Sudden breast milk supply drop

Breastfeeding going well and all of a sudden you feel like your milk is gone? Go pee on a stick. A drastic drop in milk supply when breastfeeding has been going well can be a sign of pregnancy, even if your period hasn’t come back yet. Research shows it is safe to continue breastfeeding while pregnant and does not increase the risk of miscarriage. So there no reason to wean unless you’re a high risk pregnancy (if you are told by your health care provider that you can’t have sex, you shouldn’t breastfeed. If it’s safe to have sex, it’s safe to continue breastfeeding.) If so you are not alone—far from it.

Key points to remember when breastfeeding and pregnant:

• Milk will shift from mature milk back to colostrum around 14-20 weeks of your pregnancy to prepare for the birth. Babies under 6 months may not get enough milk from the breast alone while toddler eating solids may do fine. Monitor weight gain for babies under 1 year

• Colostrum is saltier than mature milk. Some nurslings are fine with the taste shift and others may self wean

• Aim for a total of about 600 to 800 extra calories — 300 for the fetus and 300 to 500 for milk production.

• Nipples may become extremely tender during pregnancy, especially at the beginning, due to hormone changes

• Breastfeeding aversion while pregnant is normal (feelings of stress or anxiety or wanting to stop breastfeeding)

• If your toddler always nurses to sleep, you may want to find other sleep routines to make putting older one to sleep easier when you have the new baby.

• As your belly grows, you may need to experiment with new breastfeeding positions.

How to use my Spectra Breast Pump: Maximizing settings, suction and cycle levels

Different stages of pumping require different pump settings. The wonderful thing about the Spectra pumps is their cycle variability.

Check out my video on YouTube for how to set and use the Spectra pump.

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.

Why does my breast milk supply drop during my period?

Did you know that many of us will notice a supply drop right before our period is going to start and lasts through the period? This is caused by hormone shifts in your body. As supply dips, the milk flow slows. Research shows that the composition of breast milk changes around ovulation (mid-cycle). The levels of sodium and chloride in the milk go up while lactose (milk sugar) and potassium go down. So, the breast milk becomes saltier and less sweet during this time. Some babies become frustrated with this change. They may grab the nipple with their mouth and shake their head back and forth. Pop on and off the breast. Knead or beat the breast with their hands or become extra fussy at the breast. They may even cluster feed and act as if they’re still hungry. They’re trying all the strategies to get your milk to flow how they prefer.

Also around the time of ovulation and just before the start of your period, estrogen and progesterone levels change which can affect your breasts and your breast milk. When estrogen and progesterone levels go up, it can make your breasts feel full and tender.

Higher estrogen levels can also interfere with milk production. Studies also show that calcium levels in the blood go down after ovulation. The lower level of calcium may also contribute to the drop in the milk supply. Lower levels of calcium may also cause your nipples to feel sore, making breastfeeding during your period uncomfortable or sometimes painful.

This is a temporary dip but can be surprising the first time it happens. Remember: this dip can happen once or twice before you actually have a period as your hormones are shifting back into baby making mode. If your baby is older than 6 months and eating lots of solids, you may not notice a difference. The strongest behaviors are seen under 6 months when babies need an exclusive milk diet. You may also notice the dip if you’re a pumper.

Having your period start again may not have any effect on your baby or your milk supply. Some babies continue to breastfeed well. Others will not like the taste of the breast milk or the drop in the amount of breast milk that can happen when your period returns. Your baby may:

  • Become fussier than normal
  • Want to breastfeed more due to the lower milk supply
  • Breastfeed less because there is less breast milk and it tastes different
  • Nursing strike

What can you do about it? Knowing it can happen is the first step. Stay well hydrated and eat quality nutrition. Many find adding in a calcium/magnesium supplement (1000mg of calcium/500mg magnesium per day split into 3-4 “doses”) can help combat the drop. Others find adding in lactation specific herbs or supportive foods help. Iron rich foods like dark leafy greens and red meat and milk making foods like oatmeal, almonds and fennel can really help. Keep offering the breast or pumping frequently. It will get better and your supply will come back up as soon as your hormones shift again after your period. It usually only lasts a few days.

