Milk Supply: Breastfeeding for Millennial Moms, Part 3
Welcome back to the final installment of Breastfeeding for Millennial Moms, where guest blogger and veteran millennial mom, Lindsey Cure, discusses common new mom concerns about nursing. Previously, she blogged for you about pain during breastfeeding and how to tell what a good latch is.
Today, she’s breaking down what might be the most common worry we hear from moms: Milk supply. While establishing and maintaining an adequate milk supply can certainly be a problem for some parents, sometimes it’s simply that one needs to better understand what normal newborn cues and behaviors are. So without further ado, take it away, Lindsey!
Maybe my baby is pulling away and screaming every four gulps because nothing is coming out. Maybe he’s nursing 15 times a day because I’m drying up – It has to be, right?
Will I make enough milk for my baby?
A lot of factors play into what makes a good milk supply, but let’s look at the reasons we usually think we aren’t producing any milk:
- When I pump, little to no milk comes out, or less comes out now than when I first started pumping
- Cluster feeding
- My baby never seems to be “full”
- My baby cries during feeding sessions
Let’s be real, your boobs are pretty smart. For the most part, if you’re drinking enough water, eating enough food, your baby is latching correctly, and you’re patient with your baby and yourself, your breasts are probably making enough milk. Let’s go back over the signs and explain what they might actually mean for you:
Pumping is generally NOT an accurate representation of your supply.
A pump does not stimulate your breasts to produce milk the same way a baby’s mouth does. Similar to helping with engorgement, you can have your baby latch first to trigger a let-down and see if that helps you pump more. Otherwise, maybe take a step back and check a few things out: are you trying to pump on a strict schedule? Are you trying to pump right after feeding your baby? Are you stressed, hungry, dehydrated? Take a break; if you’re pumping every 2 hours, pump every 3-4. Pumping after feeding baby is sometimes necessary, but won’t give you an accurate representation of your supply because your babe has most likely already triggered a let-down and reaped the benefits, and you’re just grabbing those last few drops.
Plus, if you don’t have a true need to be pumping and are simply worried about having some extra milk on hand, consider waiting until your baby is 3-4 weeks old before pumping so you don’t accidentally create too much milk. This sounds like a non-problem, but an oversupply can make it harder for your baby to latch well and transfer milk properly, and it can lead to engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis for you.
Either way, make sure you’re drinking TONS of water if you’re nursing. Like girl, HYDRATE YO’SELF, for real. If you haven’t had a solid meal, or aren’t eating a lot of calories in a day, this can also affect how much milk you’re producing.
Babies cluster feed for a number of reasons.
Newborns cluster feed (eat frequently in a short period of time) for comfort, and growth spurts are a huge reason for cluster feeding. If your baby is growing, so is their stomach, which means they need more calories and your body needs to adjust. Be patient, keep nursing. If you’re feeling touched out, take a break. Lay your baby in a safe spot and give yourself some love and patience. You’re doing a good fucking job, I promise. Sometimes our babes just like to nurse forever. You only need to worry if they’re still showing signs of hunger after cluster feeding or aren’t gaining weight appropriately.
How can you tell if your baby is full?
Well, recognizing signs of hunger FIRST is equally as important.
Newborns have the root reflex and will open their mouth and turn their head like they’re trying to nurse when they’re hungry. Closed fists, crying with a “nyeeehh” sound or any cry that starts with an “n” sound is usually a hunger cry, or sucking on hands/smacking lips are usually good indicators. [We teach a whole class on decoding your baby’s cry sounds – check it out here!] If your baby is continuously doing these things after feedings, talk to your postpartum doula, IBCLC, or pediatrician to get to the root of the problem before assuming it’s your fault. If your baby is not gaining weight or is losing weight, this is generally a good sign that your baby is NOT eating enough and it’s more of an immediate concern to bring up with a provider.
If your baby pulls away and cries during feedings, here’s a few reasons why:
Tongue or lip ties (talk to your IBCLC or pediatrician to be sure) would make it difficult to latch or nurse properly, and slow or fast milk letdowns can cause frustration if your milk isn’t coming out as quickly as your baby would like or if it’s coming out too fast and it’s overwhelming. Just like one boob is always bigger than the other, usually one side will have a faster milk flow than the other, so if you usually start nursing on one side, try starting on the other and see if that helps.
If you’ve reached the end of this, congratulations! You’ve graduated my Millennial Mom Breastfeeding Academy, but not really cause that’s not actually a thing.
Hopefully this information will help with your fears of breastfeeding, or answers some questions you may have had as someone who has no fucking clue what they’re doing. You can do this, you can do anything, including giving birth to an entire human being. You’re already doing amazing in this shit-show we call parenting.
Tags: breastfeeding, cluster feeding, growth spurt, milk supply