Breastmilk production relies on supply and demand. Every baby is different, but between the ages of 2-4 months, and again around 6 months, you may notice a change in your baby's sleeping patterns. As your baby begins to sleep longer stretches at night, you may find yourself questioning how to best keep up your milk supply. Most parents are thrilled at the idea of getting more sleep, however, if you decide to skip that night feeding, your body will notice there is less demand for breastmilk and will begin producing smaller volumes.
You may be thinking... why do I need to keep up my supply if my baby's demand is less than before? Well, sleep patterns are not linear. As your baby grows and develops you may notice that there are some challenging sleep regressions along the way. Most commonly, these regressions occur at 4 months, 8 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 2 years. Thanks to growth spurts, teething, and other normal developmental milestones, your baby may wake more frequently at night again. Keeping a healthy supply will allow you to keep up with fluctuating demands and provide baby with exactly what they need to get through it.
This is where a breastpump comes in handy! Pumping at night during what would have been a nursing session will help send signals to your body to keep that liquid gold coming. If you are not already using a breastpump, now may be a good time to consult with a lactation consultant about your options and needs. At Metropolitan Breastfeeding, we offer hospital-grade pump rentals (is a hospital-grade pump is right for me?).
Stay Focused on Your Breastfeeding Goals:
-Commit to replacing a missed nighttime feedings with a pumping session.
-Why is breastfeeding important to you? Keep a list handy of all the benefits of breastfeeding to help remind you of your why.
-Keep a journal. Write down things your baby does when you are feeding them. Did they giggle? Smile? Caress you? How is your baby changing day to day and what sweet things did you notice? Look back on your entries whenever you lack motivation.
-Get an app to keep track of feedings. Patterns will emerge and this can help you adjust your schedule as your baby's sleep patterns change.
Build Your Support System:
-Work with a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. A lactation consultant is a health professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding and can help you and your baby overcome breastfeeding challenges.
-Work with a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach to work through those sleep regressions.
-Work with a Postpartum Doula. A doula isn't only for birth support! A postpartum doula can provide you with support, motivation, confidence, and education while you embark on your parenting journey.
-Friends, Family, and Community. Don't be afraid to ask for help with daily tasks so you can get quality rest and have more time to stay focused on meeting your breastfeeding challenges head-on.
Lastly, BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. You're doing great!
Researching all of the various types of breast pumps out there can feel overwhelming. Why are there so many? A variety of choices allows every mom to find the right pump for her – but how do you know when a hospital-grade pump is right for YOU?
Hospital-grade breast pumps have powerful motors (but a lot more comfortable) and are designed to be long-lasting and reduce contamination, so they can be used by multiple people in a medical/hospital setting (each with their own accessory kit). These pumps are much better than the pumps you can buy retail or receive from your insurance company. This extra strength mimics a baby’s natural sucking stimulation and allows for more efficient and shorter pumping times – this is especially helpful in the postpartum period when you are establishing your supply and maximizing your potential for milk production.
A few reasons we may recommend a hospital-grade pump:
Contact us today to discuss your options and do a little trial. Most of our services are covered by insurance, including rentals of our hospital-grade equipment! We also have plenty of personal use pumps available for purchase.
Innovations in the Lactation World!
It’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month! To celebrate, we decided to hop in our time machine. We’re going back to what breastfeeding was like for our grandparents’ generation. Our societal norms definitely have changed – from work, to technology, to popular culture media, breastfeeding has gotten a few makeovers. Without the following innovations in the lactation world, we might still be at only a 25% rate of breastfeeding initiation with new mothers (lowest U.S. rate ever) and using breast pumps that look like they’d be more efficient as bicycle horns. Luckily, we are in the age of smart phones and smarter people!
Women, the 70s, and the workforce? Oh my! Women have had a bumpy ride earning a spot in the workplace in the 60s and 70s. Then add parenting, breastfeeding, and pumping onto that! There was a decline in breastfeeding rates before and during the 70s. This was a result of formula culture and working full time, mixed with the lack of cultural support to maintain breastfeeding. Women were fighting for equal social and economic rights, but the lactation world was a bit slower to catch up with the needs of the new working mom.
Thankfully, there have been recent strides with breastfeeding women in the United States. The rate of working women that breastfed rose from 29.2% in 1975 to 58.8% in 1994. That is over a quarter (almost a third) increase in about 20 years! One awesome innovation made in the American workplace to accommodate breastfeeding women was the introduction of pumping/lactation rooms. Lactation rooms are designed to give mothers a private, comfortable and safe place to pump and store their milk, as well as a place to clean and organize their pumping accessories. Imagine what it would have been like if older generations had utilized this concept?
