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.
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.
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.
Pumps are machines designed to help establish and maintain milk supply to feed your baby. They are not perfect and no where near as efficient as a baby If they are not used correctly they can fail you (and your supply). Make sure you’re using the correct sized flange and alternating between the settings. Pumps don’t measure milk supply. They also don’t measure your worth as a parent. If your milk supply dropped because of the pump, the pump failed you. You are not a failure.
Pumps are a modern invention and are far from perfect. They’re still seem like rotary telephone technology in an iPhone generation. The first pump was patented in 1854, and the second patent in 1864 was literally for cows. New pumps were created every few years, typically as improved medical devices used to treat inverted nipples and to help babies who were too small or too weak to nurse, but comfort was not the priority. Widely available products for personal or home use have really only been around for about 30 years. It wasn’t until 1991 (around the time most of y’all who are reading this were born) that the Swiss manufacturer Medela introduced its first electric-powered, vacuum-operated breast pump in the US for personal use. Prior to that pumps were limited to select hospitals. Pumps have become such a common tool that many of us think you have to pump if you want to be successful at breastfeeding. While pumping may be needed for some to help establish and maintain supply or for when away from baby, if all is going well and you’re with your baby there’s never a need to pump.
There are lots of bottles on the market. And so many of them are marketed to be “most like the breast”. Let me tell you a secret. There is no bottle that works like the breast. Don’t fall for the marketing. The breast is a complex organ that works with hormones, compression, suction, positive and negative pressure. It is controlled by the baby and how the baby sucks. Baby can make your milk flow or not depending on how they suck. It is never empty and constantly making more. It is hormone driven. A bottle is passive. It has a hole that will drip when turned over. Your nipple changes shape to fill baby’s mouth. Your nipple can help fill a high palate. your nipple and a good portion of your areola/breast also need to be in baby’s mouth in a deep latch for milk to be transferred. Your nipple should go in round and come out round. Baby’s tongue should cup and protrude past the lower gums and stay out to massage your nipple/breast in their mouth Baby has to change the shape of their tongue to accommodate the firm bottle nipple. Baby can chomp or mash the nipple and doesn’t need to keep the tongue out because they can compress milk out. Baby can also latch just to the tip of the bottle nipple and still get milk.
We can make the bottle work like the breast, though. By slowing the feeding down or “pacing” the feeding, we can help baby go back and forth between bottle and breast. You want a straight nipple that tapers wide at the base for a “deep” latch. If your baby is just latched to the tip of a bottle nipple they can still get milk. But then their muscles will learn to latch shallow and that’s often why you’ll get a shallow latch with a “small” mouth at the breast. The bottle nipples that are already pinched or tapered are also not good choices. If your nipple came out of baby’s mouth looking like, that you’d have damage within a few days. If your baby struggled at the breast and will only take a bottle nipple that looks flat and pinched there is usually something going on in baby’s mouth and the bottle nipple is compensating for it. Tongue tie is the most common culprit.
LATCHING TO A BOTTLE
Having an optimal latch at the breast reduces nipple pain and prevents damage. Your nipple should go in baby’s mouth round and come out round. If we want to encourage good latch when breastfeeding, we want to do the same when bottle feeding. This helps baby go back and forth without “confusion”.
This can be difficult when a bottle nipple abruptly changes in shape from narrow to wide. Bottle nipples like the Playtex Baby Ventaire Bottle,Tommee Tippee, Avent Natural, Nuby Comfort, and Chicco Naturalfit have narrow nipple tips and wide bases. Babies usually end up latching onto the tip and sucking it like a straw. If baby’s cheeks dimple or suck in when feeding from these bottles, they’re drinking but not demonstrating a wide latch and optimal mouth posture. If they had that same mouth posture on your nipple, they would cause pain and damage. Baby’s don’t drink from the breast like a straw. Conversely, they may try to fit the base of the nipple in their mouth and end up with air pockets where the tip meets the base. This can result in breaking the suction and swallowing excess air while feeding. Nipples like the Nuk Simply Natural and Mam are not round, but pinched or flat. If your nipple looked like that coming out of baby’s mouth we’d be talking about deeper latch or tongue tie.
