How often should I breastfeed or pump?

BREAST STORAGE CAPACITY

The size of your breast has nothing to do with the amount of milk you will make. The size of your breast is determined by the amount of fatty tissue in the breast. The amount of milk you will make is determined by the amount of glandular tissue in the breast that makes milk. This glandular tissue starts growing during puberty. It increases during pregnancy and is part of what accounts for the increase in breast size during pregnancy. Everyone’s storage capacity is different.. just like every breast size is different. However breast size does NOT equal breast storage.

Small capacity: Approx 2-3 ounces per feeding/pump. Baby may need frequent feedings: 10-12 per day. Baby usually takes both breasts and may want each breast twice. Parent feels uncomfortable quickly between feedings and sees a supply drop with more than 3-4 hours between feedings

Medium capacity: Approx 3-4 oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 8+ times per day. Baby may take one breast or both breasts each feeding. Parent feels uncomfortable and see a supply drop with more than 4-5 hours between feedings

Large capacity: Approx 4-6 oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 6+ times per day. Baby may only take one breast per feeding. Parent may go up to 6 hours without seeing a drop in supply

XLarge capacity: 8+ oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 6+ times per day. Baby may only take one breast and parent may still feel full in that breast. Some babies may be gassy from higher foremilk intake as they may not drain the breast fully. Parent may go 6+ hours without seeing a supply drop. Parent may still feel uncomfortable between feedings depending on how quickly the milk fills the breast

All capacities have the same ability to feed baby well as long as the breast is routinely being emptied.

Do I need a breast milk stash?

NO STASH NEEDED

If breastfeeding is going well and you’re planning on being home with your baby or only gone for a few hours at a time there is no need to have a huge freezer stash. Having milk in the freezer is a nice security, especially is your have to work or will be away from your baby. But if you’re always with your baby or are only gone for a short while, there is no need to have a stash.

Having the right stash for your family means having enough stashed for when you’re away from your baby. If you’re gone for one feeding, you only need one feeding worth of milk. If you’re gone 2-3 feedings, you need 2-3 feedings worth of milk. If your baby is being bottle feeding while you’re away, you would pump while you’re gone to tell your body the milk is needed. That milk then becomes the stash for the next time that you’re gone.

If you want to have a big stash, great!!! You can absolutely have that as an option. Just don’t feel pressured from other people’s journeys on social media to have something you may not need or use. I’ve had several moms who spent countless hours pumping and stashing only to have to donate or throw out the milk stash because they never used it and it was going to expire. I’ve also had several moms who thought you had to have a stash and were relieved to know they didn’t! Do what is best for you and your baby and not based off of anyone else.

You’ve got this. Trust your body. Trust your baby.

Can I breastfeed while sick with COVID?

Breast milk for COVID+ mothers contains protective antibodies and no live virus.

There are multiple studies being conducted on breastfeeding mothers who are COVID+. What happens to their milk? A recent multi-institutional research team led by University of Idaho found that breastfeeding women who have COVID-19 transfer milk-borne antibodies to their babies without passing along the virus.

It was a small study where researchers analyzed 37 milk samples submitted by 18 women diagnosed with COVID-19.

🦠None of the milk samples were found to contain the virus

🦠2/3 of the samples did contain two antibodies specific to the virus.

🦠The results indicate that it is safe for moms to continue to breastfeed during a COVID-19 infection with proper precautions.

If you’re actively sick with COVID and still breastfeeding:

🧼 Wash your hands before feeding your baby or pumping

😷 Wear a mask while feeding to prevent coughing directly on your baby

💧 Drink plenty of water

😴 Rest and sleep to let your body heal

💊 Taking Vitamin C, D and zinc have been found to be very beneficial

IUDs and Breast Milk Supply

Where did my breast milk go?

BIRTH CONTROL AND MILK SUPPLY

An IUD is a form of birth control that’s put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. One of the most common forms of birth control, it’s long-term, reversible, and considered one of the most effective birth control methods. Many doctors will encourage new mothers to have them placed between 4-6 weeks postpartum checkup to prevent pregnancies too close together. The Paragard IUD is wrapped in copper and doesn’t have hormones. The Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. Be aware that each IUD has a different amount of progestin. They are not created equal. Progestin is also the hormone found in the mini pill.

