Where has my breast milk gone?

Some times we can sabotage our own milk supply from little things that we don’t understand will make a difference. Here are the top ways to accidentally drop your milk supply:

😳Putting baby on a feeding schedule in the first 3-4 months

😳Watching the clock instead of feeding baby on demand

😳Sleep training in the first 3-4 months after birth

😳Waiting for your breasts/chest to feel full to pump or feed

😳Not pumping when baby is getting a bottle

😳Letting partner feed a bottle in the middle of the night to get more sleep (and not getting up to pump)

😳”Topping off baby” after feeding, especially during the witching hour phase. (I’m not talking about when supplementing is necessary or if you’re on a triple feeding plan because of true low supply or baby weight gain. Supplementing after breastfeeding can be needed, but you would also be pumping at that time)

😳 Not pumping enough when returning to work

😳Using the wrong size pump flanges

😳Using a poor quality pump (insurance companies have to provide you with one, but that doesn’t mean they’ll give you one of quality)

😳Going back on hormonal birth control at your 6 week postpartum checkup

😳Taking nasal decongestants or allergy medications

While these seem like normal recommendations from many parent groups or even your health care providers, these subtle things can sabotage milk supply. Your body works on a demand and supply basis. The more you empty or demand from the breast/chest, the more milk it will make. Want to increase supply? Increase the number of milk removals, give young infants free access to feed on demand, and watch out for medications, hormones, of pumping traps that can sabotage your success.

Vitamin D supplements and breast milk

VITAMIN D

Were you told by your pediatrician to give your baby vitamin D drops? Vitamin D is absolutely critical strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease where the bone tissue doesn’t mineralize properly, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. Recent research also tells us that vitamin D is key in maintaining our immune systems for regulating both infection and inflammatory pathways. If you shun the sun, have a milk allergy, or follow a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It is also occurs naturally in a few foods like certain fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, and fortified dairy and grain products.

Our bodies are designed to make very large amounts of vitamin D through exposure to the sun (10,000—20,000 IU in 24 hours, after 15—20 minutes of summer-sun exposure in a bathing suit/45—60 minutes of exposure for those with darker skin tones). However, in an effort to decrease our risk of skin cancer from over exposure to the sun, we’ve limited our ability to keep our vitamin D status at a normal level from absorbing it directly from the best source. That said, those living where clouds often cover the sky or in cities with polluted air quality will have a hard time getting sun exposure for natural vitamin D. People with darker skin tones are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D, as well, due to the increased pigment in their skin. They require nearly four times the length of sun exposure in order to penetrate the skin to manufacture vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for babies. Your pediatrician cannot tell you to put your baby in the sun, even though that is the best source of vitamin D, because of the risks of skin cancer. So they should have advised you to give your baby 400 IU of vitamin D each day, usually given by drops in the mouth.

All formulas sold in the United States have at least 400 IU/L of vitamin D; so if your baby is drinking 32 ounces of formula, vitamin D supplementation is not needed.

But what about from breast milk? Human milk is a very poor source of vitamin D, usually containing less than 50 IU per quart. This is why the AAP recommends all breastfed infants be supplemented. This does not mean there is anything wrong with the milk, but an issue in the recommended amount of vitamin D the lactating parent should be taking. This goes back to the sunlight recommendation. If you were getting 15-45 minutes of sunlight (depending on how dark your skin tone is) 3-4 times per week, your body would have plenty of natural vitamin D to pass through your milk to your baby. Many who live in the US either don’t live in a location where that’s possible year round (hi, Chicago in January) or maybe can’t get out in the sun because of needing to work. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (a global organisation) recommends that “The breastfeeding infant should receive vitamin D supplementation for a year, beginning shortly after birth in doses of 10–20 lg/day (400–800 IU/day) (LOE IB). This supplement should be cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, because of superior absorption unless a vegetable source such as ergocaliferol vitamin D2, is desired. … Vitamin D also may be delivered adequately through human milk.” Research has shown that as long as you as the lactating parent is taking 6,400 IU of vitamin D daily, there is no need to supplement the baby as your milk will have adequate amounts.

COVID-19 Vaccine and Breastfeeding

Absolutely everything you put on or in your body had a risk/benefit. Some things have more research and information and somethings are newer and were still discovering them. Nitrates, for instance, which are found in processed meats are known to cause colon cancer. Yet many people routinely consume them without a second thought. Starbucks had a sign at every store saying they know some of their products are known to cause cancer and to be aware of the risks. Fenugreek is not supposed to be taken during breastfeeding if you’re on thyroid medications, but many are unaware of the risk because they haven’t researched it and still drink teas and eat products containing it. We’re still researching and learning about marijuana and CBD in the breastfeeding population and haven’t figured out long term recommendations. Still, some chose to weigh the benefits to their unique story and still consume it while breastfeeding

Did you know the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine have completely opposite, yet compatible, protocols for safe sleep? AAP discourages bed-sharing while ABM supports it. My role is to educate you on both recommendations and help support whichever decision you make, while also taking your unique situation in mind. If you have a formula and breastfeeding preemie, I’m going to tell you to follow the AAP guidelines as the risk of SIDS is too great in your circumstance. If you have an exclusively breastfed, full term, healthy newborn, you can absolutely bed share when done safely and correctly and I will teach you how to do that.

