Peaks in Breast Milk Production: When Do They Occur?

There are always doubts about breastfeeding, both in first-time and experienced mothers. For example, many wonder if they have enough milk to supply their newborn's demands and what production peaks are.
Peaks in Breast Milk Production: When Do They Occur?

Last update: 09 December, 2018

Peaks in breast milk production are of great benefit to infants. When do they occur?

In this article, you’ll learn how certain hormones influence this process. You’ll also discover why, as a mother, you play a fundamental role in your child’s healthy eating.

Prolactin: responsible for breast milk production

Prolactin is the hormone responsible for stimulating the mammary glands to produce breast milk. Consequently, it increases its activity progressively from the first trimester of pregnancy.

However, prolactin doesn’t produce milk right away because the progesterone and estrogen levels that the placenta produces inhibit its actions.

When the placenta is expelled, prolactin initiates milk production, which is maintained at high levels for months after delivery. Furthermore, this rise in milk production is determined by the frequency with which the baby suckles.

That is to say, if you breastfeed often, the milk levels increase. On the other hand, if your child drinks little milk, the amount in your breasts decreases.

When do peaks in breast milk production occur?

Prolactin levels multiply between 10 and 20 times in each occasion that the child feeds. This allows peaks in breast milk production to occur.

These peaks reach their maximum level while the baby suckles the breasts at night— from 20 to 40 minutes after the stimulus starts. This increase in milk can last about 3 or 4 hours.

If you breastfeed often, your milk levels increase.

Moreover, the hours in which you can achieve production peaks are between 2 and 6 in the morning. For this reason, it’s advisable to breastfeed during the night whenever your baby requests it.

How does oxytocin affect breast milk?

Oxytocin is a hormone that takes effect during childbirth and lactation. It allows the milk to escape spontaneously as soon as the baby sucks.

Many mothers can feel the effects of this hormone since it causes a kind of contraction and tingling in the breasts. It feels like milk is coming out and you can even see a few drops starting to leak out. This is known as the rise of milk.

A mother’s thoughts can stimulate oxytocin. Therefore, they play a key role in triggering milk output. In fact, this production can be activated by only having the intention to breastfeed or listening to the child’s cry.

Conversely, thinking negatively about breastfeeding has an inhibiting effect. It can reduce the amount of milk, even up to the point of emptiness.

Why should you breastfeed your baby at night?

It’s advisable to breastfeed at night because, at that time, the production of breast milk is stimulated. It also allows the baby to gain weight.

It’s also been proven that when children are breastfed, they sleep more during the night. The reason is that prolactin also has a relaxing effect on the mother and baby.

Another reason to breastfeed at night is that it reduces the risk of infections for the mother. It also prevents blockages in the breasts due to milk accumulation. It’s a common problem when the baby goes a long time without breastfeeding.

“Peaks in breast milk production reach their maximum level while the baby suckles the breasts at night – from 20 to 40 minutes after the stimulus starts.”

Should you increase your amount of breast milk?

In most cases, this isn’t necessary as each woman is naturally prepared to produce milk. As long as there is breast stimulation through a baby’s suckling, there will be enough milk.

However, there are certain extreme circumstances that require the mother to aid the stimulation of breastfeeding.

For instance, if the baby has lost a lot of weight or is premature, a rapid increase in milk intake is necessary. Another factor is the forced separation of mother and child due to hospital policies.

Certain extreme circumstances require a mother to aid the stimulation of breastfeeding.

In these cases, the doctor may prescribe some drugs with galactagogue effects. The most frequent is domperidone.

Another solution is powerful extraction. This practice consists of sucking milk for 5 minutes from each breast.

To do this, a breast pump is used every hour during the day, while at night, a 4-hour break is allowed. This operation also activates prolactin, which achieves a rapid increase, even spikes, in breast milk production.

In conclusion, peaks in breast milk production help your child meet the milk demand required for healthy and rapid growth. Undoubtedly, this is an aspect that all new mothers must attend and follow in their day-to-day.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.