What causes breast milk to dry out

Breastfeeding - the miracle between mother and child

Nature is a fascinating thing. The optimal nutrition for the newborn baby apparently automatically “matures” in the mother's breast. Always fresh, always available, free of charge and at the right temperature. Everything the baby needs - breast milk has it.

If you want to breastfeed and are able to breastfeed, give your baby everything he needs to start with. Your breast milk contains the optimal nutritional composition in every growth phase. Not only that - important antibodies that strengthen the child's immune system are also included in the delivery and protect against infections in the beginning. They also reduce the risk of later allergies - especially if you breastfeed fully for six months. Later on, breastfed children suffer less from obesity, they are less likely to develop diabetes, and their thyroid glands can develop better.

For your baby, however, breastfeeding means more than just satisfying hunger and thirst: If it is on your breast, it enjoys close body contact, it feels protected and secure. In addition, breastfeeding is very convenient. It saves time, money and labor.

Hormones in action

As early as the 4th and 5th month of pregnancy, hormones prepare the breasts to produce first milk. The baby then gives the actual starting shot. When he sucks on the breast for the first time right after the birth, a miracle takes its course - even if this sucking actually has a lot more to do with getting to know each other than with nutrition. Two hormones are released at this moment: prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin ensures milk production, oxytocin ensures that milk flows. First of all, your child receives the first milk, also called colostrum. Even if it is often only a few drops, this clear yellow liquid is particularly important for your baby because it is very rich in protein and contains a particularly large number of antibodies.

The actual milk injection occurs around the 3rd or 4th day after the birth. The breasts become quite plump and sensitive to pressure. A tension can also be felt. Sometimes the temperature rises slightly. None of this is a cause for concern, but the normal course of a fascinating affair. Because from now on your body will always deliver as much milk as your baby needs. And if your child is no longer full, it shows this by being hungry at shorter intervals. Frequent laying on will increase the amount of milk again. The composition of milk is also constantly changing. It always contains exactly the nutrients that your baby needs in this growth phase. Breast milk is a fascinating example of how supply and demand work.

But for you as a mother, too, breastfeeding has enormous advantages and positive effects: The hormone oxytocin, which is released when sucking, is not only responsible for the flow of milk. It also ensures that the muscles of the uterus contract and thus promote their regression. The pain that can occur is the so-called after-labor. They stimulate the weekly flow. And the better the weekly flow, the less susceptible the uterus is to infections.

Every beginning is sometimes difficult

The midwife or pediatric nurse will help you when you put it on for the first time. It shows you different breastfeeding positions and explains everything you need to know about breastfeeding to get started. Do not despair if everything does not work out the way you want it or have planned. Although nature has arranged for milk production to get underway, it has not ensured the automatic functioning of a harmonious breastfeeding relationship between mother and child.

Take into account that there will be moments later when you think that you cannot or cannot breastfeed adequately. It is important in these phases that you do not lose confidence in your body. A friend who is experienced in breastfeeding can be of great help in such a situation.

A midwife comes to your house after the birth, advises, looks after and cares for you and the baby. Your health insurance will cover the costs. The services and competence of the midwife do not end with the puerperium, but the midwife is your contact person even afterwards. She will check whether you and the baby are doing well, take care of navel care if necessary, give important tips and advice and advise you on breastfeeding.

You can obtain information on aftercare from your health insurance company. You can also get support in free breastfeeding groups. Mothers meet there under the guidance of a lactation consultant with their babies to exchange experiences. Maybe there is a group like this near you. Ask your midwife, your gynecologist, in the clinic or at church institutions (which often make their rooms available for such meetings). Or contact the La Leche Liga or the working group for independent breastfeeding groups (see chapter on breastfeeding meetings).

Eat balanced - drink enough

So that your milk can be filling and nutritious, it is important that you consciously pay attention to a balanced and adequate diet. Now is not the time to take a critical look at the scales. If you are carrying extra pounds from your pregnancy, please remember that it took your body nine months to build up the pregnancy and that it takes just as long to lose it again. Diets are completely out of place now. Without enough food it can lead to circulatory problems, for example. Dieting could also result in insufficient milk being available. In addition, pollutants stored in the fat pads would be released and get into breast milk. Incidentally, you now even have an energy requirement that is around 600 calories higher per day.