My role as a lactation consultant is to educate you in what we do know and the most current information and support you in whatever decision you decide to make. The same goes for the COVID-19 vaccine. Yes, there is limited research and information, but from what experts do know, they are considering it safe while breastfeeding but to still make an informed choice for you and your family. Whether you chose to be vaccinated or not is a personal choice between you, your family and your health care team. As with anything you put in your body, it is a risk/benefit decision based on your medical and family history and risk of exposure. I completely understand if in your community you have limited risk and exposure to people potentially infected with COVID and you’re choosing to wait and see. I fully support your decision to seek more information and see evidence and research. I also fully support you if you chose to be vaccinated and continue breastfeeding. When we have more information I will continue to update what I present and how I educate.

Weight loss and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding fact: breastfeeding helps you burn calories because it takes calories to make calories. We need on average an extra 300-500 calories per day in our diet because our bodies need approximately 20 calories to make an ounce of breast milk. Not everyone will lose weight while breastfeeding. It depends on and how many calories they take in and how their body uses those calories related to their individual milk production. Food choices, hydration, activity levels, and genetics also all play a role on weight loss while breastfeeding

Weight loss and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding fact: breastfeeding helps you burn calories because it takes calories to make calories. We need on average an extra 300-500 calories per day in our diet because our bodies need approximately 20 calories to make an ounce of breast milk. Not everyone will lose weight while breastfeeding. It depends on and how many calories they take in and how their body uses those calories related to their individual milk production. Food choices, hydration, activity levels, and genetics also all play a role on weight loss while breastfeeding

Do I need to drink milk to make breast milk?

Humans by design are predisposed to be lactose intolerant. The only reasons Westerners (mostly) lost this intolerance was due to centuries of eating cheese and having their bodies evolve to adapt to consuming it. Lactose is the number one sugar in breast milk. It’s broken down by an enzyme called lactase which is supposed to disappear in early childhood, right around the time we would naturally wean. Asian cultures are predominantly lactose intolerant because their cultures have had cuisine sans cheese and cow’s milk for millennia (think traditional Japanese, Chinese, and Korean dishes. No cheese. No cow’s milk.) Yet in Western cultures it’s occasionally encouraged to drink milk to make milk. There is no scientific evidence to back this up. You do not need to drink cow’s milk or eat dairy in large quantities to make breast milk. You do need to stay hydrated, eat quality foods, and routinely empty the breast.

Whats that smell?

SWEATY AND STICKY

Do you feel hot, sticky, sweaty, sopping wet and a little stinky? Welcome to motherhood. It does get better. There is an actual biological point to leaking from every pore and that weird stench that accompanies it.

Not all of our senses are developed at birth. It would overwhelm our littles too much to go from a dark, wet environment to such a bright, crazy world to actually have every sense developed like ours. Their vision isn’t great and they have no depth perception. But they have a fully developed sense of smell. They have been getting to know your odors since their womb days. Your amniotic fluid was constantly changing in its scent based on what you ate and drank and your unique hormone combination. All that leaking you’re doing postpartum has a similar scent which serves to orient your baby back to you. Your body odors are familiar to your baby and it makes them feel safe and secure that they are with their birth person and not someone else. Your leaking smells also stimulate their hunger, which is why baby may constantly root when on your body even if they aren’t hungry. Did you know that the breast secretes an oil from those little bumps on your areolas that smells just like amniotic fluid? This helps baby locate dinner when they are ready to eat. Showering is normal, but avoiding the use of scented products can actually be very helpful and calming for your baby. While you may find your body odor unbecoming, know that to your baby it makes you feel like home.

Caffeine and Breast Milk

Caffeine is safe to take while breastfeeding in moderation (up to 300mg per day). Only about 1.5% actually enters breast milk. Caffeine enters your bloodstream about 15 minutes. It peaks in your blood within 60 minutes and has a half-life of 3-5 hours. The half-life is the time it takes for your body to eliminate half of the drug. The remaining caffeine can stay in your body for a long time. The half-life of caffeine is about 97.5 hours in a newborn, 14 hours in a 3-5 month old baby and 3-5 hours in a baby older than 6 months. Because caffeine takes much longer to clear out of a young baby’s system it is possible that high caffeine intake can make a baby irritable. If baby is sensitive to the caffeine now, they may not be when they’re older. Cut caffeine now and try again in a few months.

So if you drink a cup of coffee with 100mg of caffeine at 7am, you’ll have 50mg of caffeine in your bloodstream at 10am. Your baby would get 1.5mg of caffeine.

Every baby is different in how they react to caffeine. If you drank coffee while pregnant, your baby had an IV of caffeine (called the umbilical cord) and is already used to having it in their blood stream. If you didn’t drink coffee or switched to decaf, your baby may have a more noticeable reaction when you drink coffee. When drinking coffee after birth, go low and slow. There’s nothing you can do to decrease caffeine in your system except time. Start with a very small cup first thing in the morning and see how your baby reacts. Drinking your morning cup of coffee while your breastfeeding gives you the most time for the caffeine to peak and start decreasing before your next feeding.

