Breast milk is made from your blood

The food you eat and the water you drink do not magically go directly to your breast milk. What you eat and drink goes first to your stomach to be broken down and then into your intestines to be absorbed and processed. Your digestive system breaks nutrients into parts small enough for your body to absorb and use for energy, growth, and cell repair. The muscles of the small intestine mix food with digestive juices from the pancreas, liver, and intestine. Special cells in the walls of the small intestine absorb water and the digested nutrients into your bloodstream. Your blood carries molecule-sized components such as simple sugars (carbohydrates), amino acids, white blood cells, enzymes, water, fat, and proteins throughout your body. As blood passes by the breasts, milk glands pull out these nutrients for milk production and pass some of them to your baby. Not all molecules are small enough to pass through into milk. (That’s why some medications are safe to take while breastfeeding and some are not. Molecules that are too big can’t get into the milk while really small molecules can.) 

Nuts, seeds, beans, and grains all have plant based proteins. Meat and dairy are animal based proteins. Both plant and animal proteins carried in your blood can make it into your milk. Sometimes these proteins can affect baby’s digestive system, causing symptoms like reflux, gas, colic, and blood or mucus in the poops from iritations to baby’s intestinal lining. Diary proteins are the most common cause of upset in the stomach, however research suggests that the proportion of exclusively breastfed infants who are actually allergic to something in their mother’s milk is very small. Fussiness and gas alone are not  enough to diagnose a cow milk protein allergy. 

In general, there are NO foods that need to be avoided because you’re breastfeeding. Every baby is different in the foods they are sensitive to. IF your baby always seems to have a reaction when you eat a certain food or a large amount of a certain type of food, cutting back on it or cutting it out temporarily may be helpful. 

Hunger cues for baby

How do I know my baby is hunger and not just fussy, has a wet diaper, or is lonely and wants to be picked up? Babies have a limited communication repertoire when they are first born. Every cue can look the same. It does get better with time as you learn your baby and your baby grows and matures. In general, young babies go through stereotypical phases of hunger cues. Some times we can miss these cues when the baby is swaddled or in a crib or bassinet away from where we are. 

Early

  • Licking or smacking their lips
  • Opening and closing their mouth
  • Sucking on their lips, tongue, hands, fingers, or anything within reach
  • Time to get your breastfeeding pillow and grab a snack and some water!

Active

  • Rooting around and attempting to latch on anything nearby their mouth
  • Hitting you on the arm or chest repeatedly and/or grabbing at your clothing
  • Trying to get into a nursing position 
  • Fidgeting/squirming
  • Becoming fussy
  • Breathing fast: get ready for them to start crying!
  • This is the best time to latch!

Late

  • Crying
  • Moving their head frantically from side to side
  • You’ll need to calm the baby before attempting to latch!

Many newborns are very sleepy after birth and may actually need to eat more often than they exhibit hunger cues. Newborns should be offered the breast anytime they cue hunger, which can be between 1-3 hours since the beginning of the last feeding. Watch the baby and not the clock. Don’t make the baby “wait” until some mythical hour to be fed. Feed the baby when the baby is hungry. 

Hand sucking is not as reliable an indicator of hunger as baby ages. Starting at around 6-8 weeks, baby will begin to gain more control over their hands and will begin to explore their mouth and everything else in their environment with their hands. Babies also suck on their hands during teething. Symptoms of teething can sometimes occur weeks and even months before the first tooth erupts.

Breastfeeding and Weight Loss

You were probably told breastfeeding would be this incredible biological postpartum weight loss plan. While that may be true for about 1/3 of people, most of us hold on to our weight regardless of how much boob juice we make. When you breastfeed, fat cells stored in your body during pregnancy and calories from your diet fuel milk production. Your body burns about 20 calories for each ounce of milk you make. Which is why you need an extra 300-500 calories a day. After an immediate postpartum weight loss of about 15#, it tends to be gradual — about 1–2 pounds a month for the first six months after childbirth and more slowly after that point. It often takes 6-9 months to lose pregnancy weight.

Why are you not losing the baby weight?

🧁 I don’t know about you, but I was hungrier breastfeeding than pregnant. You’re still eating for two only your second party is bigger now than when they were in your belly. Breastfeeding cravings are real. 

🧁 Lactation cookies? Let’s be honest, a cookie is still a cookie whether or not it helps with your supply. Eating lots of bars, cookies, power drinks and teas with sugar or honey are not going to help with weight. 

😵‍💫Stress: Research has also found that elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone) have been associated with weight retention in the first 12 months postpartum

😴 Lack of sleep:  Research shows when we don’t get consistent sleep, our hunger hormone (ghrelin) gets triggered and our satiety hormone (leptin) dips, increasing appetite. Scientists at the University of California also found that sleep-deprived people tend to reach for higher-calories foods compared to those who are well-rested.

