Milk supply. The dreaded nemesis of every breastfeeding mother. It seems like milk supply dominates the thoughts of breastfeeding women everywhere- and not just low supply. I get questions about low supply and oversupply, concerns when supply is perfect. Usually when supply is perfect, mothers are worried that it’s still not enough. Milk supply issues, real or perceived, are one of the main reasons mothers stop breastfeeding altogether.
Where did this fear come from? Whenever anything happens, mothers question the milk supply. Baby didn’t sleep well – must be supply. Baby didn’t poop today – must be supply. Baby is fussy at the breast – must be supply. Baby is fussy after feeding – must be supply. And on and on and on. Truth be told, it is rarely a supply issue at all. There are only a small number of women who legitimately cannot make enough milk. The rest CAN and WILL make enough, but confidence (or lack there of) along with the naysayers will kill it.
So what is the problem? It has been my experience that several things can happen. Babies aren’t always efficient at getting the milk out in the beginning. If the milk is there and they are having a hard time getting the milk, this can be perceived as a supply issue. If the baby seems unsettled after a feed and it is assumed that the baby didn’t get enough to eat, this can be perceived as a supply issue. Often these babies will be given a bottle, which will take time away from the breast and lead to a supply issue. It was never a supply issue, but more of a learning curve for parents who are misreading cues. Babies that do not feed well from birth can have a hard time stimulating supply from the start. This can cause a supply issue, but can usually be resolved when recognized and if mom is getting the help she needs to get baby on track.
If you are concerned about supply for any reason, or just need reassurance that supply is fine, a lactation consultant can help with this. The peace of mind that can be gained in just talking this over can be invaluable.
For more insight into milk supply, check out week 6 of the Badass Breastfeeding Podcast!! If you love it, leave a review. Reach out to us with your stories and suggestions; we would love to hear from you!
It’s your first day home with your baby. Could anything else feel more terrifying? I don’t think there is a new parent out there who didn’t say to themselves “I am not qualified to take care of a baby!” at some point in those early days. When you are in the hospital (if you gave birth in a hospital setting) there are nurses and doctors checking on you, visitors coming to see you and the baby, help with diaper changes, bathing, changing clothes. Even your meals are brought to you. Everything you need is just one push of the call button. It’s blissful. Then you’re discharged.
This is when all the chaos starts. The first night home can be challenging. In all the preparation families do to bring a new life into the world, I don’t know how many actually prepare and learn about HOW baby will react to coming into this world. It’s cold and loud and bright – babies are used to a cozy womb. Overstimulation is common during the newborn period. Reading baby behavior can be difficult, especially if this is a foreign language to you and you are sleep deprived. Maybe you envisioned yourself holding your sweet baby, breastfeeding, and setting your baby down to sleep. Everyone sleeps for a few hours and then up again. In reality, the baby wants to eat every 30 minutes, cries if you put her down and no one is sleeping. And it’s all perfectly normal. In fact, I would expect nothing less.
This week’s Badass Breastfeeding Podcast is all about the first few days home, what to expect, and how to survive. Don’t miss it!
I have noticed over the last several years that breastfeeding problems seem to come in waves. I might have one month when most of the issues are sore nipples and latch problems. Other months I might see more babies with slow weight gain. More recently, I have had several mothers complain about teething and biting babies.
During pregnancy, when a woman is asked about breastfeeding often the answer I hear is “I will breastfeed until the baby gets teeth”. Well, babies do still have to eat even when teeth start coming in. Once you are aware of what to look for with your teething baby, the whole idea doesn’t seem quite as dangerous.
One of the difficult ideas behind teething is that you don’t really know when it will start, and it is different for every baby. Have 5 babies? Experience teething in 5 different ways. It’s hard to get around that. Babies can also show signs of teething for months before you actually see that little tooth come through. As uncomfortable as this may be for you and breastfeeding, it is probably worse for your little one. In addition, nursing may bring your baby comfort if teething is uncomfortable, or help him back to sleep if he wakes during the night with teething pain.
Not every baby will bite when breastfeeding. Some may bite once, and the shriek of pain that comes from their mom may be enough to put a stop to it. The one thing to remember is that if baby is biting, she is not feeding. Let me repeat that – if baby is biting, she is not feeding. For a baby to feed effectively, her tongue must be over the gum line (and the teeth) and that is not possible when nursing. I have found that by the time a baby gets to the stage where they are teething, most mothers are comfortable enough that they are not watching their baby as closely as they did when they were newborns. You may need to limit all the other distractions and go back to looking at only your baby. Once the nursing slows down, take baby off before he can start biting.
Check out this article for more ideas for babies who might be challenged with feeding and teething. It gives more great suggestions for getting through this developmental period comfortably…not only for your baby but for mothers as well.
I saw this great family today. Baby is 4 days old; he is baby number 2 for this mama. The baby was feeding well, milk was coming in, and mom felt good. While we talked, her older son (3 and a half) was bouncing around and chatting away with mom and dad. He didn’t pay too much attention to his little brother, and mom seemed pretty comfortable so far navigating the new waters of having 2 little boys. After I observed the baby feeding and we discussed a few other breastfeeding concerns she had, mom pointed to her first son and announced “I won’t make the mistake of trying to get this baby on a schedule like I did with him”. Dad nodded his head in agreement. I was surprised to hear her say this – I usually hear new mothers proclaiming their dedication to obtaining some sort of schedule. “This time” she said, “I will just go with the flow”.
