, assuming there may not be food coming for a while.

    I was just reading on another woman’s blog about how she thought being a mom would be totally intuitive and she would just KNOW how to feed her baby, how to get her baby to sleep, etc. She says what you said — it’s a lot of trial and error. Like I always say, I’m glad you’re learning this stuff before me 😉 You can be my lactation consultant. That sounds gross for some reason, sorry.

  • Thanks for this. I’m surprised that I was never given this info in class or even after I took my baby home. Glad you’re around–super helpful!

  • yeah. . I always nursed on demand and my breasts did not pump well at all even when I’d try to. I’d get an ounce to 4 ounces when I’d try and that was not enough. My firstborn was 10 pounds at birth, so he ate for about an hour every 90 minutes and my breasts were always hard as rocks for the first six months haha. I nursed him for 15 months. The day I stopped nursing I found out I was pregnant with my second son, who nursed so much more easily. The firstborn son caused my nipples to bleed sometimes. The secondborn son was a snacker. He’d nurse for 10 minutes every 45 minutes to an hour. It actually worked out really well and I never ran low and he always seemed satisfied. It is SO interesting how different every nursing experience is! I nursed him for only 12 months. He took to regular milk to a champ and has an obsession with milk that we have been trying desperately for a couple years to get him to drink anything else (and sometimes put half water/half milk in his cup). Anyway, I love nursing stories like yours. I can’t imagine doing only 6 feedings or 8 feedings in a day. My breasts leaked too much and hurt if I didn’t empty out enough. I also don’t know if it has ANYTHING to do with it at all, but I have A cup breasts and wen I was pregnant and nursing I went to a double D. I did try to pump loads of times but it really never worked. I have known a few women who couldn’t pump too well compared to nursing. It is odd. hmm. When the boys got older, I did only have to nurse maybe 3 times a day which was great. In the beginning though, definitely more like 16. haha.

  • Isn’t it funny how even breastfeeding can vary between siblings?! I never realized how different babies could be until I had two. I breastfed both kids on demand and since I have always had a disdain for pumping, never really did it. That being said, Isla never took to a pacifier whereas Connor did. Isla used/uses me as her pacifier, thus I have a much heartier milk supply this time around.

  • This is really helpful. I’ve been tracking my nursing on an app since her birth and my magic number is 7 feedings and 1 pumping session. If she gets a bottle, I always pump to make up for that feeding. Also I’ve noticed how much I need to feed her in order for her to get to sleep by 10pm – it’s about an hour and 45 minutes (or 7 feedings).
    Great post and thanks for the article!!!

  • Even though I’ve had a baby and thought I did ok at breast feeding a lot of what you say here makes total sense and I would definitely put into practise more pumping no matter how boring it is! I hadn’t really thought about the idea of if the breasts are full then there is no need for them to make more milk. I guess I worked on the theory that if they were full that was good. I think I even liked them to feel really full before S fed again, otherwise I felt he wasn’t really getting anything. It is so hard when you can’t see what’s going on!
    I also think that idea of storage capacity makes sense too. I’m defo in the small boobed group – well, non existent now since that little one got their chops round them and totally drained them dry. Ho hum, I morn a little for what (very small) amount I actually had! Thanks Ashley, all good advice for when, if there is another!!

    S xoxo

    • You said it, pumping is SO boring. I dread sitting at that pump… but it’s become my time to go on Instagram, which is fun, so whatev’s.


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