🩸Hormones: Prolactin, your milk making hormone, is also sometimes called the “fat-storing hormone”. High levels of prolactin can result in weight gain. And they are at their highest while breastfeeding. While more research on prolactin is needed, we hypothesize that our bodies undergo metabolic adaptations to hold onto excess fat as “insurance” for baby. Meaning, if you were to find yourself in a famine, you body has what it needs for baby.

🔑Remember: there is waaaay too much pressure to “bounce back” after having a baby. Your body is epic and lovely and just pushed a tiny human being out. Your body is going through so many changes and there are physiological things at play that can be beyond your control. Trust your body. Trust your baby. Love your body. 

Why is my breastfed baby losing weight?

While maternal nipple pain and damage are classic signs of tongue tie in baby, I have seen many cases where the mother reports absolutely no pain with breast-feeding. These babies tend to have very high palates and some times a weak suck (not always). The actual nipple in most cases is large and long and goes up into the palate where the tongue tends not to be able to pinch it as much. There may be creasing of the nipple, but usually not the classic damage seen with other presentations of tongue tie. These mother‘s bodies often compensate with a fast let down and over supply of milk. These babies trigger let down easily and the mothers body responds with freely flowing milk. Baby drinks from the fountain without learning how to stimulate the breast and empty it on their or or learning how to trigger new let downs. These babies often gain weight well or even faster than expected until around 3-4 months when they unexpectedly drop off the growth curve and mom feels like her supply suddenly drops. Symptoms often include clicking at the breast (caused by that high palate and the fast flow of milk) which in turn increases the risk of reflux, colic and gassiness. Moms also complain that they need to constantly hold or shape the breast or baby loses the latch. These ties often go undiagnosed and many of these babies are switched to bottles and formula as the supply continues to decrease from the baby inefficiently moving milk from the breast which can also coincide with mother going back to work. If she is using a poor quality pump or the wrong size flanges and not moving milk well with the pump, she’ll often blame herself for the low supply.

Breast changes

Breasts are made of a network of ducts, covered by a layer of fatty tissue. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone enlarge the milk ducts and multiply the glandular tissue that produces milk. After birth, estrogen and progesterone drop and prolactin and oxytocin rise. Prolactin makes milk production and oxytocin releases it into the ducts. Extra blood and fluid fill the breast just after birth to supoort your body adding hormone receptors in the breast to make milk. The blood and fluid surrounds the ducts and this extra pressure is what makes your breasts feel full between feeding. This blood and fluid reabsorb around 6-8 weeks once supply is established and you won’t feel that full/soft feeling except when you go a really long time between feeding or pumping. Breasts go back to prepregnancy size when supply regulates around 11-14 weeks but continue to make milk. When you wean from breastfeeding, it can take several months for prolactin levels to return to baseline (which is why you may still see milk for months after weaning). Once you stop breastfeeding, the milk making structures actually self-destruct – a process that involves massive cellular suicide, and the removal of the debris. Around 6 months after weaning, the milk-producing tissue is replaced with fatty tissue. If you return to your pre-pregnancy weight, your breasts most likely will return to the same size. They may not be as “perky” because the skin is a bit more stretched and the connective and fatty tissues in the breasts often shifts during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While they may look smaller after weaning most of us can expect that our breasts will return to a similar size as they were pre-pregnancy. They’re just a little more lived in and well loved.

Tricky Posterior Tongue Ties

Some times even the best lactation consultants and feeding therapists can miss a posterior tongue tie in the immediate days or weeks after birth. Having a frenulum under the tongue doesn’t automatically mean it’s tied. A long, stretchy frenulum that allows full movement of the tongue is normal and not something that needs released. However, sometimes a frenulum can allow the front of the tongue to do what it needs to, but still be tied at the back. These are what I can tricky posterior ties. Mom may have lots of milk and baby transfers well from the breast in the early days or weeks post delivery. Mom may have no nipple pain or damage whatsoever. Only they come back a month later with new symptoms like slow weight gain or feeling like there breast isn’t emptying. Why is that?

Mom’s body often compensates well during the early weeks post delivery. The uterus doesn’t tell the breasts how many babies came out. So her body goes into overdrive to make more milk than needed from the start. As time moves on, the body figures out how much milk to make and drops supply to just what is being emptied. A baby that rode on mom’s robust post delivery flow may all of a sudden start to struggle at the breast as supply regulates. Based on how the anatomy is, there may never have been nipple pain or damage. If the baby has a high palate where the front of the tongue can still move well and mom has a large nipple that fills baby’s mouth well, the nipple may come out creased or pinched, but without pain. The anatomy on one or both sides masked the tie while baby was small. 


