Milk signs

How do I know if I have enough milk?

One way to know if a mother has enough breast milk is to look at the “milk signs,” a group of indicators that provide a rough idea of how much milk a mother has made and is currently making. Mothers are likely to have a normal or large supply if their breasts grow during pregnancy, if the breasts fill on Days 2 to 4 after birth, their breasts are fuller before feeds, and they express normal or above normal amounts of milk. The baby will tend to choke, gulp, and pant at the start of the feed. Mothers may have a low supply if their breasts don’t grow during pregnancy and show little or no change when the milk comes in or before feeds. The milk may come in on Day 5 or later. Their baby will rarely choke, gulp or pant during feeding. Many milk signs become less prominent as the baby grows. 

A) Describing milk signs

 Most mothers have a normal milk supply, but some have:

Other mothers have a milk supply that is normal at the start of breastfeeding but then decreases (reduced milk supply).

Milk signs are a group of indicators that provide a rough idea of how much milk a mother has made and is currently making. In addition to the baby’s growth, milk signs can help to reassure mothers that they are normal. If their baby is not growing well, milk signs can help to identify the cause of the problem.

Milk signs are best used to see if a mother’s milk came in well and they have enough milk in the first weeks after birth. Many of these signs become less prominent as the baby grows. This is normal and mothers should then ensure they have enough milk by looking at the baby’s growth.

B) Assessing milk signs

In the following table, the more signs you have on the left side, the more milk you have. The more signs you have on the right side, the more likely it is that you have a low milk supply.

Table: Milk signs

(Links to more information about the topics in the above table: increase in breast size during pregnancy; breast fullness; leakingchoking; gulping; breathing fast (pants); expected amounts of expressed milk.)

If a mother’s breasts are very full on Days 2 to 4 when the milk comes in, it is most likely that they have enough milk unless it is since reduced.

Some mothers may be normal and their babies grow well but have one or two milk signs that are poor:

  • Breast growth and filling: Mothers with larger breasts may not notice much breast growth or feel their milk coming in as much as those with smaller breasts.
  • Day the milk comes in: Some mothers will notice their milk coming in after day 4 (late) but will have a normal milk supply from then on.
  • Leaking: Some normal mothers leak and some don’t.
  • Pumping: Some normal mothers do not express well.