Nipple Damage: Now What?

It’s normal to experience nipple tenderness for the first few days after delivery. Tenderness peaks between the 3-6th days postpartum and then should resolves by the end of the second week. Any damage to the skin of the breast or nipple should be taken care of immediately to avoid further damage or infection.

Painful breastfeeding is not normal.  The first step to decreasing pain while breastfeeding is to identify what’s causing it. Usually the simplest way to reduce nipple pain is to make sure baby is in the right position. Baby’s tummy should be touching mom’s body, with the belly button touching. Baby’s arms hug the breast and their face comes straight to the nipple. Baby’s Head should be straight, with their ear, shoulder and hip making a straight line. Their head should be slightly extended backward to allow the nose to pop up off the breast. Pulling baby in closer through the shoulders usually helps get a deeper latch.  If nursing is still painful, even with careful attention to latch and positioning, there may be other things at play. Usually there is a tongue/lip tie, tension in baby’s body like from a long labor and delivery (greater than 24 hour labor and/or more than 4 hours of pushing), or tension on baby’s body from intrauterine position (sitting really low for a large portion of pregnancy or being breech). Having the tongue tie released and/or doing tummy time and bodywork on baby should resolve the pain. If you’re working on release and baby’s body, consider the temporary use of a nipple shield to protect nipples, until damage is resolved and the underlying cause of the damage is managed.

When your nipples are already damaged:

Step one: Wash and Rinse Damaged nipples are prone to bacterial infection. Washing and rinsing damaged nipples can help prevent this type of infection. When bacteria grows in a wound, they create a bio-film that lengthens healing time. Baby’s saliva also fosters this bio-film. Washing cracked or fissured nipples gently twice a day with a gentle, fragrance free soap (not an antibacterial soap) and rinsing them with water can help remove the bacterial bio-film and allow faster nipple healing. Stop washing with soap once the nipples are healed. After every feed, rinse nipples with either clean water or a saline rinse. You can make your own saline rinse by mixing ¼ rounded teaspoon of sea salt with 8 ounces of warm water. Soak your nipples in this solution for 30-60 seconds. Soaking for longer may actually over hydrate your skin and increase cracking.

Step Two: Moist Wound Healing after washing and rinsing and/or soaking your nipples, dry and apply your antimicrobial ointment of choice. This could be virgin coconut oil, Dr Jack Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment, or medihoney. There are other nipple balms and butters on the market. Make sure the one you’re using is antimicrobial. While you may think airing the nipple out will help scab the nipple over, Keeping cracks covered with some type of ointment promotes moist wound healing which is better for the sensitive nipple tissue which is a different kind of tissue than the rest of your skin. A non-stick wound pad, reusable breast pad, or a cooling breastfeeding gel may be placed over the ointment to keep your nipples from sticking to your bra or clothing. Ointment should be applied like chapstick, in a thin layer. Gently wipe off any leftover ointment before baby feeds. Disposable nursing pads should be avoided as these do not allow for good air flow and the quick wicking material tends to stick to nipples. Wool breast pads are preferable for their antibacterial and air flow properties.

Monitor for Infection Contact your primary caregiver physician and an IBCLC lactation consultant if you have any signs of infection like increasing redness, fever, or pus. If you have a fever of 100 degrees or greater for 24 hours, or bacterial infection which will require oral antibiotics. Research suggests that taking probiotics containing lactobacillus fermentum and lactobacillus salivarius can also help treat bacterial infections of the breast.

My baby mouth breathes: when should I be worried?

Babies are obligatory nose breathers. They should be breathing through their nose all the time. This is how they can have their mouth full with a nipple during breast or bottle feeding and still breathe. Mouth breathing isn’t as efficient as nose breathing — especially when it comes to oxygen absorption in the lungs. And breathing through the nose helps to filter out bacteria and irritants from entering the body. Babies should be breathing through their nose all the time, especially during sleep. And snoring with mouth breathing is NEVER normal.

Mouth breathing as an infant can indicate several things:

🤢Nasal congestion from an illness or allergies

😛Tongue tie

👀Large tonsils/adenoids

👃🏽Deviated nasal septum

🧠Learned habit

Prolonged mouth breathing can cause:

Atypical development of the mouth, nasal passages and face

• Poor quality sleep

ADHD

• Increased risk of asthma

• Swollen tonsils

• Dry cough

• Inflamed tongue

• Teeth issues, like cavities and bad alignment

• Foul-smelling breath

If you notice baby mouth breathing regularly (other than when sick), please make an appointment with a health care provider to help figure out the root cause.

• Stay away from your baby’s known allergens

• Gently push the chin upward to close baby’s mouth when sleeping

• Consult with a doctor as soon as you notice baby breathing through their mouth consistently

• Put a humidifier in their room to prevent their mouth from drying out

• Have tongue tie revised and work on suck training exercises, tongue posture, and body work for proper body posture to correct habits baby made from compensating for the tie