If breastfeeding was going well in the beginning, but symptoms start to pop up later, working with a qualified lactation consultant can help figure out what’s going on. And some times that means finding a posterior tie that was originally missed where a release is necessary to get feeding back on track. 

Causes for mastitis

Did you know mastitis may be related to your posture?

Fluid dynamics is the science of how fluids move in our bodies. All of put bodily fluids are supposed to be free-flowing and unobstructed for optimal health. Milk is a fluid that flows through ever narrowing ducts and pores. Lymph is a fluid throughout your body (and breasts) that helps transport waste from cells and tissues in your body to help flush it from your system. It also helps reabsorb milk that doesn’t get emptied to baby/pump. Anything that increases resistance of the movement of these fluids increases the likelihood of plugged ducts or mastitis. Causes for increased resistance:
⭐️ Breast implants or reduction causing scar tissue in the breast
⭐️ Sleeping in the same posture especially on your side where you put pressure on the breast for extended periods of time
⭐️ Tight fitting clothing/bras that constrict movement of milk and lymph between feedings
⭐️ Shoulder injuries where there is inflammation or scar tissue
⭐️ Neck injuries or issues with neck mobility
⭐️ Tension in your body from stress or poor posture for extended periods of time during breastfeeding (bringing yourself to the baby)
⭐️ Not moving the body enough/sitting for prolonged periods of time in the same position
⭐️ Increased overall inflammation in the body such as from infection or excessive fluids from IVs used during labor and delivery or from immune disorders
⭐️ Having very large, heavy breasts which act more like an appendage where milk and fluid can fill the lower quadrant of the breast and have difficulties moving out again

What can you do?
❤️ Shake your breasts!! Get that fluid moving manually with your hands
❤️ Lean over and dangle your breasts to reduce pressure on them and help them free flow
❤️ Practicing yoga works well, especially with poses like downward dog where you’re changing the orientation of the fluid in your breast related to gravity.
❤️ Avoid restrictive clothing and bras
❤️ Get a massage!! Having hands on the body helps get the fluid inside moving in the right direction
❤️ See my video for lymphatic drainage massage

Manuka Honey for Nipple Damage

HONEY: It’s the Bees Knees for Nipple Healing

A person with sore, cracked nipples will do absolutely anything to bring relief to the pain and heal the damage. Sterile, medical grade manuka honey is one of the most unique and beneficial forms of honey in the world. And one of the best remedies for long standing injured nipples. Research shows that not only does honey have potent antibacterial properties which can prevent infection but it also stimulates the growth of new tissue and formation of blood cells, promoting the healing of wounds. Rich in anti-oxidants, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, manuka honey can be used between feedings to heal nipples fast. But don’t run out to Vons or Kroger yet. This is not honey you buy in the bread aisle at the grocery store. Medical grade manuka honey has been irradiated to destroy any botulism spores and is completely safe to use with nursing a newborn.

Clover or flower honey like in the cute honey bear you put in your tea is not safe for your baby. Babies under 12 months should not be given honey, because honey contains bacteria that an infant’s developing digestive system can’t handle. Eating honey can cause your baby to become ill with a condition called infant botulism. You want to look for sterile or medical grade manuka honey, like what is found in Medi-honey paste or dressings.

Have cracked nipples? Lactation Hub has the correct honey you need to heal your nipples quickly.

Slacker boob

Did you know? Around 70% of women produce more milk in the right breast. Which means 30% make more in the left. It is VERY common for one side to produce more than the other. Some times double on one side. We don’t know why. This is not a reason to neglect one side. You want to make sure you rotate which breast you offer first. Babies may prefer one side over the other for various reasons:

👶🏽They like to lay with their head in a certain direction or their body is uncomfortable in the opposite position

👶🏿They prefer the flow (one side may flow faster or slower than the other)

👶🏼They may prefer the flavor (YES!! Milk can taste different form each breast during the same feeding!!)

If you want to help balance out a slacker boob:

🔆Offer the slacker first more often. 

🔆End on the slacker can also help, especially if baby just wants to use you like a pacifier. 

🔆Pump the slacker side during or after feedings can also help stimulate more milk production

🔆Make sure you have the correct sized pump flange on the slacker side. Our nipples can often be different sizes and using the wrong sized flange can drop supply on that side

🔆Hand expression on that side at random times of the day even for a few minutes will jump start increased production. 

🔆If it’s positional from your baby (they only want to lay cross cradle to the right and not the left, experiment with other positions like football or side lying to help baby compensate for their body. If your baby prefers one side of the other from a positional perspective, consider taking your baby for some infant bodywork like chiropractic or craniosacral therapy.

What’s up with my baby biting, gumming, chomping, hitting, pulling and pinching the nipple/breast while breastfeeding?

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.