The mothers of our family worked hard, but probably didn’t have the rights to guarantee a safe place to pump during their work days. Honestly, workplace culture possibly wouldn’t have changed as quickly without the legislation passed to support lactation rooms. An important change to the breastfeeding and legal world was legislation passed under the Affordable Care Act in 2010 that ensures women more security when it comes to their breastfeeding at work. It became federal law that employers must provide a place for employees to express their milk, besides a bathroom, until the baby of the employee is one-years-old.
Another breakthrough: it is officially legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states in the U.S. (yay!!). But, just because it’s now legal doesn’t mean that our grandmothers weren’t feeding their babies in public regardless. An article published by The New York Times in 1973 about breastfeeding in public shares the same sentiments many breastfeeding women of today have. To summarize, a woman was at a restaurant for a dinner party and her baby was hungry, so she decided to breastfeed at the party. She expresses that it was natural for her to do so. Even though some people gave her rude looks, she didn’t mind as long as her child was fed. Breastfeeding in public has become more normalized in recent years, and we have our grandmothers to thank for that!
The transformation of the breast pump can easily go unnoticed, but we should thank the innovators of this machine until the cows come home! Breast pumps are by no means a new thing, but modern advancements have made it a better pumping experience from moms of the past had. The pumps that were for mothers to use at home look like a mix between a modern hand pump and a bicycle horn. The hospital grade pump of the time definitely wasn’t created to leave the hospitals, but it was the start of a business designed to make pumping safer and more efficient. They both apparently hurt a lot! Thank the stars that mothers now don’t have to go through using those bulky things.
Technological advances didn’t solely affect pumps, of course. Technology has changed our everyday lives. It’s revolutionized how to keep track of Our grandparents have to log their breastfeeding the old fashion way: grab a notebook, get your pencils sharpened, and keep an eye on the clock! A notebook? Pencils? How do you even read analog?! Well, it’s probably not that outdated to jot things down with a pencil. With innovations in personal technology our society has begun to shift and shape around these technologies. All you need to keep track of pumping is that smartphone in your pocket! There are so many apps centered around timing and recording your breastfeeding and pumping into a digital log. Already bought that amazing journal just for logging? Well you can still play Netflix and in-app games!
Let’s hop back into our time machine and go back to 2018!
Things have definitely changed for the better, but this is only the beginning. Breastfeeding and pumping is becoming normalized in our culture. More and more parents are reaping the benefits of breastmilk for their child. Even so, there is still a long way to go!
Thank you Jamie, for sharing part 2 of your journey!
I want to tell you all about my breastfeeding journey. My daughter turns 1 in approximately 24 days (but who’s counting!?). Before even becoming pregnant I always knew I wanted to breastfeed and pump. Just hearing stories from my mom and other women in my life, it seemed like such a special bonding time and how cool to be able to provide something for your baby that quite literally keeps them alive! As my due date approached, I began to give this more thought and was preparing myself for the possibility of it not working out. I tried to go in with little expectations.
My baby girl was born July 8, 2017, and it was truly love at first latch. Those first few weeks were definitely challenging in the nursing department though. For one, you’re feeding around the clock and each nursing session was taking a long time. We were both getting used to this new concept. By the time she finished nursing, it was almost time to do it all over again. I finally understood what cows being milked feel like! And I don’t care what anyone says, it hurts! I was fortunate, however, to have had the amazing guidance from Metropolitan Breastfeeding from week 1. Although things were going well, I had wanted a professional to literally just watch me nurse and make sure we were set up for success.
The real fun began when I started pumping. My only prior experience with this was when I had seen my best friend pump when she had her first baby a couple years prior. I couldn’t get that image out of my head – her on the bed, hooked up to wires, bottles and a machine, nipples protruding 3 inches out, and a loud pumping noise, with milk filling the bottles 2 drops at a time. Every ounce deserved applause. I knew that would come with nursing because I was headed back to work at 4 months and would need to keep my supply up for my baby while she was with her various caretakers.
At the advice of doctors and friends, I started my pumping journey at about 2-3 weeks postpartum. I had a lot of anxiety about pumping. The idea of it overwhelmed me. How to use the pump, how long to do it for, was I getting enough, the storage of the milk, thawing it, heating, etc. Little did I know, I would become the pumping pro. I was doing it around the clock to store enough for the future and so my husband could have his bonding time with our daughter to give her a bottle when he got home from work (and so I could have a break – only to clean bottles). My IBCLC always reminded me to “feed the baby, not the freezer,” but I couldn’t help myself. I was obsessed with having a solid freezer supply.
There were also several times where I quite literally cried over spilled milk. You may have heard the term “liquid gold.” It’s a real thing. Breastmilk IS liquid gold and if even a drop spills out during the dreaded transfer, it’s very upsetting. It is OK to cry and get frustrated. Let out a big scream and then let it go. You will make more. That also leads me to pumping and dumping. I luckily only had to do it a few times, but it was a few too many – it killed me to watch it swirl down the drain into the abyss. But again, it’s probably for good reason. You needed a drink, and you deserve it.
