My baby’s weight gain is slowing

WEIGHT GAIN

While your young baby is supposed to gain on average an ounce a day (30gm), weight gain slows as baby ages. From 4-6 months babies should only gain 3-4 ounces per week (90-120gm) and from 6-12 months babies should only gain 1-2 ounces per week (30-60gm). If you have been tracking baby’s weight gain and see the scale slowing down, don’t be alarmed if your baby is older. Continue to watch for lots of wet diapers and consistent pooping. Trust your baby and trust your body.

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.

Vernix, delayed bathing, and breastfeeding

My little Peach right after birth

The vernix caseosa is a greasy, cheese-like coating that covers baby’s skin in the womb to protect their skin from getting pickled by amniotic fluid prior to birth. According to present knowledge, vernix production is unique to humans. At birth, vernix may cover the entire skin surface or only be found in body folds. Its color may actually help indicate intra-uterine problems or disease.

😳In utero: When swallowed by baby in utero, vernix helps:

• Develop the gut

• Prevents loss of electrolytes and fluids

• Seals the skin to prevent the amniotic fluid from turning baby into a raisin

• Acts as a microbial barrier from pathogens

• Protects skin growing underneath it

😳In birth: The oily texture may naturally lubricate the birth canal to reduce friction as baby makes their exit. It can also help with mother’s perineal healing!

😳 In postpartum:

• Vernix protects baby’s skin from drying out

• Reduced risk of bacterial infections

• Help baby retain heat

😳 In breastfeeding: The scent of vernix might be involved in triggering neural connections in babies’ brain needed for breastfeeding. The immune proteins found in vernix and amniotic fluid are similar to those found in breastmilk. Swallowing vernix and amniotic fluid in utero help coat baby’s lungs and digestive tract, preparing the digestive tract for the similar peptides found in breastmilk. The smell may also help baby find the breast!

The majority of the vernix is absorbed within the first day, so so it’s recommended to wait until after the first 24 hours to bathe baby. Vernix doesn’t fully absorb until day 5 or 6, so it’s best to wait until then.

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

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.

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

Peppermint and Breast Milk

Good bye pumpkin, hello peppermint. Tis the season for peppermint bark, candy canes, peppermint lattes, and holiday cookies with crushed red and white striped mints. While you may binge on all things peppermint this December, be warned: it may drop your milk supply.

Peppermint is a soothing herb best known for treating stomach and digestive problems. Popular products like toothpaste, chewing gum and tea are often flavored with peppermint. The calming and numbing effect of peppermint treats headaches, menstrual cramps, diarrhea, anxiety, nausea, and skin irritation. Peppermint oil has even been used to treat cracked nipples!! It is also used as an active ingredient in vaporizers and chest rubs. Menthol and methyl salicylate, the active ingredient of peppermint, possess antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

It’s been commonly reported that peppermint and spearmint decrease milk supply, especially when taken in large amounts such as during the holidays. Drinking an occasional peppermint latte shouldn’t be a problem. But if you start to notice your supply taking a dip this holiday season, check your peppermint intake.

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

Dropping breast milk supply

Feel like your breast milk supply is dropping? It may be normal. The uterus doesn’t tell the breasts how many babies came out. Immediately after birth, hormones cause the breast to go into overdrive to try to figure out how many babies were born…to feed them ALL.

The breast makes milk by being emptied and learns your babies habits and how much milk it needs to make with time and experience. In the early weeks your breasts have extra blood and fluid support to help your breast tissue make milk. This is what makes you aware of the filling and emptying of milk. This extra fluid support goes away around 6-8 weeks and you’ll no longer feel that full/soft feeling. By 10-14 weeks your breasts become more EFFICIENT and only want to make what is routinely emptied. Your breasts will go back to prepregnancy size. You may stop leaking (if you leaked) and not be able to pump as much. That’s NORMAL.

Your body doesn’t want to make milk that isn’t needed. You biological body doesn’t know what a freezer is or that you’re trying to collect that leaking milk for later. Your body wants to be as efficient as possible and make only what is being routinely removed from the breast. It costs your body energy to make milk: about 20 calories per ounce of milk made. Your body doesn’t want to burn calories to make milk that’s not being regularly emptied so it can use those calories for things like your brain function. Because mom brain is real.

So before you reach for formula thinking you don’t have enough milk. Realize that when everything is going normal your milk supply is supposed to regulate and your breast aren’t supposed to stay engorged and full forever. Your body is efficient. As long as baby continues to make good wet and dirty diapers, has a pain free latch where you’re hearing baby swallow, feeding baby in demand and not to the clock, and baby gains weight over time, you body is just doing what it’s supposed to do. You can always increase supply by feeding or pumping more often and decrease supply by feeding or pumping less.

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