You Can Breastfeed! Misconceptions About Milk Supply
I asked in a previous post what readers’ biggest breastfeeding concerns were. Today I’d like to talk about a specific concern raised: adequate supply of breastmilk. There are so many misconceptions about breast milk production and ensuring adequate supply. Let’s look at a few.
A woman with small breasts won’t be able to make enough milk. Did you know that there is a bra size called “Nearly A”? I do – because I wore it. And I managed to nurse one baby who was over 9lbs at birth and twins. So – don’t believe this one! Instead, check out the facts. “The amount of fat in your breasts largely determines their size. The actual milk-producing structures are nearly the same in all women.” You hear that? So don’t let anyone make you believe that you can’t nurse a baby just because you aren’t sporting some serious cleavage.
If your baby cries a lot, it is because they are hungry and you aren’t making enough milk. Babies have ONE mode of communication – crying. They cry when they are tired, hungry, uncomfortable, wet, poopy, over-stimulated, and the list goes on. If your baby is frequently crying after a feeding, there are many things you should consider:
· Is baby gaining weight? Producing an adequate number of wet diapers? He can’t gain if he isn’t eating.
· Have you seen the doctor for common issues such as reflux, sensitivities, colic, or allergies? All of these things can be connected to or triggered by eating.
· Is the baby doing well in other areas – sleeping regularly, meeting milestones, thriving in all things beyond the crying at mealtimes? This may be just one factor in the bigger picture.
But my baby cries after nursing, then sucks down a bottle of formula. Obviously this means he is hungry. Right? Not necessarily. Fill up a bottle with formula (or another liquid). Turn it upside down, as if you were feeding baby. What happens? The liquid flows out at a steady pace, right? So if this is in your mouth there are only a few options: spit it out, choke, or drink it down. Just because your baby WILL eat the formula doesn’t mean he NEEDS the formula. And every feed you replace this way means telling your body not to make the milk that baby would have consumed if he wasn’t full of formula. Don’t get caught in this trap.
My breasts no longer feel full. Your body and your baby are an amazing team. Given the chance, you can adapt to one another perfectly. After those early days, your body learns when and how much your baby wants to eat and adjusts accordingly. If your baby is nursing well and often, you may not ever feel full and that’s perfectly fine.
My baby seems hungry all the time. Here’s the thing. All babies have different preferences, as they are all individuals. Some may attack feeding time like it’s their job, then happily pass out after a 10 minute feed. Others may want to calmly nurse for 30 minutes every two hours. Either can be normal – for that baby. A baby’s stomach is about the size of his fist, and breastmilk digests quickly – in about 90 minutes. So feeding 8-12 times in a 24 hour span is the ideal.
Keep in mind that this can vary based on time of day. Many babies have a time during the day – often in the evenings and accompanied by fussiness – when they want to cluster feed. This may mean parking it on the couch for several hours to do nothing but comfort and nurse. Again – this does not mean you aren’t producing enough – this is normal behavior!
I barely get any milk when I pump. Were you fitted for your breast pump? Just like a bra, a pump works best when it fits your breast size and shape. Sometimes simple finding the right size flange is enough. Also consider that a pump is obviously NOT a baby. The endorphins that come from cuddling your baby as well as the effectiveness of his suck are not replicated by a pump. A woman with a perfect supply still may have issues pumping and have to work on some methods for increasing pumping success. Hand expression, mental imagery, and the correct size and strength pump can all factor into how well pumping works for you.
So – what SHOULD you do? In order to establish good supply, use the early days to nurse as frequently as baby wishes. Strip down – both of you – increased skin-to-skin contact is shown to significantly boost milk supply as well as helping baby to regulate temperature, heart rate, and breathing. Follow your baby’s cues. Voice your concerns to your doctor. And consult a CLC or IBCLC. (Another misconception – that you can’t afford lactation help. Many hospitals and WIC offices offer free or reduced help. Also, insurance companies sometimes cover the cost. Explore your options!)
Image via iStock