How Do I Know When Breasts Are Empty?

“They say make sure the breast is empty before offering the other.  How do you know it is empty?  I wish they had a gauge on them! “

There is always milk production occurring and when you are a breastfeeding mother your breasts are never truly empty.  However when people tell you to ‘make sure the breast is empty before offering the other’ it can be tricky and a bit of learning / trust curve.

Your baby is the best guide to this.  Baby will come off after drinking from one side looking full, drunk and sleepy. In the early newborn days it’s normal that one breast is enough for them, though if the other breast is feeling very full and uncomfortable for you, or if your baby can’t drink anymore is asleep, you could hand express some milk off the other breast until it feels a little softer and more comfortable.

In the early newborn day babies often take a long time to feed, but as time goes on they get quicker. By the time your baby is three months old they’ll be able to drink a feed in around ten minutes, and want a feed from the other breast aswell.

So really just let your baby decide when they’ve finished from the first breast.  Follow the cues your baby gives you.  When baby comes off on his or her own accord you can assume that baby has emptied that breast.  It won’t feel as full, and will be more ‘floppy’ and soft feeling.   (and if you try hand expressing it will be difficult to get any milk out).

When your baby has finished drinking from the first breast, this is a good time to burp and change a nappy.  This helps wake them up a little bit so they are alert when you then go back and offer the second breast.  This is the breast that you start with when your baby is due to feed again.

Newborn babies might not drink much when you offer the second breast, but they will when they get older.

Babies are very good at regulating their food intake, and they know when they’ve had just the right amount of milk.