Bottle nipples that gradually change in shape from narrow at the tip to wider at the base promote a deeper latch. If the nipple stays narrow at the base, like the Similac nipples many hospitals give at birth for supplementing, you’ll want baby’s lips to be able to come up almost to the collar (plastic o-ring base). If the nipple is sloped to gradually widen at the base, baby will be able to get the nipple deeper into their mouth with no air pockets. My favorite sloped nipples include the Pigeon SS Nipple, Lansinoh, Dr Brown’s Original Narrow, Dr Brown’s Wide Neck, Munchkin Latch, and Evenflo Balance, which promote a deeper latch mouth on the nipple.
So what does this mean?! If your baby is already bottle feeding and going back and forth from bottle to breast, don’t sweat it! No need to change anything! If your baby is struggling at the breast and preferring a narrower or non-round nipple, having a full oral motor assessment may help you get back to breast.
What pump do you have? What size flange are you using? The answer can make a huge difference in pumping success.
Not all pumps are created equal. Prior to the ACA, there were few pump choices. Once laws said people needed to be provided with a breast pump, and insurance would fit the bill, lots of companies flooded the market with pumps. Not all of them are good, and some will even sabotage your supply. You want a pump with a good motor in it that has lots of variability in the cycle (how fast or slow it pumps) and suction (how strong it sucks).
You also need to be mindful of the flange you’re pumping on. Most companies will send a standard 24mm flange. Sometimes they’ll send a larger size as well. In reality nipples, and thus flanges, are not one size fits all. And in my practice I hardly EVER use the 24 or bigger flanges. For almost all of my families we’re sizing down. Some times significantly smaller.
Flanges are the horn shaped part that actually touch the breast. The fit of the flange can make or break your pumping experience. Too small and friction can cause pain and even damage (and pain makes it difficult for milk to let down). Too large and the breast may not be stimulated well, which inhibits your let down to have milk flow. When too much areola is pulled into the flange, the tissue swells around the nipple pores and can prevent milk from efficiently emptying from the breast, resulting in plugged ducts, pain, tissue breakdown, and eventually a reduced milk supply. Using too large of a flange from the beginning may even prevent you from bringing in a full milk supply. Do you ever pump for 20+ minutes and still feel like there’s milk in there? Most likely too large of a flange. The stimulation from the pump is triggering you to make more milk, but the size of the flange is preventing you from emptying that milk efficiently. Poor flange fit can also impact the suction of your pump and how well it functions with your body. If you have the suction all the way to the highest level and aren’t emptying well, you flange is too big.
Flange fit tips:
🗝Flange fit isn’t based on your breast or areola size, it is JUST the size of the nipple and how it changes with suction. Some nipples are dense and don’t stretch much. Some are super elastic and swell a lot. How your nipple responds to suction can make a difference in which flange you select and if other products are needed to happy pump
🗝Proper fit isn’t as simple as measuring your nipple, but it’s a start. See a trained IBCLC to help if you haven’t found the right fit or are struggling with poor output, pain/damage, or plugged ducts
🗝A small amount of space around your nipple in the flange tunnel is good. There should be no space around the areola or in the larger bell part of the flange. If your breast tissue recoils back into the horn part of the flange with every cycle, the flange is too large. If the tissue is white where the tunnel meets the horn, the flange is too small
🗝Pain or blanching means it’s the wrong size
🗝Nipples rubbing against the sides of the flange tunnel mean fit needs to be improved and there is a risk of pain and damage
🗝There should only be a small amount of areola pulled in the flange tunnel space. The bell or horn part will have most of the areola held back so it doesn’t get pulled into the tunnel
🗝The nipple tip shouldn’t hit the back of the flange. This means you have an elastic nipple. Sizing up isn’t necessarily the right answer. Using a pump insert, cushion like @beaugenmom or @pumpinpalofficial may be a better solution
🗝Evaluate as you pump. You can changing flange size mid-pump to improve comfort if you’re between sizes. You may also need to change the flange size the longer you pump. Our nipples can become more elastic and larger or smaller with time.
🗝Every nipple is unique and each side may use a different size (or shape/brand!). There are all kinds of flange sizes, inserts, and cushions to improve the pump experience
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.
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.
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.
🍼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
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.