There are two things that will make breastfeeding so much easier for you!
- Confidence that your body was made to do this.
- Understanding how to make the right amount of milk.
Have confidence in your body. Your body was made to do this and knows how to do this. Sure, some women can’t breastfeed. But that number is CRAZY low. Once you’ve had some success with breastfeeding, you’ll gain confidence that it actually works. This is how the human race was made to continue. Once you have this confidence, you stop second guessing your supply and your baby’s behavior. Then, you tend to make more pro-breastfeeding decisions.
Understanding how to make the right amount of milk
The second thing that will make breastfeeding so much easier is understanding how milk volume works. Breast milk functions on a supply and demand system. Your body knows how much milk you need based on how much milk is removed. If your breasts are full, it’s because you’re not removing most of the milk. Your body recognizes that and determines it needs to make milk more slowly. If your breasts are usually empty that tells your body you are using most of the milk it is making so it needs to make milk faster. Side note: your breasts are never totally empty because 1. your breasts will make milk on-demand for your baby (though it may not come out as quickly as he prefers) and 2. a pump only empties on average 60% of the milk in your breast.
So, if you want to increase your supply, you need to frequently remove milk so your body makes it faster. If you want to decrease your supply, you want to keep your breasts fuller so your body slows down production.
This is all easiest if your baby is directly feeding from the breast, right? When they act hungry, they go to the breast and remove milk and that drives your supply. Easy peasy. But sometimes our 21 century selves make it more complicated. Or sometimes you have a few hurdles in the journey so you need to create the drive with a breast pump.
Establishing a supply with the right amount of milk
The first two weeks of your baby’s life is when you have the most impact on your milk supply. For however long you decide to nurse. That is why during the first two weeks, you want frequent breastfeedings. Usually baby is happy to oblige and wants to nurse very often during this time. Funny how nature works itself out when we let it.
It’s important to make sure baby is latching deeply and transferring milk well during these first two weeks of life. You can ask your local IBCLC for help. Also, take baby into his first office visit between days 3 and 5 of life. (This is the AAP recommendation and no, being seen in the hospital doesn’t count.)
Signs that baby may be removing enough milk:
- Baby actively shows feeding cues at least 8-12 times each day
- After feedings baby seems satisfied and your breast feels lighter
- Baby has as many wet diapers as they are days old (at least 1 day 1, etc.)
- After day 6, baby has at least 6 wet diapers each day
- Baby’s stool appears yellow and seedy by day 4 or 5
Signs that baby may not be removing enough milk:
- Sleepy: Not waking to nurse 8-12 times per day and difficult to wake for feedings (after day 1)
- Intense nipple pain
- Not meeting wet and dirty diaper goals
Using hand expression to establish the right amount of milk
Some hand expression is great during the first two weeks as a little insurance policy that you are removing milk well enough to establish a healthy supply. Here is a great video about expressing breastmilk from one of my favorite sites. Since the first two weeks are so impactful for your supply, that’s also why you don’t want to go gang-bustas pumping to store for later during this time. You really don’t want to tell your body you have twins, IF you have a singleton. Having too much milk may sound like a nice problem to have but it often comes with a really fussy baby, uncomfortable or infected breasts, or an allergy misdiagnosis. Yuck. Most people get tired of hand expression after a few minutes which makes it a great middle ground. You’re likely to express a little extra to help create a stable supply, but unlikely to express a ton and give yourself too much milk.
If you ever feel unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friendly, local lactation consultant. If she’s not friendly, find a different one! There is an IBCLC who can match recommendations to your situation and personality.
Share with a friend so they can reach their breastfeeding goals!