“Breast is best.”
It is engrained in my professional mind, as well as my mommy mind.
I am a dietitian and lactation counselor at a local health department, full time. One of my many roles at the health department is to teach and counsel women on breastfeeding. Seriously, my job is breastfeeding!
I love it, I do. But I feel like I spend the majority of my time disproving myths about breastfeeding. There are so many misconceptions out there, and moms, especially first time moms, are willing to believe everything they hear. I can say this because I am one of them.
Breastmilk is free. The woman’s body makes it.
It. Is. So. Cool.
So why don’t more women breastfeed?
Actually, the number of moms who begin breastfeeding has increased to almost 80% in the United States over the past few years. That is awesome! But the rate falls to only 18% of moms exclusively breastfeeding by the time their infant is 6 months old. What? Why?
I must say, the most common reason I hear women say they quit breastfeeding is because they “weren’t making enough milk.” As a lactation counselor, this makes my blood boil.
As a mom who has breastfed before, I can totally understand.
I’ve jotted down the 5 reasons I’ve heard the most and have explained why they just aren’t true!
1. Low milk supply is more common than not – Yes and No. The physical inability to produce enough milk is usually due to insufficient glandular tissue, or IGT. It is estimated that only 2% of women actually have a natural inability to produce enough milk to feed a baby. However, those with IGT can still produce milk, it just might not be sufficient. Yes, hormones can play a part, so thyroid issues can also contribute. But more often than not, it is poor feeding practices that lead to a low milk supply. This type of low supply can be resolved with adequate work and determination!
2. My baby just cries all of the time, so my milk supply must be low – Spoiler alert! Babies cry. I can’t really blame them! They just spent 9 months in a cozy, warm cocoon and are now in our world which can be a bit less inviting. Breastfed babies figure out very quickly that their happy place is nuzzled on their momma’s chest with a nipple in their mouth. When taken away from their happy place, they become upset. Trust me, I get it. I pitch a fit when I have to leave my happy place (my bed) every morning. I can only imagine how traumatizing it is for a baby. So, a breastfed baby who wants to be attached to mom at all times and fusses when he isn’t sounds normal to me!**
**This is assuming the baby is gaining weight well and has adequate DIRTY diapers. Wet diapers are important, yes. But new research has found that poopy diapers are more important to judge breastfeeding adequacy in the first few weeks. If weight gain and diapers aren’t happening, then its time to see your CLC or pediatrician!
3. My mom couldn’t breastfeed, so neither can I – Guys, this was me!!! My mom was told by someone that she never made milk (which, now, I don’t believe is true). Of course, this had me believing that I would subsequently have problems with breastfeeding. Unless you and your mother have IGT, there is no reason that you cannot breastfeed because your mother didn’t.
4. I tried to breastfeed my other children, but it didn’t work. So I can’t breastfeed my future children – Have I mentioned that a woman’s body is amazing? Especially the breasts. Say things happen and your supply never reached it’s fullest potential with your first children. Well guess what? Those milk ducts that were there for your first kiddo are still in your breasts, AND new ones are made during each pregnancy! How cool is that? Hormone receptors are also re-primed and ready to go. It is common for women who might have struggled with breastfeeding the first time around have absolutely no issues with their second, third, etc. You never know until you try. So always give it a go! Also, since ducts can regenerate, breast injuries usually do not affect breastfeeding unless the actual tissue was removed or tampered with, such as in radiation.
5. My baby doesn’t nurse as long as they used to and my breasts feel softer, so my supply must be decreasing – Around 3 weeks postpartum, your breasts figure out the milk thing. They have taken the information given to them by your baby and regulate your supply. I can’t tell you how many calls I get from moms around 3-4 weeks postpartum freaking that their milk disappeared overnight. But I can understand! It is scary. Also, babies get better at breastfeeding. They start to become more efficient at milk removal, therefore feeds take less time. Please understand, there is no set amount of time a baby should nurse during each session. People who tell you differently are wrong, sorry.
Still think you are having supply problems? I’d really encourage you to contact a lactation counselor near you, or find support through LLL. I’m happy to answer general questions if you’d like, but an in-person consult is going to be the most beneficial.
Trust me, I know a mom’s mind is her worst enemy. Once you have the thought that your supply might be off, its all you can think about until someone proves your otherwise. But in the meantime, here are some things we can try to hike that supply:
- Increase feeding sessions with baby – if baby is a good feeder, be sure to watch for feeding cues and feed on demand, whenever the baby wants. If it has only been 30 minutes since the last nurse, that’s fine! Let’s do it again!
- Add a pumping, or expressing session – the more milk you remove from your breasts, the more milk your breasts make. Supply and demand, all the way. If baby hasn’t fed in a while, take the opportunity to express some milk using either a pump or by hand expression. Here is a good video on hand expression. A good time to do this is in the middle of the night, during baby’s longest stretch of sleep. It takes some discipline to wake yourself up when you’re super sleep deprived, but remember, you’re doing this for the sake of breastmilk! Mom power!
- Be sure to take time for yourself – Relax momma! Take some deep breaths and have someone watch the baby while you take a hot shower. And while you’re in there, try some of that hand expression 😉 Be sure to hydrate yourself and eat some meals, or at least snacks throughout the day.
Again, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂
Until next time, <3