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February 09, 2018

Think You Have Low Milk Supply? Maybe Not!

Many of the mothers I see in consultation make these 2 statements. And I respond, “Let’s improve your technique, your style, and I bet you resolve your worries about low milk supply.”

 

2 Common Worries

 

1. “My baby is never “satisfied” at my breast 

She fusses and keeps coming off. I’m sure I don’t have enough milk.”  Is this a low milk supply issue or a positioning issue? Your baby’s brain is wired to feed (her neuronal pathways) if 3 major puzzle pieces are in place. Full body support, straight body alignment (no head twisted to one side) and pressure on her belly, chest and upturned chin.  Use as many pillows as you need to raise your baby up to the level of your nipple and keep her supported from her shoulders to her feet.  Wrap her around you like a “C”, right up against your ribcage.  Lift up your unused breast if you need to and pull her under it.  You can rest your breast right on top of her, she won’t mind. If she feels support beneath her, especially under her legs and feet, she will be less squirmy.  The pressure of your skin against her belly, chest, and chin, stimulates her to open her mouth wide and you will be able to latch her deeply onto your whole breast, not just the nipple. Latching too shallowly causes pain and a pinched off milk flow. If the milk is coming too slowly, she will detach unhappily. Fixing your baby’s positioning might just solve a misplaced worry about a low milk supply.

2. “My baby falls asleep at my breast after what I think is 10 minutes of good sucking.  

She wakes up again in an hour, hungry. I must not have enough milk.”    Is this a low milk supply issue or normal newborn behavior?  Your justborn, healthy baby has a tiny stomach.  Her capacity is only a couple of teaspoons at a time in the first 12 hours. Your colostrum gives her all that she needs in those few teaspoons.  Over the course of the next several days, with good lactation support, your baby will be sucking with swallowing for longer periods of time, countable in increasing numbers of minutes and sleeping more in between.  10 minutes of sucking with swallowing is a fine amount of time for a 2-3 day old baby.  And yes, some babies need to breastfeed every hour in the first 1-3 days.  Be assured that this is a short-term transition while you both grow and learn.  If your baby is a) settled between feedings, b) passing soft stool and c) urinating at least 6 times in a 24 hr period, she can be hungry every hour and you should go ahead and enjoy feeding her.  Be sure that your baby is swallowing. Your baby will sustain a rhythmic, continuous suck-swallow pattern if she is getting enough milk per suck to trigger her brain stem to swallow. She will continue to suck and swallow until she is full or needs burping. A baby that sucks 4, 5, 6 times and falls asleep without swallowing will not get enough breastmilk and will not gain weight.

Please consider a consultation with a board certified lactation consultant to address your concerns about low milk supply. Attend no cost La Leche League meetings for guidance on improving your breastfeeding techniques.  You may not have a        low milk supply but have a perfectly normal milk supply and need information on how to better get it into your baby.

 

Paula Zindler
RN IBCLC



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