Hormonal IUDs and the mini pill are often recommended by doctors as the best form of birth control for breastfeeding mothers because most of the research that is available says that they don’t impact breast milk supply. And many who use these methods don’t experience any drop in supply. For some, though, both the mini pill and the hormonal IUDs will drop breast milk supply, some times drastically. Every body is sensitive to different levels of hormones. If you have an IUD placed and notice a drop in supply, the only way to increase supply again is to remove the IUD. Increased pumping or herbal supplements will usually not be enough to increase supply again because you’re working against hormones. The only way to rebound supply would be to remove the IUD. If you’re considering a hormonal based IUD and aren’t sure if your supply will drop, consider taking a few rounds of the mini pill (progestin only) which is the same hormone as the IUD. If your supply drops, you only have to stop taking the pill and your supply will rebound much quicker.

Did you use a hormone based birth control? Did you notice a change in your breast milk supply?

Breast milk supply drop at six months

SIX MONTH DROP

For the first six months after birth, baby is supposed to be on an exclusive breast milk diet. At six months and beyond your breast milk goes through a major change. The volume of milk slowly drops because baby is eating and drinking other foods. They may also be sleeping longer at night and are more active during the day. Your milk is super smart and shifts with this drop to have more antibodies and a higher fat content. The breast makes milk based on how it is emptied and what your hormones are doing based on how old baby is. Your hormones are also shifting and you may start your monthly cycle again. Many experience a further dip in supply around the time with their period. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you may notice baby pulling or tugging on your nipple or using their hands to beat your chest while feeding. If you’re pumping, you may slowly start to see less milk each pump session. Usually months 5-7 are the hardest from a baby behavior perspective and it settles out again as baby eats more table food and your hormones adjust. If breastfeeding is your goal, just keep offering the breast and pumping often.

Tandem breastfeeding

It’s common for a toddler, or an even older child, to ask to breastfeed after a new sibling is born. Toddlers who were weaned immediately before or during pregnancy may be especially curious. Many just want to know if you’ll say yes – or they may just want your attention or “babied” themselves. Continuing to breastfeed, or letting them try to breastfeed again after weaning, can ease the transition of gaining a sibling. They are less likely to be jealous of the baby who is always with mommy if they can nurse alongside them. Nursing your older child once the new baby arrives can reduce engorgement when colostrum transitions to mature milk and can protect milk production if your newborn is not feeding effectively. If you say yes to a weaned child, many will just touch, lick or kiss the nipple, some will have forgotten the mechanics of how to breastfeed and won’t have further interest. Others can successfully breastfeed again. If you are happy to nurse your toddler, go for it. If it is overwhelming, it is still your body and you get to decide when and for how long toddler is allowed to breastfeed. You may prefer nursing your baby and your toddler separately or together. Breastfeeding is normal and it is normal for children to be curious and want to breastfeed at 2, 3, or even 4 years old.

When you give birth your body will continue to produce colostrum, with milk becoming plentiful after around 3-5 days. As with your first baby, breastfeed at least 8-12 times per day to establish your milk supply. Some will feed their newborn baby first or encourage the older sibling to nurse less until breastfeeding has been well established to ensure the newborn has full access to breast milk. Look out for feeding cues and give your newborn unrestricted breast access to help ensure they get plenty of milk.

Some times if your toddler is breastfeeding frequently, they may lose interest in solid foods for a while from increased milk intake. They may have looser stools. This is normal and should regulate with time.

It can take a while before your body adapts to the needs of two different feeders. You may feel lopsided if one breast drains more than the other. Eventually things will even out and you’ll find your rhythm. Alternating breasts for each feed helps with development of newborn vision and keeps the size of your breasts balanced. However, some mums find that giving a toddler his ‘own side’ works for them.

You will not run out of milk, your body will make more to accommodate however many nurslings there are.

Taking longer to trigger a let down?

It is normal for let-down not to feel as strong as baby gets older. Some of us never feel let-down, and some stop feeling the let-down sensation as time goes by. This does not necessarily indicate that let-down is not taking place. Remember, just because you don’t feel it or it feels different over time, or any mean it’s not happening.

