The Magic Number and Long-Term Milk Production

Nancy Mohrbacher
Clinical Lactation 2011 2(1):15-18


Worry about milk production is the most common reason women wean earlier than planned. In many cases this worry is due to confusion about how milk production works. This article describes a teaching concept, termed the Magic Number. Clinicians can use this concept to provide mothers who are not exclusively breastfeeding on cue a clear, evidence-based understanding of how to keep their milk production stable over the long term.

With unrestricted access to the breast, most babies can easily adjust their mother’s milk production by simply changing their breastfeeding length and frequency. However, many mothers with milk-production issues are not exclusively breastfeeding. Employed mothers, exclusively pumping mothers, and mothers using feeding schedules often seek help from clinicians when their milk production slows. Or they may ask for help in preventing milk production from slowing over the long term.

When milk production is not regulated solely by the baby, one teaching concept used successfully is the Magic Number (Mohrbacher, 2010). This term refers to the number of times each day a mother needs to remove milk from her breasts to maintain her milk production. If her number of daily milk removals stays at or above this threshold, her milk production stays steady or may even increase. If it falls below this threshold, her milk production slows.

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