And this is what you should preferably incorporate into your diet:

  • sea ​​fish twice a week (for example cod and saithe) for iodine supply - important for the thyroid,
  • Whole grain products (whole grain oat flakes, whole grain bread) - they provide important fiber, vitamins B1 and B6 and iron - important for digestion, metabolism, nerves and blood formation,
  • Foods that stimulate calcium metabolism, for example green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce and kohlrabi, sprouts, fruit, sour milk products and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and halibut - important for bones and teeth.

Six small meals are better for you, your baby, and your figure than three large ones. Prefer dishes that are quick to prepare and easy to keep warm. That saves time and frustration.

Contrary to popular belief, you can still eat citrus fruits and legumes while breastfeeding. There is no scientific evidence that these foods cause sore bottoms or gas in babies. Every baby reacts differently. Therefore: try it out. Otherwise, you may fail to do certain things for months, even though they will not harm your child at all.

In addition to eating right, drinking a lot is now very important. It should be at least two to three liters a day. It is best to always have a full glass close by. Here, too, the motto is: try it out. Which juices and teas does your child tolerate? Recommended in any case: still mineral water.


If you become ill now, it is imperative that you tell your doctor that you are breastfeeding. Many drugs pass into breast milk and can have harmful side effects for your baby. Even supposedly harmless products can contain alcohol and are therefore not suitable for breastfeeding. Your doctor will carefully examine the risks and benefits for mother and child in each individual case and then decide what is actually necessary and which medication he can prescribe for you.


  • take as few medications as possible,
  • no unauthorized dosing,
  • if in doubt, ask your doctor.

However, sometimes strong medication cannot be avoided. However, this does not necessarily mean the premature end of the breastfeeding period. If the drug only has to be taken for a few days, the milk can be pumped out and thrown away during this time. The baby is then temporarily given bottle feeding. Pumping keeps milk production going and, with a little patience, the baby will breastfeed again later.

Breast care

The breasts, especially the nipples, are quite stressed during breastfeeding and therefore need a lot of care. Avoid anything that dries out the nipples. That means: do not wash nipples with soap. Soap destroys the skin's acid mantle. It leaches out the warts, cracks them and can cause cracks.

As long as the weekly flow continues, you should under no circumstances bathe. During the week there are innumerable germs that come into contact with the chest while bathing and can ignite it. There is nothing wrong with showering, the breasts are washed off with clear water.

Simply let the milk residue on the breast dry up after breastfeeding. They provide natural protection against infection - just like the baby's air and saliva.

Wear a well-fitting nursing bra - even if you are not otherwise a bra fan. Under no circumstances should it constrict, but support the chest well and comfortably. Also, use nursing pads. They suck up the excess milk and prevent sore nipples. Especially in the first few months it can happen to you that your milk “just runs like that” - for example when you think about your baby or see another nursing mother.

Nursing pads are also useful later on. In general, milk flows out of the breast during breastfeeding - less in some women, more in others - when the baby is not suckling. Actually logical, because the sucking reflex promotes milk production and starts the milk flow. In the body, however, there is no control center that organizes that the desired milk only flows into one breast.

If the nursing bra gets wet despite nursing pads, you should change it quickly because bacteria can multiply quickly in the moisture and cause sore nipples.

Not enough milk?

Some women wonder if their child cries repeatedly even though they have just been breastfed if they are running out of milk. Of course, your child can also scream because they are cold, because they want to be close, or because their teeth are erupting. But maybe his mother's milk is not enough for him. The following circumstances can play a role: Around the 10th day and after six and after 12 weeks, babies have a natural growth spurt. Then they seem to want to breastfeed 24 hours a day. In such a situation, the best solution is: Don't give up, close your eyes and get on with it! Because after 48 hours, the whole haunt is usually over. That is, provided that you put your baby on more often. Then the milk reacts, that is, its consistency changes, and your baby will be full again.

During these phases, contact with other women with breastfeeding experience and / or with a midwife can be very helpful. In the event of breastfeeding difficulties, the advice of your midwife, who also knows the services of the health insurance companies, counts.

If, on the other hand, there is a stressful situation, you should definitely try to relax. That is easier said than done and not always easy to implement in everyday life. But maybe there will be enough time for a breathing exercise, a warm shower or a foot bath. If the milk flow gets out of step due to stress, a phone call with a good friend who just listens can work wonders.