Signs of let-down include:

• Uterine cramping during letdown in the first week postpartum

• Baby’s sucking pattern changes from a quick suck-suck to a rhythmic suck-swallow pattern as milk begins to flow

• Feeling of calm, relaxation, sleepiness or drowsiness.

• Sudden thirst

• Leaking from the other breast

• Tingling, pins and needles sensation, itching, nausea, headaches, or negative emotions

Things that can be the cause of a slow or inhibited let-down:

• Anxiety, pain, embarrassment, stress, cold

• Excessive caffeine use, smoking, use of alcohol

• Certain medications

• History of breast surgery where nerve damage that can interfere with let-down.

• In extreme situations of stress or crisis, the release of extra adrenaline in can reduce or block the hormones which affect let-down from a fight or flight response

• Sometimes a cycle is created, where baby fusses and pulls off because the let-down is slow, which makes mom tense up, which makes the let-down even slower, etc.

• It’s normal to have a harder time letting down for the pump than baby.

Later into your breastfeeding journey, you may notice it takes longer to trigger a let-down. This is common and what works early on may change over time. ⁣

Check for possible causes:

• Worn pump parts that need replaced. Replace the valves and membranes often. Check for worn tubing.

• Make sure you’re pumping with the correct flange size. Nipples may become more elastic over time and a different size may be used. ⁣⁣

• Starting your period or are you possibly pregnant? Both can decrease milk production and impact let-downs.

• New hormonal birth control or medication? These may impact supply.

• Check your body. Tension, pain, cold, fatigued or anxiety may block the neurochemical pathways required for milk let-downs. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣

Tips to trigger let down:

• Try a different pump or flange size

• Use heat, breast massage/compressions, or vibrations to prompt milk flow

• Orgasm. The same hormone released during orgasm also causes let down. Studies show having an orgasm can help let down

• Relax. Use slow, deep breaths and meditation

• Singing or humming can also speed let-down

• Gently massage your breasts. Stroke your breast towards the nipple with the flat of your hand or edge of a finger. Gently roll your nipple between your fingers

• Watch videos of your baby. Smell their clothing. Remember the feeling of let down

• Use all of your senses to facilitate let-down. Concentrate on the sight, sound, smell and feel of your baby.

• Take a warm shower or bath prior to nursing

• If you are in any pain, consider taking a pain reliever about 30 minutes before you feeding. Pain can cause stress and inhibit let-down.

• Choose a calm, less distracting setting

• Turn on music or a tv show that you enjoy

• Skin to skin contact with your baby: Undress baby to their diaper and yourself from the waist up. Stay like this for 1-2 hours prior to a feeding

• Eat a favorite snack and drink a comforting beverage like warm tea

• Get comfortable. Sit in a comfy chair or lay in bed. You should be in a comfortable position

• Switch nurse: move baby back and forth frequently between breasts until let-down occurs

• Nurse in a warm bath

Reverse pressure softening helps let-down for some moms.

• Visualization. Take several deep breaths and close your eyes as you begin. Try to visualize and “feel” what the let-down response feels like for you (if you normally feel anything). Imagine milk flowing or use images of waterfalls. An excellent book on visualization techniques is Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones.

• Distraction: watch TV, read, talk to a friend, don’t watch the pump bottles.

One study has shown that the moms of hospitalized babies who listened to guided relaxation or soothing music while pumping had an increased pumping output. When mom listened to a recording that included both music and guided relaxation while pumping, in addition to looking at photos of her baby, pumping output was increased even more. In this study, the interventions led to moms producing 2-3 times their normal pumping output. Milk fat content also increased for these moms in the early days of the study. (Reference: Keith DR, Weaver BS, Vogel RL. The effect of music-based listening interventions on the volume, fat content, and caloric content of breast milk-produced by mothers of premature and critically ill infants. Adv Neonatal Care. 2012 Apr;12(2):112-9.)

Perspectives on breastfeeding

PERSPECTIVE

“My hospital nurse told me to feed baby every 2 hours with 15mL and my pediatrician told me to feed baby every 3 hours with 30mL.”

“My IBCLC told me there is a tongue tie but the ENT said there wasn’t one.”