Such wise words.
In the many years that I have been working with families, schedules are an important piece of the postpartum puzzle for many new parents. This is really difficult, and I try and coax mothers to keep an open mind about developing a schedule with a baby at a young age. Schedules flaunt structure and routine during a time when so many changes are happening. Parents are looking for something to set in place so they can feel like they are balancing everything. However, no one ever bothers to tell the baby that this so-called schedule is being implemented. Babies have their own ideas, and it is usually y not anything like what your schedule says. Babies are very unpredictable. They eat at different times each day, sleep can be erratic and spontaneous and it is nearly impossible to foretell their temperament. For some new mothers, this is a scary concept. Structure is a way of life for many people (not me, of course. I fly by the seat of my pants) and the thought of going through the day not knowing what will happen is downright scary. Because babies are their own little person, their needs are specific. Just like ours. We aren’t hungry at the same time each day, we don’t sleep the same each day – neither will your baby. The only difference is that we can discuss this with everyone around us, and your baby can’t. The more you push your baby to get into a routine that works for you, the harder things may seem.
Take this time to get to know your baby. After the first few months, babies may be easier to guide into a routine that is more predictable. I have discovered through my experiences that the more relaxed and “go with the flow” things are in the beginning, the easier everyone adapts. This time goes quickly, enjoy it.
I am often asked what supplies are necessary for breastfeeding. Usually this comes from my pregnant mothers who are trying to plan what they may need for the baby BEFORE the baby comes. That may seem like an easy enough question, right? Isn’t there some kind of list that I can just hand out? Not so simple. To be honest, not much is needed to breastfeed. Having a baby is a huge money business and society is prepared to have you spend a ton of money on things you don’t necessarily need. Have you been in any store recently that sells baby items? So. Many. Choices. Truth be told, you don’t need much of anything at all.
All mothers are different and have different needs and personalities. I have met some mothers who are content with waiting for the baby to arrive before they decide on a pump or any other supplies. I have also seen mothers show up at the hospital ready to have the baby, and they are toting a pump, creams, nipple shields and a breastfeeding pillow. Neither way is the wrong way; just do what is right for you. My point is I don’t want any new or expecting mother to think that they have to have these things.
In a world where you can order something online on a Monday and it will be at your door by Tuesday or Wednesday, I am a proponent of waiting until you need something before you invest time and money. However, if you really want to have a stash of stuff, I found this great list to get you started. One of the things I really like about this list is that it specifies when things are NOT NECESSARY. Nipple cream or a breastfeeding pillow – nice to have but not necessary. Good support system and the phone number of a local lactation consultant – absolutely necessary. So check it out and see what you think. Can you think of anything you would add to this list? Is there one thing that you felt like you couldn’t live without during your breastfeeding journey? Share it with us.
I saw one of my favorite babies the other day (who am I kidding?? I adore all my mamas and babies). Mom reached out to me because her little one was changing up her nursing routine, acting fussier, and mom was pumping less volume. Baby is almost 5 months old. The first thought for this mom was that her supply had dropped and baby was not getting enough milk, which is why she was fussier at the breast.
As soon as I saw the baby nursing, I knew what was happening. She was so distracted. Typical of a baby her age. She was whining and wiggling and would only nurse for a minute or two before pulling away. Mom did her best to keep her focused, switched her from side to side and talked to her. After only a few minutes, it was obvious that baby was done. Mom admitted to me that when she is feeding at home, after a couple minutes of this routine she would give in and just give her a bottle. We weighed this little girl before and after the feeding. Mom was shocked to see that baby was 2 ounces heavier after the feed than she was before. This changed everything. It gave mom the confidence she needed to feel positive about her milk supply and her baby’s ability to get that milk. It helped her realize how much her baby is developing and how she is changing.
Well what about the pumping? Mom had returned to work about 6 weeks ago. Her pumping output has dwindled. It is not unusual for that to happen, but it doesn’t mean baby is getting less when they feed at the breast. We discussed her pumping schedule and switched things up to include a few shorter sessions. All in all, a pretty successful day.
What’s the moral to this happy ending? Trust your baby and trust your body to provide for your baby. Babies become very distracted around 4 months and things become very exciting for them! Developmentally so much is happening for them. This doesn’t mean the baby doesn’t want to breastfeed anymore, but we may need to change how things are done. Don’t just throw in the towel mamas…call in the professionals.
Here’s more on feeding a distracted baby and what to expect when your baby hits this magical age.
I was recently asked to write a guest blog for Motherlove, on the topic of childhood sexual abuse and breastfeeding. I was honored to be asked, and more than happy to comply.
When I was completing my bachelors degree, I chose the topic of Trauma and Breastfeeding as the focus of my capstone project. In my project, various forms of trauma were discussed, including sexual abuse and how breastfeeding can be impacted by previous abuse.
Motherhood published my blog a couple of weeks ago, and I am sharing it here with all of you.