Babies are masters at breastfeeding. They will exhibit all kinds of behaviors at the breast that will make you question if you have any milk and wonder what’s wrong with the baby. Most babies discover they have power and control over the breast and that different behaviors get different things. Biting, tugging, gumming, pulling, patting, chomping, shaking the nipple and breast are normal infant behaviors. Repeatedly latching on and off can also be normal when it doesn’t happen all the time. They happen during growth spurts, cluster feeding and teething. And may increase when baby discovers they can get a reaction from you for them. These behaviors increase or decrease the flow rate of milk and help stimulate supply and let down during growth spurts and teething.
What can you do? Stay calm. Most likely it’s normal and will change with time. Lots of skin to skin time between feedings can help keep baby calm and will naturally increase your supply during growth spurts. Using breast compressions while feeding can help increase flow and help trigger let downs. If baby is teething, give plenty of opportunity to chew and bite on appropriate toys and food items outside of nursing times. If baby is biting to slow flow, try a laid back position and make sure you’re not promoting an oversupply from over use of the Haakaa or pumping at sporadic times. Continue to watch for wet and dirty diapers and know that usually these behaviors are normal and don’t last.
If baby is having these behaviors all the time and isn’t making the amount of wet and dirty diapers you would expect, schedule a lactation consultation immediately.
Colostrum is thick and sticky. Pumps are great for stimulating milk but they’re not the best at removing it from the breast and it can be very frustrating to pump and not see anything filling the bottles. Don’t be discouraged. Stimulation is super important in the early days after birth and the work will pay off. hand expression is the key to emptying colostrum when pumping. The pump will do a good job to stimulate your hormones to make milk and your hands will help empty it.
If you’re engorged or have an oversupply, you may need to pump to relieve the pressure in your breasts. Using the pump wisely can reduce your engorgment while not causing you to make too much milk and perpetuate your problem.
You can also pump to increase milk supply by pumping for an extra 5 minutes after milk stops flowing to signal to your body that it needs to produce more milk. If you’re breastfeeding and pumping after, aim for a 10-15 minute pump. If you’re exclusively pumping, shoot for a 30 minute pump.
Whether you’re pumping at work to maintain supply or trying to increase your supply, using the settings on the Spectra can help you reach your goals. Have you played around with your settings? What works for one person may not work for another. Try alternating back and forth between the settings and play around with the suction and cycle levels. If you need to have the suction cranked to the top, you’re most likely using too large of a flange.
Everyone responds differently to pumps. Play around the settings and cycles. What works for one person may not work for every person. Make sure your suction level is comfortable and you’re using the correct sized flange. If you have to crank the suction all the way up, you’re pumping with a flange that’s too large. Pumping should be comfortable. You should not have pain or damage from pumping. If you have any pain or damage, try a different range size, shape or cushion and try lowering the suction. If you’ve been pumping on a particular set of settings and start to notice a decrease in supply or suction, change the soft pieces of the pump like the duckbill or membranes and the tubing.
There is no right or wrong age, it is completely up to you. Breast milk does not lose nutritional value (ever), so you get to decide how long you want to breastfeed. You also get to decide when you stop and all reasons for wanting to stop are valid. It is OK to wean for your emotional or mental well being and you do not have to justify your choices of how you feed your baby to anyone.
The age of your baby and how quickly you want to wean can play a role in how you wean.
Be prepared that some may experience mood changes and feelings of depression when weaning as your oxytocin and other hormones are dropping to stop milk production. If you need a specific plan to help you quickly wean, schedule a consultation with me to develop a plan that works for you.
Tips for gentle weaning:
✏️Start when your baby has already naturally started to wean, ex. only a quick snack before nap or waking up at 2am to pacify to sleep
✏️If transitioning from breast milk to formula, you can add formula to your breast milk bottles in slowly increasing amounts to make the transition easier on baby’s tummy (ex mix 2oz of breast milk with 1oz of prepared formula for several days, then mix 1.5oz each if breast milk and formula for a few days, then 2oz of formula with 1oz of breast milk)
✏️Don’t offer, don’t refuse
✏️Wear clothing that makes accessing the breast/chest more difficult.
✏️Distract child with favorite activities or offer alternatives like a favorite snack
✏️Change your routine
✏️Postpone: “After we play”
✏️Shortening the length of feeding or space feedings out
✏️Talk to your toddler about weaning. Older children (2 years and up) can be part of the process by talking to them about what is happening.