Self-made stress must of course be avoided at all costs. Nobody expects you to have a perfect household or a three-course menu every day. A balanced mother with a satisfied, full baby is always more important than a dust-free apartment with cleaned windows. If you are lucky enough to be offered outside help, don't be afraid to take it. Often friends and acquaintances are even happy when they can help out. On the other hand, visits that are only a burden should be pushed as far back as possible in your own interest and that of your child - until your own everyday life has settled down to such an extent that you have appropriate stable nerves.

If the baby is too weak to stimulate milk production by sucking heavily, you can intervene from outside. For example, by expressing milk regularly with a breast pump. Manual breast pumps are available from drug stores and pharmacies. You can borrow electric breast pumps from pharmacies and medical supply stores. If a breast pump is medically prescribed, your health insurance company may cover any expenses that may arise.

You can also smear out the milk: Use your thumb and forefinger of one hand to press the breast outside the areola towards the chest. Then stroke your thumb and forefinger over your breast with pressure towards the nipple until the milk comes out of the breast like a drop.

How to use a breast pump:

  • Moisten the inside of the pump - this makes it easier for the breast to slide into it.
  • When pumping, squeeze a little milk out of the other breast with your hand - this starts the flow of milk.
  • Do not set the pump too hard - the nipples could be injured.

If you are unsure, ask your midwife how to use the pump. Sometimes it helps to increase the amount of milk by placing the baby on the first breast again after being placed on the second breast. A small consolation: Almost all women have too little milk after a few weeks - especially in the evening. This is not yet a cause for concern.

Also, ask yourself: What about diet? Is it really balanced and sufficient? And do you drink enough? Give it a try with milk production tea. It is available as a ready-made mixture in pharmacies, drugstores and health food stores.

Whoever reaches for the bottle and feeds it when the baby does not seem to be full, must be clear: this can be the beginning of the end. Additional feeding hardly stimulates milk production. The result: your body produces less milk. The baby stays hungry, so it is likely to get more from the bottle, etc. The natural balance is out of sync.

Also the popular question from the family: “Well? Has the baby gained weight too? " , unsettles many mothers. If the scale does not show the expected increase in weight, you can conclude that your baby will not be full. However, the informative value of frequent weighing actions is controversial. In general, even without looking at the scales, a mother can tell whether her child is healthy and thriving. A rosy skin, a vital being, several wet diapers a day - these are all signs of normal development. As for bowel movements, the normal range for breastfed babies from several full diapers a day to one full diaper every few days.

If you don't want to rely on your personal judgment, you can weigh your baby once a week, if possible at the same time of day. You don't have to buy baby scales for this. Many pharmacies lend such scales.

You will find a size-weight table at the back of your child's medical check-up booklet, which you will receive at birth. This tells you whether your child is developing in a way that is appropriate for their age. If you find that your baby is losing weight, you should definitely talk to your pediatrician about it.

Too much milk

While most women fear they have too little milk, there are also some who suffer from too much milk. This can lead to uncomfortable tension in the chest and even breast inflammation. Pumping in such a situation would be completely wrong. Because this gives the body the signal to produce even more milk. Consequence: The symptoms worsen. It is better to first let the baby drink from one breast at a time for a while. As a result, each individual breast is stimulated less frequently, which leads to a decrease in milk production. You can also squeeze your chest, but only until the tension is released. Ice packs have a pain relieving effect. For a while, you should drink a little less overall. You can also reduce the amount of milk with half a cup of sage tea, sipped over the day.

Sore nipples

The nipples can become sore, especially during the first few days of breastfeeding. They too have to get used to the new stress. If the warts are already sensitive, it is advisable to reduce the duration of breastfeeding a little and only increase it again when the symptoms have subsided. As a result, you will certainly have to moor more often. But this also has the advantage that the baby is not so hungry and therefore does not grip so tightly. It can also suck better and grip the breast when it is not so plump.

A pacifier may help bridge the gap between meals. Many babies are calmed down and sleep better.With pacifiers, parents feel less helpless when the baby is crying. However, you should also see the downsides: pacifiers are often unsanitary and silenced children. In extreme cases, five-year-olds still suckle on pacifiers.

Sore nipples often result from a pronounced need to suckle. Be sure to get a replacement. Because the breast is not a substitute for a pacifier!

