Making More Milk: Breastfeeding, Supply and the Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation

By Danelle Day, PhD © 2013

A common concern among new nursing mothers is milk supply. And while it is the case that very rarely does a mother carry a baby to term without also producing the milk this baby needs to thrive post-birth, the worry, "Am I making enough for my baby...?" is ubiquitous.

To maintain a full supply of human milk (and not much is needed in the early weeks or months of babyhood) a mother must drain her breasts often to create a demand. As simple and non-complex as it sounds, that is the very basic, fundamental rule of milk production: increased demand = increased supply.

This basic component of milk production in mammals is termed the Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL). In Breastfeeding Management for the Clinician: Using the Evidence, Marsha Walker explains, "FIL is an active whey protein that inhibits milk secretion as alveoli become distended and milk is not removed. Its concentration increases with longer periods of milk accumulation, down regulating milk production in a chemical feedback loop."

Unfortunately, when we decrease the demand from the body for milk production by supplementing or putting baby on a time clock (not as much milk is needed to feed baby when s/he is being filled with something else, or when longer intervals pass between feeds) then supply follows the drop in demand and decreases as well. A supplementing mom, or a mother who has been told she should only feed her baby every x number of hours, quickly finds that her milk supply dwindles, and she becomes frustrated and/or sad that breastfeeding "just isn't working out" for her and her baby.

Because of the FIL principle, when products are marketed specifically to mothers who are already breastfeeding their babies, or those who plan to nurse and wish to succeed in doing so, it is an irresponsible and hurtful move to push such items on women already concerned about their babies' wellbeing and their milk supply. Instead, we would empower the next generation of nursing (and pumping) moms, and see more happy, healthy, well-fed babies by understanding and appreciating the FIL process, and encouraging mothers to always listen to their little ones and feed on cue. And in cases where we wish to increase or build milk supply, we must make moves to nurse (and/or pump with a hospital grade pump) completely to empty, at frequent intervals.

When women elect to birth and breastfeed their babies, the female body is a powerfully wonderful, working organism - one which overcomes all kinds of roadblocks along the way. Yet we must provide our bodies with the feedback they need to fulfill what they were designed to do; and in the case of breastfeeding and milk supply, it is all about demand.


1) Walker M: Influence of the maternal anatomy and physiology on lactation. In Breastfeeding Management for the Clinician: Using the Evidence. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2006:51-82.

Related Reading:

Breastfeeding Made Simple (book)

The Baby Bond (book with excellent research on breastfeeding, among other topics)

Your Baby's Signs of Hunger (article)

Lactation Cookies: Increasing Milk Supply (article)

Nursing Mother, Working Mother (book)

Balancing Breastfeeding (article)

Making More Milk (book)

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business (book)

Formula For Disaster (film)

Using Formula Like 'Similac for Supplementation' Decreases Milk Supply (article)

Breastfeeding Advocacy and Formula Feeding Guilt (article)

Helpful Breastfeeding Books

Breastfeeding Resource Page


Wean Me Gently

Photo: Alyssa G. and her baby boy - shared via Woman Uncensored

I know I look so big to you,

Maybe I seem too big for the needs I have.

But no matter how big we get,

We still have needs that are important to us.

I know that our relationship is growing and changing,

But I still need you. I need your warmth and closeness,

Especially at the end of the day

When we snuggle up in bed.

Please don't get too busy for us to nurse.

I know you think I can be patient,

Or find something to take the place of a nursing -

A book, a glass of something,

But nothing can take your place when I need you.

Sometimes just cuddling with you,

Having you near me is enough.

I guess I am growing and becoming independent,

But please be there.

This bond we have is so strong and so important to me,

Please don't break it abruptly.

Wean me gently,

Because I am your mother,

And my heart is tender.

~ Cathy Cardall


This poem is available on a postcard to hang on your fridge or give to a friend.
Request one or several here.

Photograph © Danelle Frisbie, MommaBaby Love

Latch On! Breastfeeding Info Cards

The newest Latch On Breastfeeding info cards (double sided, full color, fun, thick and glossy!) are here and ready to be planted by consultants, educators, and advocates alike. Our goal with these new cards is to ensure that all new and expecting mothers who wish to breastfeed are also connected with information that is relevant to their mothering experience, and community support to tap into when it is needed.

You can request a set here: And if you operate a business of your own, ordering 1 full box or more (250 cards per box) means you can also add your own business/page URL to the cards. Email to request this be added.

Thank you for planting seeds and empowering tomorrow's parents!