“One consultant told me to use a nipple shield as lo as needed. The other said get off as quick as possible”

“They said don’t let baby feed more than 10 minutes per side, but my baby won’t stay latched that long.”

I hear this all the time in my practice and it can be confusing for families. Why did I get different advice from different people? Perspective. Doulas, midwives, pediatricians, even lactation consultants all come from their own training, education, clinical practice and personal experience. When in doubt, the best person to get lactation advice from is an IBCLC. They have had to go through extensive training and mentoring to become certified in the study of human lactation. But remember: even lactation consultants come from different perspectives.

A hospital based IBCLC typically only works with babies in the first 2-4 days after birth and may see dozens of babies in a week, getting only a short amount of time with each family. A private practice IBCLC may have more time to spend with you but experience and expertise may vary. An IBCLC who is also a nurse will approach breastfeeding differently than one who is also a feeding therapist or who started out as a mother who struggled to breastfeed and became passionate to help others going through what she went through. My best advice is find some one who listens to you, educates on why they want you to do something, and supports you in your journey. Because you have a unique perspective, too.

Lauren Archer, Love of a Little One doula, takes a picture of my midwife and newborn
This is the same image from Lauren’s perspective

Paced bottle feeding

Paced bottle feeding (meaning you’re setting the pace for how fast/slow baby drinks) helps prevent over feeding baby: it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it’s full. If a baby takes a bottle too quickly, the mouth can still be “hungry” and wanting to suck when the stomach is actually full. Like going to an all you can eat buffet and eating a lot of food quickly and then realizing half hour later you ate way too much. A baby that happily sucks down too much milk from a bottle can make you think you don’t have enough breast milk even if you make a normal amount. It can also make baby frustrated by the flow of milk from the breast and inadvertently sabotage breastfeeding

These pictures are the same baby in two different positions for paced feeding: semi upright and side lying. Side lying is my favorite position to use as it puts baby in the same position as breastfeeding. Many parents feel baby is more supported in this position. Baby is supported by your leg or breastfeeding pillow.

Tips:

🍼Never feed baby on their back

🍼Keep the bottle parallel with the floor with about half the nipple filled with milk

🍼Use the slowest flow nipple baby will tolerate

🍼Rub the nipple gently on baby’s lips, allow baby to latch at their own pace, don’t force it into their mouth

🍼It should take 15-20 minutes to finish the bottle

🍼Watch the baby and not the bottle, stop when they show signs of being full

🍼Resist the urge to finish the bottle, even if there is only a little left, when baby is showing signs their tummy is full

🍼Take short breaks to burp and give the tummy time to fill naturally

🍼If baby is gulping or chugging, slow down

🍼If baby has taken a good volume of milk (2-4oz) in a short amount of time and is still acting hungry, offer a pacifier for a few minutes to help them digest and give the tummy to to tell the brain it’s full. If they’re still hungry, slowly offer more in 1/2oz increments

How much milk should I leave my breastfed baby?

How many ounces should I leave if I’m exclusively breastfeeding but need to leave my baby a bottle?

The answer is: that depends. Some babies are grazers. They like smaller, more frequent feedings to keep their tummy from being too full or uncomfortable. Their feedings can range from 1-3 ounces and they may feed 10 or more times a day. Other babies are bingers. They like a big, full tummy and may take 3-5 or even occasionally 6 ounces but not as often. They may feed only 6-8 times a day and have longer sleep stretches. Their tummy doesn’t mind being stretched fuller and their bodies tell them it’s ok to go longer between feedings.

The question is: how many feedings do they get in 24 hours? From one month to one year, babies take between 19-32 ounces of breast milk a day. The average is 25 ounces in 24 hours. There’s a range because babies eat more or less depending on the activities of the day, growth spurts, teething, and even babies emotionally eat sometimes. In general, take 25 and divide it by the number of feedings they average in any given day. Also take into account that growth slows between 6-12 months and baby should be eating table foods, so you don’t need to increase the ounces in the bottle during that time. If your baby took 4 Oz bottles at 4 months, 4 Oz bottles are still appropriate at 9 months because they’re also begging for the food right off your plate in addition to what you’re putting on their tray.