We had mentioned before the benefits of breastfeeding, but anyone who has breastfed before will tell you – it is not an easy job at all. Today’s post will attempt to simplify the 2 principles you need to understand in order to avoid common painful issues caused by engorgement and/or blocked ducts. They are:

  1. Fully emptying your breasts
  2. Regular feeding/pumping intervals


After the first few weeks where milk production is helped mainly by hormone levels, it will then shift to becoming regulated by demand signals. Empty breasts trigger the signal for milk production to increase to refill the breasts, and so not emptying them would signal to your body that less milk needs to be produced to refill them. The regularity during which these signals are received by the body would then result in a the “complete” message of how much milk it should produce moving forward.

For example, if milk is removed from the breasts approximately every 3 hours, and today, 6 out of the 8 times milk was not entirely emptied from the breasts, the body may begin to realise that it is producing too much milk. It will then reduce the amount it produces, so that in the days to come, the breasts will be fully emptied all 8 times. If the body experiences that most days 8 of 8 times the breasts do get fully empty, then it will maintain that level of milk production.

The body also reads the “regularity” of signals over a general period of (let’s assume 24hours), and so there might be a longer stretches where the breasts stay full (eg. at night). Our body is also not exactly a machine with a fixed programme, so small increases/decreases in milk removed over day-to-day would unlikely trigger huge changes in levels of milk production.

How then, should a mother (and anyone helping care for her and/or the baby) ensure she can establish a regular milk supply? The answer differs slightly for exclusively latching and exclusively pumping mothers, summarised in the table below:

  Exclusive Latching Exclusive Pumping
Regular feeding/pumping interval
  • Happens naturally as baby gets hungry
  • Less necessary as breasts can also receive signals from the content of baby’s saliva
  • Requires discipline on Mother’s part
  • More important as breasts get signal by timing of pump and amount pumped out only (without signals from the content of baby’s saliva)
Fully emptying boobs
  • Easiest to achieve by correct latch
  • Ensure at least one breast is fully emptied and by alternating first breast offered to the baby, breasts don’t get gradual engorgement build-up
  • Achieved by:
    • Massaging firmly to ensure no lumps before/after pump
    • Ensuring good pump fit for efficient expression
    • Hand expression after every pump to check you are fully empty
  • Both breasts must be fully emptied at every pump in order to prevent gradual engorgement build-up

Short post but I hope you find this post, and the other linked posts useful! 🙂 For any help you need or questions you may have, please feel free to post questions in the comments below, or reach out to us via the chat icon in the lower right corner!

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