✏️Alternate between offering bottles and the breast
✏️Be consistent – this is a hard one but it can be even more confusing to your baby if you allow them to nurse one time and not the next.
✏️Lots of cuddles. Your breast/chest is more than just food but also a great source of comfort. Showing them you are still a source of that comfort despite not nursing is incredibly important
Ways to quickly wean:
⚓️Empty the breast only to comfort, trying not to stimulate the breast to make more milk
⚓️Breast gymnastics/“milk shakes” often to keep milk from sitting in the breast and clogging the ducts
⚓️Epsom salt soaks of the entire breast for soothing
⚓️Drinking 2-4 cups of sage or peppermint tea per day
⚓️Green cabbage leaves in the bra until they are soggy and then replacing the leaves
⚓️Cabocream (an alternative to the cabbage leaves
⚓️Cold packs on the breasts after feeding or pumping to reduce swelling
⚓️Starting on a hormone based birth control, especially The Pill (estrogen based) will drop supply
⚓️A last resort would be to take an antihistamine like Benadryl or Claritin-D as these are also notorious for dropping milk supply. This should be done with caution and under the direction of your primary care physician
True SELF-weaning by the baby before a year old is very uncommon. In fact, it is unusual for a baby to wean before 18-24 months unless something else going on (work, inefficient feeding, tongue tie, etc). A self weaning child is typically well over a year old (more commonly over 2 years) and getting most nutrition from solids, drinking well from a cup, and has been cutting back on nursing gradually.
Reasons a baby under a year may be perceived to self wean:
🔑Solids were introduced too soon
🔑Scheduled feedings/sleep training/pacifier use (all decrease time a baby would naturally want to be at the breast/chest)
🔑Lactating parent loses a lot of weight fast which can decrease milk supply
🔑Medications or hormonal birth control which will decrease supply
🔑Lactating parent is pregnant
🔑Baby taking lots of solids before one (human milk should be the primary nutrition source through one year of age)
While it seems counterintuitive, the emptier your breasts are, the faster they make milk. A full bread has no place to store or hold the milk, so milk production slows to prevent plugged ducts and breast discomfort. Cluster feeding on an emptier breast actually tells the body to make more milk at a faster rate!! Some incorrectly assume you have to wait for the breast to “fill up” before feeding your baby or for pumping while at work. This will eventually lead to less milk, as a fuller breast tells your body baby isn’t eating very often and to slow milk production. The more frequent you empty the breast, the higher the fat content in that milk and the faster milk is made. The longer often you wait and the fuller the breast, the higher the water content in that milk and the slower your body will make milk overall.
W atch the baby, not the clock. Breasts may feel really full between feedings in the first few weeks after birth, but they’re also not supposed to stay engorged. There will come a time when they stay soft and don’t feel full between feedings or pumping, so waiting for that as a cue to feed will also sabotage your supply. Don’t be alarmed when your breasts no longer feel full between feeding. You’re entering a new stage where you’ll still make plenty of milk for your baby as long as you’re routinely emptying that milk. Trust your body. Trust your baby.
Breastfeeding is the perfect blend of science and art. There are basic principles that apply, but within those principles is a lot of variation
🔬Science says you should switch which breast you start with at each feeding to keep milk supply balanced
🎨Art says this mom always starts left to try to increase supply on the slacker boob while that mom only feeds one breast per feeding. This mom needs to block feed and that mom offers whatever breast passes the boob shake fullness test
🔬Science says babies should poop at least once a day
🎨Art says some babies poop every time they sit in the car seat and others in the bathtub🤷🏽♀️ Some babies poop after every feeding and others have just one a day (or every other day)
🔬Science says eat whatever you want
🎨Art says one can eat dairy without a problem for baby and for another it causes a rash and digestive upset in baby
🔬Science says having baby in a good position will get you a deep latch.
🎨Art says you over here love koala hold a rolled up wash cloth supporting your breast to help reduce reflux. While you over there do better in cross cradle sitting up.
🔬Science says as baby ages they can sleep in longer stretches at night
🎨Art says many babies still wake up 1-3 times a night to nurse until 18 months and need help from an adult to transition back to sleep
🔬By understanding the science behind breastfeeding, we can understand typical patterns of behavior which helps guide us when things aren’t going well.
🎨By appreciating the art of breastfeeding, we can celebrate the unique differences of every feeding baby within its own family dynamic.
🔬If you’re struggling with the science of breastfeeding, find help.
🎨If breastfeeding is going well, appreciate the art of your own masterpiece that you’re creating with your little one.