Additional cards, bracelets, and informational materials on other subjects can be found here or at the "Info Cards" tab at the top of

If you're local to Peaceful Parenting in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, join us at this year's World Breastfeeding Week Big Latch On taking place in Portsmouth on August 1st. Event details:

The Joy of Nursing Toddlers Photo Gallery

By Danelle Day © 2011

Today my son and I reached 30 months of goodness! The World Health Organization, UNICEF, American Academy of Family Physicians, and essentially every pediatric health organization in the world recommends a minimum 24 months of human milk for human babies (with at least the first six months being exclusive breastmilk).

Bare minimums are typically not enough for me... so I tacked on six months to the 24, and made breastfeeding for 30 months my goal. I strived to do nothing that would inhibit our nursing relationship or my milk supply (no pacifiers, no supplementation, no forced night weaning, no artificial hormones, no close consecutive pregnancies, etc.) and everything I could to ensure we were successful (early pumping when there were issues, lots of babywearing, lots of sleep sharing, exclusive breastfeeding till 10 months, baby-led weaning, etc.)

Today, I admit, I am elated, because this goal has been reached! Not without trials along the way (especially in the early weeks when my son was not latching/sucking properly due to birth trauma), but with rewards and benefits that far outweigh any culturally-derived challenges we've had to overcome.

When I posted our photo in celebration on Facebook, I ventured a guess as to how long it would take lactiphobic onlookers to flag it for being 'obscene' and my account would be removed... But in a beautiful twist of happenstance, as soon as it posted, several other mommas were encouraged to share photos of their happy, healthy nursing toddlers. And so, we decided a photo gallery is in order to celebrate the many joys of nursing our little ones for a normal duration of time.

In Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, Norma Jane Bumgarner writes,
Nursing for the child is a kind of 'fix,' but a healthy one. It is not addictive [...] but just the opposite. The child's craving diminishes over time. It is no wonder that some families call mother's milk 'joy juice.' Nursing has all the restorative powers of a morning cup of coffee without the 'caffeine jitters.' It is as relaxing as an evening cocktail, with no bleary aftereffects. 

Sucking is a necessary restorative for rapidly growing little people, so much so that most children who do not nurse seek an alternative - bottle, pacifier, thumb, fingers, hair, blanket-corner, etc. They show us through the persistence of such behaviors that young children need the calming and reassuring effects of sucking as much, or more, than some adults need our 'pacifiers.' They are so young, so unfinished, so without experience in this world, while at the same time they are undergoing enormous growth and change.

Comfort from sucking is a blessing given to babies and little children which helps ease them through the physical and mental upheaval, greater than that of adolescence, that propels them from the womb into childhood in just a few short years. Children can be awakened and relaxed, soothed and pacified through sucking. [...]

The best place for this sucking to happen is in mother's arms, at her breast, where it is entirely natural. The simple act of sucking within the embrace of mother and child, is transformed into the complete act of suckling, where there is give and take and understanding between mother and child. And of course, the child receives a bonus not possible with substitutes - the gift of his own mother's living milk, made specifically for this moment in the child's life. [...]

When children talk about nursing, they talk about something very warm and special to them. Nursing is their soul food.

If you'd like to include your beautiful little one in our Joy of Nursing Toddlers Gallery, send to: 

If you're a mom or dad seeking additional information on healthy baby nutrition and the natural progression of human weaning, here are several great places to start:

Natural Weaning ~ Norma Jane Bumgarner

A Natural Age of Weaning ~ Katherine Dettwyler

Natural Weaning Age  ~ Linda Palmer

Mothering Your Nursing Toddler ~ Norma Jane Bumgarner

How Weaning Happens ~ Diane Bengson

Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby To Love Good Food ~ Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett

Breastfeeding Older Children ~ Ann Sinnott 

10 Reasons to Nurse Your Todder

Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond ~ Hilary Flower

Natural Family Living (one chapter) ~  Peggy O'Mara

Take Charge of Your Child's Health: A Parents' Guide to Recognizing Symptoms and Treating Minor Illnesses at Home (one chapter) ~ George Wootan & Sarah Verney

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent (one chapter) ~ Meredith Small

❤ Thank you for nursing your toddler! ❤

From 45 Things to Do With Toddlers

Emma Kwasnica, founder of Human Milk 4 Human Babies

 From our ChristmasMilk album

 From MilkyMumma

 From MilkyMumma

 From MilkyMumma

 From MilkyMumma

From Earthy Motherhood

From Mama's Felt Cafe

"I stepped out of the shower and was attacked by a wee boy on a step stool while his sister made funny faces in the mirror!" ~Bianka


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