Saturday, January 29, 2011

Don't let sleeping babies lie! (keeping up milk supply)

I’m not a lactation consultant, nor am I a midwife, but I could definitely tell you what not to do while breastfeeding!  From a dwindling supply to a poor latch, I’ve experienced some of the crappiest parts of breastfeeding from the day Elias was born.  Yes, breastfeeding can be easy for some & your baby may take to it like a duck to water, but more-often-than-not it will be a bit tough, especially in the beginning.  Never fear though, the bonding & health benefits seriously outweigh the frustration of a “lazy baby” or your milk supply going down.

Step 1: Don’t let sleeping babies lie
As a severely-exhausted mother of a 5-month-old, I can tell you how easy it was to let my little man sleep through the night.  I even have a lot of help from Drew, but any amount of sleep I can get is golden.  However, when my milk supply began to take a nosedive, I realized one of the reasons was because I wasn’t nursing in the middle of the night.  I would either give him pumped bottles or he’d just sleep through his feedings.  Once your breasts feel like they don’t have to produce during that time, they’ll begin to stop making as much milk.  Breast milk is pretty smart; your body will automatically adjust to your baby’s needs & when milk doesn’t seem to be needed as much it will quickly change to suit baby.

Step 2: Don’t use a pump too much
Though this did help me a lot when Elias was first born –he wasn’t latching at all & a few rounds with a bottle seemed to help him suck a little better.  Poor guy was in the NICU for a few days for fluid in his lungs— I took advantage of the convenience & ease of pumping breast milk.  I had always read that breast pumps stimulated the breasts & helped women produce more milk, but lo & behold I think that was clever marketing.  Not only are the cheaper breast pumps not effective enough to mimic a baby’s suckle, even the priciest ones are no replacement for the baby stimulating the breasts early on.  Once I stopped using the pumps as much, my supply actually did go up!  I heard this from my lactation consultant early on in the game & I’ll bet she was super-frustrated that I didn’t seem to listen.  I don’t doubt for a second that my exhaustion played a big part in me not nursing him at the breast more.  I also heard this from his pediatrician.

Step 3: Don’t formula-feed/”supplement” unless absolutely necessary
Many pediatricians are quick to say “you need to supplement” when your baby isn’t gaining exactly what he/she should be.  There’s nothing scarier than the prospect of a “failure to thrive” label for your baby, so you listen when the doctor says your baby isn’t big enough.  How could you not?  You’d feel like a horrible mother if you didn’t do everything you thought was right!  If you are presented with this suggestion (or order!) don’t be afraid to ask if it’s absolutely necessary.  There might be another solution to your baby’s weight gain.  Also, breastfed babies are naturally skinnier than their bottle-fed counterparts.  Breast milk changes from thin & watery to slightly thicker & fattier during feeding, formula is just fatty through-and-through, so of course it makes chubby babies.  That’s about the only nutritional benefit to formula, and who said that was a benefit at all??  Obviously if you have concerns about your baby’s development you should talk to your pediatrician.  Hopefully you’re one of the lucky ones who have a pediatrician who is just as committed to breastfeeding!  I listened & supplemented, as I thought a good mother should.  WRONG!  Still regret doing that.

Step 4: Don’t diet after giving birth
After baby is born, the first thing you might want to do is go on a diet to lose all of that baby weight ASAP.  You don’t feel like  yourself because you’re still not back to your pre-baby weight, but just let it go for now.  You’ve spent months feeling like a whale, you can go a little while longer feeling a bit pudgy.  If you lose too much weight too quickly, your body will start to cut what it feels like are non-essential resources such as breast milk.  It’s no surprise that when your body goes into “starvation mode” it will stop doing things that make it burn even more calories –such as breastfeeding!  Believe me, you’ll be running around & doing so much stuff the pounds will melt off.  Breastfeeding alone burns about 200-500 calories per day!  Of course if you were overweight or obese before you were pregnant, you need to talk to your doctor about the risk/benefits of losing weight while nursing.  If you are nursing you should not consume less than 1500 calories a day; sometimes no less than 1800.  Again, I made that mistake.  I didn’t eat nearly enough & noticed a drastic change when I stopped eating as much & ESPECIALLY not drinking enough water.

Step 5: Don’t nurse when you’re frustrated
Babies are rather intuitive when it comes to their mommy’s mood.  If you decide to nurse when you are too frustrated, chances are the mood will shift to baby & he will forget that feeding is supposed to be a wonderful bonding experience between the two of you.  Nursing will no longer be “fun.”  I didn’t nurse when I was frustrated, but I was told by a nurse while feeding in the NICU that I need to offer my son lots of praise, stroking his hair, kisses, etc. while he is feeding so he will enjoy himself.  Also, if you start to associate nursing with frustration you’ll be less-likely to do it as well!  It seems like a no-brainer to hug & kiss your baby while nursing, but during things like colic, post-partum depression, your period returning, you sometimes don’t feel like loving on anyone.  And no, you’re not a bad mother for that & you’re not crazy.

So how in the WORLD am I still nursing after making all of those mistakes??  I am taking Fenugreek, drinking “Mother’s Milk” tea (which can be found in health food stores & online), and Blessed Thistle as well as drinking lots of water.  I also spoke with my lactation consultant who gave me further instructions for pumping & supplementing with a feeding tube.  I would share those things, but in the case of a severely-reduced supply, you need to speak to a doctor/midwife/lactation specialist yourself so they can tailor a plan to your needs.

Okay, so here’s a list that will probably get a few eye-rolls because it’s nothing most women don’t already know.  Here are some BIGGIES when it comes to what not to do when nursing & trying to keep up your supply:


Peace, love, & breastfeeding!
-Elias’s mommy

Note: These suggestions are meant as tools to help you keep up your supply & are not intended to be used as a substitution for seeking professional help.  If you are having severe problems with breastfeeding or pain in your breasts contact your doctor/midwife/lactation consultant.

Midwife/Lactation consultant: Susan Fischels; Trover Center for Women's Health
Midwife: Sarah Almon; Trover Center for Women's Health
Pediatricians: Dr. Rennan Quijano & Dr. Angell Suarez; Pediatric Health Group
(These are just the names of the specialists from which I received advice. This is not an endorsement by them.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.