Change your breastfeeding position frequently. Lay your child either sitting or lying down. So the warts are not burdened on one side. Allow the milk and saliva to dry on the breast after breastfeeding. Both have a softening and sterilizing effect. If the weather permits, sunbathe your sore chest. That has a healing effect. In rainy weather there is also an infrared lamp. There are also ointments and tinctures that alleviate the symptoms, promote the healing process and are harmless to the child, for example sage tincture or St. John's wort oil.

If the warts only become sore after a long period of successful breastfeeding, thrush, a fungal infection, may also be present. A sure sign of this is a white coating in the child's mouth. You can read about what to do here in the chapter “Cure minor ailments with home remedies”.

Milk congestion - inflammation of the breast (mastitis)

Does your chest feel plump and firm? Is it extremely sensitive to pressure? Doesn't the pain go away even after you put your child on? Then there is probably a blockage of the milk. Such a real congestion in the milk ducts can occur when the hormones go crazy due to stress and excitement, mental problems and conflicts and the interplay between milk production and milk flow is mixed up. Or your baby may be drinking poorly and not emptying their breasts adequately because they are getting teeth, have a cold or are too distracted while breastfeeding. The following measures will help with blocked milk:

  • Place hot compresses on your chest for about ten minutes. Then gently massage the hard knots or the entire breast.
  • Sage tea can slow down milk production. To do this, drink a cup in sips throughout the day.

The blocked milk can develop into a breast infection. When germs multiply in the jammed milk, the breast infection begins. The temperature rises above 39 degrees, there is flu-like headache and body aches and sometimes chills. Overall, you feel dull and exhausted. If nothing is done at this stage, a pus will develop on the inflamed area, which must be surgically removed. It is therefore extremely important to act at the first sign of a blocked milk condition.

Your child will provide the first and most important help. Put it on more often, even if it's only for a few minutes, so that its lower jaw comes into the hard spot. You may have to take an unfamiliar breastfeeding position. But it's worth trying!

Ice packs to reduce inflammation and heat for better milk flow are other effective measures. A warm shower, a warm washcloth on the chest or a hair dryer widen the vessels and allow the milk to flow better.

Quark compresses also provide relief: rub your breast - except for the nipple - with quark, cover it with a gauze diaper and replace the whole thing when the compress is warm. It's even easier - and cleaner - if you cover your chest and curd with a pant diaper and pull your bra over it.

Drink a little less temporarily. Also, streak out the milk (by the way, every breastfeeding mother should have a midwife or nurse show this to her right at the beginning of the breastfeeding period, regardless of a blocked milk). If at all possible, try to do something about the stress and excitement. If you have mental problems, you should definitely let someone know.

If the symptoms do not subside and breast inflammation (mastitis) is present, you must definitely see a doctor, because real mastitis is a dangerous complication that must be treated professionally. The inflammation may be so advanced that you need to take an antibiotic. But even there there are now products that do not burden your baby and do not impair further breastfeeding.

In principle, even a breast infection should not be a reason to stop breastfeeding. Studies by the La Leche Liga, the self-help organization of breastfeeding groups, have shown that breast infections can heal within three days through frequent breastfeeding, bed rest, warm compresses and antibiotics.

Traveling alone despite breastfeeding

Even if you are breastfeeding, it does not necessarily mean that you have to be with your child around the clock. If you are planning a visit to the cinema or simply a cozy evening at the Italian restaurant, and you do not want to take your baby with you, the father or someone you trust can also feed the baby. For this it is necessary that you preserve milk. Express milk using a breast pump. Transferred to a boiled vial, it can be stored in the refrigerator for several hours at a maximum of four degrees (opinions range from 4 hours to 48 hours). You can also freeze breast milk as an “iron reserve” - in the three-star compartment of your refrigerator for up to two weeks, in the freezer at -20 degrees for up to six months. Frozen milk is best thawed under running cold water, then warmed to drinking temperature, around 35 degrees. Before you leave someone alone with the baby, however, you should have tried out whether your offspring can take the bottle.


  • Being parents - the first few years. Ideas, information and health tips for the young family. Published by Barmer and Mehr Zeit für Kinder e.V., 2nd edition 2002. The book is available for 9.20 EUR from Mehr Zeit für Kinder e.V.

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Created on March 27, 2003, last changed on March 4, 2010