• Colostrum is the first milk produced (lactogenesis I), before milk 'comes in' (lactogenesis II) on average 2.5 days after birth (range 1-4 days). Colostrum is concentrated and contains more immunoprotective compounds than mature milk (for example IgA, lysozyme and lactoferrin)

Image Credit: NCI NIH 2010

  • Nipple stimulation and milk drainage stimulate both milk release and hormone receptor site activation. Central (prolactin release) and local mechanisms are involved

  • When the breast becomes full with milk, inhibitory hormones are activated to reduce further milk being synthesised and released

  • There is evidence for a critical window to establish a robust milk supply in the first few weeks of life - therefore if effective breastfeeding is compromised in this time period it may have a long term impact

  • Newborns feed relatively small volumes in the first few days of life - a healthy baby delivered vaginally feeds on average approximately 6ml/kg/day on day one and 25ml/kg/day on day two (although the range of normal intake is very wide)​



  • Milk is synthesised continuously and is stored in the breast until the baby next feeds. An analogy for parents is that it is more like a river than a lake. During most feeds babies take in only two thirds of the immediately available milk

  • The amount of milk that can be stored in the breast before inhibitory feedback loops are activated varies between people, and over time for each person​. Storage capacity in both breasts can range from 75ml to 400ml 

  • Volume of milk produced rises steeply in the first 1-2 weeks of life and then remains relatively stable throughout the period of exclusive breastfeeding. The average amount of milk produced when exclusively breastfeeding one baby is 700-800ml per day (although for some normally growing babies, daily volume may be as low as 450ml)

  • Frequency of feeds during the period of exclusive breastfeeding can range from 4 to 13 sessions per day (a session arbitrarily defined in that study as one or more feeds where the gap between feeds is less than 30 mins). The average was 8 sessions per day. Volume taken in is also highly variable, both between babies and at different times of day for the same baby

  • The milk taken in at the start of a feed has lower fat content than at the end of a feed (foremilk and hindmilk). However a baby tending to feed frequently will have a less pronounced fat gradient than a baby tending to feed infrequently - so total fat intake is the same. Telling someone to try and drain the breast to get to the fatty hindmilk is therefore not required, and could reduce supply overall if milk is building up in the other breast and activating inhibitory feedback loops. Putting the baby back on the same breast repeatedly ("block feeding") is in fact a method for dealing with oversupply and is likely to be counter-productive in babies with faltering growth

  • After complementary feeds are introduced, milk volume starts to reduce. Older breastfeeding babies and children were drinking around 100-300ml in 24 hours in some studies. Toddlers often breastfeed frequently but this does not necessarily mean they are taking in large volumes of breastmilk


Thank you for visiting the Hospital Infant Feeding Network. This website is a repository of relevant knowledge and best practice resources for health professionals. To join the conversation, ask questions and share your experiences please join us on Facebook or Twitter.


We will be running Q&A sessions on various topics, which will be advertised on our social media sites. Please email if you have ideas or want to get more involved. We welcome health professionals passionate about supporting breastfeeding in the hospital setting to join our steering group, please get in contact if this is you!

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