Word to the wise: You can release an egg from your ovary (ovulate) before your period returns. If you’re involved in an intimate relationship, and you’re not using birth control, you can get pregnant again without ever getting your first period even while you’re breastfeeding. If you notice a very drastic drop in milk supply, consider taking a pregnancy test.

How often should I breastfeed or pump?

BREAST STORAGE CAPACITY

The size of your breast has nothing to do with the amount of milk you will make. The size of your breast is determined by the amount of fatty tissue in the breast. The amount of milk you will make is determined by the amount of glandular tissue in the breast that makes milk. This glandular tissue starts growing during puberty. It increases during pregnancy and is part of what accounts for the increase in breast size during pregnancy. Everyone’s storage capacity is different.. just like every breast size is different. However breast size does NOT equal breast storage.

Small capacity: Approx 2-3 ounces per feeding/pump. Baby may need frequent feedings: 10-12 per day. Baby usually takes both breasts and may want each breast twice. Parent feels uncomfortable quickly between feedings and sees a supply drop with more than 3-4 hours between feedings

Medium capacity: Approx 3-4 oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 8+ times per day. Baby may take one breast or both breasts each feeding. Parent feels uncomfortable and see a supply drop with more than 4-5 hours between feedings

Large capacity: Approx 4-6 oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 6+ times per day. Baby may only take one breast per feeding. Parent may go up to 6 hours without seeing a drop in supply

XLarge capacity: 8+ oz per feeding/pump. Baby may feed 6+ times per day. Baby may only take one breast and parent may still feel full in that breast. Some babies may be gassy from higher foremilk intake as they may not drain the breast fully. Parent may go 6+ hours without seeing a supply drop. Parent may still feel uncomfortable between feedings depending on how quickly the milk fills the breast

All capacities have the same ability to feed baby well as long as the breast is routinely being emptied.

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.

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

How much milk should I leave my breastfed baby?

How many ounces should I leave if I’m exclusively breastfeeding but need to leave my baby a bottle?

The answer is: that depends. Some babies are grazers. They like smaller, more frequent feedings to keep their tummy from being too full or uncomfortable. Their feedings can range from 1-3 ounces and they may feed 10 or more times a day. Other babies are bingers. They like a big, full tummy and may take 3-5 or even occasionally 6 ounces but not as often. They may feed only 6-8 times a day and have longer sleep stretches. Their tummy doesn’t mind being stretched fuller and their bodies tell them it’s ok to go longer between feedings.

The question is: how many feedings do they get in 24 hours? From one month to one year, babies take between 19-32 ounces of breast milk a day. The average is 25 ounces in 24 hours. There’s a range because babies eat more or less depending on the activities of the day, growth spurts, teething, and even babies emotionally eat sometimes. In general, take 25 and divide it by the number of feedings they average in any given day. Also take into account that growth slows between 6-12 months and baby should be eating table foods, so you don’t need to increase the ounces in the bottle during that time. If your baby took 4 Oz bottles at 4 months, 4 Oz bottles are still appropriate at 9 months because they’re also begging for the food right off your plate in addition to what you’re putting on their tray.

You are what you eat, and so is your baby

Did you know that not only do the volumes of milk produced by the left and right breast differ, the milk made in the left breast can also taste different than that made in the right… during the same feeding!!

What you eat used to change the flavor of your amniotic fluid, exposing baby when they were a fetus to the profile of your diet, preparing them for the flavors they would later experience in your breast milk. Eating a wide variety in your diet while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding exposes your little one to a wide variety of flavors, getting them used to the spices, herbs and tastes of food they will be given when they start table food eaten by your family. The more of a particular food you eat, research says, the better the chance your baby will also like to eat that food.

Eating allergenic foods during pregnancy also protects baby from food allergies, especially if you continue to eat them while breastfeeding suggests new research. So far, there is no evidence that avoiding certain foods while breastfeeding helps prevent baby from developing allergies or asthma. The exception to that might be eczema: avoiding certain foods may reduce the risk of eczema. Allergy studies are challenging because of many factors, including food introduction, genetics, and maternal diet. Most studies conclude that exclusive breastfeeding (even as little as one month) lessens how often some allergies occur. Evidence also suggests that exclusive breastfeeding during the first four months may offer protection against certain types of allergic diseases including cow’s milk allergy and atopic dermatitis. So while oatmeal 24/7 may help increase your milk supply, switch it up for baby’s sake (and yours!!)

