We hear over and over again how easy breastfeeding is. It's natural after all! But like I tell each of my postpartum clients, just because it's natural doesn't mean we were meant to do it alone. Without support the early days breastfeeding can bring up a lot of self-doubt, even in those of us who consider ourselves well prepared. The postpartum time creates the perfect storm for being overwhelmed. You're sleep deprived, sore, bleeding, processing a major life event, responsible for caring for this ENTIRE new human being and now doing your best to feed it with your body (maybe for the first time!). Whoa, that's a lot! With all of the things you will be trying to get right, here are 5 things you don't need to overthinking when it comes to bodyfeeding.
***Disclaimer, this information is not mean to treat or diagnose. Always consult your care provider regarding your or your baby's health.***
1. "My baby wants to nurse more frequently or longer than usual, I must not be making enough milk or baby would be full by now."
Whether or not you decided to time your baby's feedings you are probably going to notice when baby is spending more time nursing, its your body after all! The good news is, your baby spending more time at the breast is actually very healthy for your milk supply. Remember, nursing is supply and demand relationship between your baby and your body. The more frequently the pressure in your breast is relieved by milk being removed, the more frequently your body will make more. Long nursing sessions or sessions that seem to go back to back are sometimes called, "cluster feedings" and can be normal, as well as taxing on your mind and body!
My advice as a Postpartum Doula is to get prepared! Find a comfortable place to nurse and set up for the long haul. Snacks, water, remote, phone and charger, pillows and anything else that may feel like a necessity. Your comfort is important through these long sessions, so take care of yourself! If you have other small kids who need cared for, this might be the day to call in support from friends and family. Can someone drop off a meal or take the siblings out of the house for a bit while you focus on baby? When in doubt do a diaper count! If your supply is in question, diaper output is a good tool to assess baby's input.
2. "I can't express milk. Almost nothing comes out when I hand express." Or, "I can't get more than a few drops when I try pumping."
Not everyone responds the same to pumping and hand expressing and it can be really frustrating and create a lot of self-doubt about your milk supply. First, learning to hand express takes good technique and practice. If you're not sure you've got the technique down, now is the time to call in support. If you're still in the hospital, a nurse should be informed enough to teach you to hand express. If you're home, give me a call and we can schedule a home visit and work through this in person/virtually. Once you've got technique down, practice practice, practice! When it comes to pumping its important to know that no one is better at removing milk from your body than your baby. No machine is going to match your baby's latch (assuming that there is no tongue tie) so remind yourself that the best indication of exactly how much milk your producing is to weigh baby before and after feedings, NOT PUMPING. This is something you can ask your pediatrician for help with or do at home with an accurate scale that measures down to the oz. And of course, try the trusty diaper count mentioned above.
3. "My breasts seem softer. I'm worried my supply is dropping!"
Oh this one can sneak up on you. You're a few weeks into your new life as a parent and you've survived the cracked nipples and fixed the shallow latch and baby seems to be gaining weight fine but these last few feedings you're not feeling that super full, heavy feeling in your chest anymore. After everything you've been though its not hard to jump to conclusions and assume your supply is decreasing! Our supply naturally start to regulate after a few weeks of nursing. I joke with clients that sometimes it seems our body never got the memo that there were in fact NOT ten babies born last month, ha! And finally, our milk supply is leveling out to meet the needs of our one, hungry babe. to reasure yourself observe baby's hunger cues. We can monitor baby's fullness iby watching their body language. A hungry baby has clenched fists and will start chewing on them if early feeding cues are missed. As a baby's belly begins to fill their fist will gradually relax and open. Babies can't talk but they do have many ways of communicating with us! YOU'VE GOT THIS!
4. "I can't feel my letdown. My friend said their letdown felt tingly or like needles, I must not be having any letdown!" Ugh, I hear this one from time. But let's dismiss that myth right now! NOT EVERYONE FEELS THEIR LETDOWN! In fact, there is a whole range of sensations that can come along with a letdown. Nothing at all, tingling, sharp pain, nausea, the feeling of deep despair or hopelessness or ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL, did I mention that one yet? Yeah, so you get the point... our bodies are complicated. Hormones or breast size (larger breast owners tend to feel less physical symptoms of a letdown) can be to blame for this one.
If you can't feel your letdown watch your baby as they nurse. When baby first latches they will make a few quick sucks and rest, then a few quick sucks and rest and so on. This action send the message to your body, "Hey, release the flood gates!" and you have your letdown not long after! Then, baby will begin to take longer gulps. These gulps of milk will cause the jaw to move as far back as the ear! Watch for movement in baby's jaw muscles right in front of their ear up to about level with their eye. Neat right?! Also, you should be able to hear your baby swallow if the room is quiet.
5. "My baby isn't nursing as long as they used to, I must not have enough milk to make it through a full feeding session."
THIS ONE. Wow, I hear it all the time! We go through a lot as parents in the early days and its not hard to let our inner self doubt tell us that our baby isn't getting enough milk when they aren't nursing for the same length of time as before. If there is one thing you can be sure of when it comes to breastfeeding, just as our babies begin to form a routine they go and switch it up on us! It's likely that your baby is learning how to eat and has become a stronger nurser! Once we have worked through latch issues, found our favorite positions, recovered from engorgement, its no wonder baby has figured out how to get a full belly and quickly!
Remember the ways we can check on baby's intake mentioned above? Let's review, If you're counting diapers, getting a good latch, following baby's cues and your pediatrician is reporting back with weight gain, this shift in nursing length is likely because baby is becoming a more efficient nurser! Happy Nursing Folks!! ***Disclaimer, this information is not mean to treat or diagnose. Always consult your care provider regarding your or your baby's health.***