As a breastfeeding mom, keeping your milk supply balanced is probably one of your top priorities. There's nothing worse than worrying that something you do (or don't do) will affect the quality or quantity of the milk you produce. But no matter how carefully you try to stay on schedule, life sometimes gets in the way. So how how does missing a feeding affect your milk supply?
Even the most dedicated of breastfeeding parents will miss a feeding here and there. Between changes with your baby's schedule, hunger patterns, and real life demands, it's practically unavoidable. But here's the good news: “Missing an occasional feeding likely won’t diminish your milk supply,” lactation consultant Krystal Nicole Duhaney, RN, IBCLC, tells Romper. “If possible, do your best to remove milk from your breasts as soon as you can after the missed feeding,” she adds.
Although your body produces milk on a supply-and-demand basis, the fact is that skipping a single feeding on rare occasions won't have much of an impact on your overall supply (though it may make your breasts ache). The danger of decreasing your milk supply lies in skipping feedings frequently.
In an interview with Romper, IBCLC Julie Gladney says that frequent removal of milk is essential for adequate milk supply. She adds that anytime you stop frequently and regularly removing breast milk, you're at risk for diminishing your supply.
Anytime milk isn't removed from the breast, Gladney explains, Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL) is produced. "FIL is a polypeptide, which, as the name says, inhibits lactation because it has received feedback that milk is not being effectively removed from the breast," she tells Romper.
To put it succinctly, as you decrease the amount of milk you remove from your breasts (such as when you regularly skip feedings), eventually your body will send signals to decrease the amount of milk it produces overall. “Missing multiple feedings on a regular basis will likely cause a decrease in your supply. Aim to remove milk from your breasts (either by nursing, pumping, or hand expressing) at least seven times per day to maintain your milk supply,” Duhaney tells Romper.
Along with stress, the Mayo Clinic cited not removing milk frequently enough as the biggest inhibitors of milk supply.
While you may notice a dip in supply if your feeding schedule changes for a week or two, all is not lost. “The great news is that, in most cases, you should be able to increase your milk production by resuming your regular nursing [and] pumping schedule,” Duhaney tells Romper. “It may take some time to increase your supply, so it may be necessary to supplement with expressed milk, donor milk, or formula if your baby is showing signs of low milk intake. To give your supply a jumpstart, try power pumping once daily. This can mimic cluster feeding and can help increase your supply. Of course, if you are still struggling to replenish your supply, reach out to a Lactation Consultant for assistance,” she adds. As long as you're diligent about keeping to your pumping/feeding schedule, the occasional, rogue skipped feeding won't be the end of the world. And remember, even if your milk supply dwindles, your baby will still get fed, and that’s what really matters.
Krystal Nicole Duhaney, RN, IBCLC, and founder of Milky Mama
Julie Gladney, IBCLC, and founder of Ebb & Flow Lactation Services
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