How can I make more breast milk?

The best way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit. Choosing the right foods, protein, fruits and vegetables with moderation of carbs, sugars and starches is guaranteed for most to lose extra pounds. Sure, exercise helps. It helps burn calories, again contributing to calorie deficit. But exercise alone won’t help you lose weight if you’re still eating a high calorie diet. Sure, going vegetarian or vegan or doing Weight Watchers or Atkins or any other “diet” helps. It helps you monitor intake to be in a calorie deficit. But even on any diet plan, if you’re not following it correctly and still eating high amounts of foods you won’t lose weight. Certain people do better on certain diets or with specific exercise programs because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, movement, and all of the other factors like environment and genetics. Finding a nutritionist, weight loss coach, or personal trainer helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: calorie deficit is the number one way to lose weight.

The best way to make breast milk is to empty breast milk. Whether that’s your baby or a high quality breast pump, moving milk multiple times a day tells the body to make more milk. The more often milk is removed, the faster it is made. Sure, supplements help. They support your thyroid and blood with the extra nutrients and hormones needed to produce milk. But supplements alone is no replacement for moving milk. You can take the best lactation bars and drink all the tea you want, but without emptying the breast every few hours routinely I wouldn’t expect the majority of us to make enough milk to feed baby. Sure, hydration and nutrition are important. It takes calories to make calories and hydration help with that process. But even the research shows women who are malnourished in famine torn countries make plenty of milk for their babies when baby is allowed unrestricted access to the breast. Yes, adding in chia seed, flax seed, oats, nuts and nut butters, and coconut water helps make milk. Certain people do better on certain herbs and foods because of how their specific body handles and processes food, vitamins, stress, hormones, and all of the other factors like anatomy and genetics. Finding a lactation consultant, peer counselor, or trained doula helps you look at your specific body and goals and helps you reach them. You can absolutely get there in your own, having someone counsel you through often gets you quicker results from their experience and wisdom. But the principle remains: emptying milk from the breast is the number one way to make breast milk.

Pumping while away from baby helps maintain your supply

How to build a breast milk stash

You don’t need to have a stash. If you want to exclusively breastfeed and are never away from your baby, you don’t need any milk in your freezer. You don’t need a huge stash if you’re going to be gone from baby. It’s nice to have stored up milk, but that milk is extra milk. Feed the baby, not the freezer. You only need enough milk for when you’re away from baby. If you’re only going to be gone for 2-3 hours, you may not need any milk at all. Feed your baby immediately before you leave. If baby becomes fussy before you get home, have your caregiver take baby on a walk, distract with toys or use a pacifier and feed them as soon as you walk in the door. If you’re going to be gone more than 3 hours, you only need to have enough milk for the time you’re gone. Optimally if baby is being fed by bottle, to maintain your milk supply, you should be pumping, thus replacing the milk from your stash that was used.

There are several ways to build your stash

🍼Passively collect with a milk catcher like a Lacticup or Milkies Milk Saver. No extra work needed, this works great in the early weeks if you leak

🍼Use manual silicone breast pump like the Haakaa. While these look passive, the vacuum created does stimulate the breast and can increase leaking and milk supply

🍼If you have a large to very large storage capacity and only feed from one breast at a time, pump the other breast during or after feeding baby

🍼Pump with a double electric pump, after breastfeeding, for 10-15 minutes. Only expect to get 1/4-1 ounce as this is “left over” milk that your baby doesn’t need.

🍼Pump with a double electric pump in between breastfeedings when you think baby may take a longer nap. Aim to pump half way between when you think baby will want to feed again. If you think baby will go 2 hours, pump after an hour, etc. try not to pump too close to the next feed as baby may get fussy at the slower flow of milk.

Remember:

🥛Decide how often and how much you want to pump/collect. Know that the more you empty, the more you will make as you’re telling your body baby needs that milk.

🥛Too much pumping or frequently changing your pump routine does increase your risk of plugged ducts and mastitis

🥛You can combine 24 hours of milk into one batch

🥛Breastfed babies usually only need 2-4 ounces every 2-4 hours. Aim to leave 1-1.5 ounces for every hour you’re gone