Going back to work was stressful for so many reasons, but one of them was figuring out my new nursing/pumping schedule. I am an event planner, so I knew I would have to use my professional logistic expertise to make this nursing/pumping thing work, for a year, which was my goal. I am almost there (pumping as we speak)!
Throughout the past 11+ months, I have said numerous times to my husband that I feel like I should write a book about all the places I’ve pumped. When mentioning this to my IBCLC, she encouraged me to blog about it. So here we are, but maybe one day you will find my book in Urban Outfitters or something ????
So, here’s to us women. We are incredibly strong, powerful, resilient, and will do whatever it takes to keep our children happy and healthy. I feel so honored to be part of such a remarkable tribe, that of Motherhood. It’s only been 11 months so far, and counting, but I am looking so forward to many more chapters to this crazy novel and to continuing this amazing journey.
Thanks for reading!
P.S.I couldn’t end this post without attaching a few photos of my breastfeeding and pumping journey. I have had the support and encouragement from friends and family and the constant reminder that no one is looking or watching me, which I still don’t necessarily believe, but if a child needs to eat, you gotta do what you gotta do! Oh, and a huge shout-out to my Udder Cover®, which has helped protect me from all those wandering eyes, and now causes my daughter to pant whenever I break it out!
Pumping on a boat on a bachelorette party! (left) Pumping in a public restroom. (middle) Pumping in another public restroom! (Right)
Breastmilk Supply and Demand
As a lactation consultant, I spend a lot of time counseling mothers on milk supply. “I have too much milk” or, “My supply is so low, I have to supplement with formula at every feeding.” One thing that comes to mind when faced with these questions is The Golden Hour.
Perception of a Low Milk Supply
For some reason, how successful a mom is with breastfeeding is directly related to her idea of how successful a mother she is. So, you can see where low milk supply issues can drastically impact a mom down to her core. So, what happens to cause low supply? Where does this phenomenon originate? My thought is that it often happens during the first hour after birth when, instead of coming right to breast, babies are whisked away for weights, measurements, footprints, vital signs, apgar scores, suctioning and placement of what I call “the LoJack” around the ankle. I do realize the suctioning and possibly the apgar scores are critical functions after birth but believe these can be done while baby is skin-to-skin on mom.
What We Want
There’s a beautiful video of a baby girl being delivered vaginally and immediately being placed right on top of her mom’s lower abdomen. During the 45-minute video, the baby CRAWLS from that position all the way up to her mom’s breast and drops her head right over the nipple! Of course I saw this movie with a group of other lactation consultants and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. So miraculous when you think of it and so different from what usually happens.
The Golden Hour
I constantly hear stories of babies being taken from their moms during that first hour to satisfy hospital protocol. When baby is usually returned to the mom, washed well and wrapped tightly in a blanket, they’re too tired to do anything. There’s ONLY that ONE golden hour to take advantage of before the baby naturally does some pretty deep sleeping for the next 23 hours. Although skin-to-skin is still important after that hour, it doesn’t have the exact same impact.
Another supply killer is the practice of some hospital personnel and nursing staff offering to take babies away to the nursery so moms can get some sleep. Afterwards, they return with results of a hospital protocol heel stick showing the baby now has a low blood glucose level. Really? Moms are advised to immediately give formula (not sure why we can’t give colostrum), and it’s there that the slope becomes even more slippery.
Real Life Examples
One mom I worked with told me a story of a postpartum nurse. The nurse told her her that her baby was “crying because he wants a hamburger and all you have is a French fry.” A real confidence boost, don’t you think?
Another mom told me that when she arrived home from the hospital, her mother was there heating up formula. This was apparently because “Breastfeeding doesn’t work well for Smith women” (not the real name).
What is Formula?
What do people think formula is? Just the name alone makes it sound important, doesn’t it? Lactation consultants frequently call it “Artificial breastmilk.” For one, it’s not even species specific since it’s made from cow’s milk. Having said that, I highly recommend it to women with inadequate supply; at least until we get the maternal supply up. Babies can’t wait and aren’t very subtle about letting moms know where they stand.
Bags of formula and other treats for moms do nothing more than undermine womens’ sense of self. It’s akin to handing out six-packs at AA meetings….Here’s the 12 steps for recovery madam, but if it doesn’t work out, here’s a six pack of Bud Light.
Supporting Breastfeeding Parents
We need to support women, right from the start with their “Breast Intentions.” Baby to the breast within the first hour, rooming in, frequent skin-to-skin, lactation consultants in Baby Friendly hospitals and more community resources for follow-up.
I Believe in You
I often tell moms struggling “I believe in you. Your breasts are 3 million years of evolution sitting right there on your chest.” Melodramatic? Perhaps, but that’s what women need for this confidence game called breastfeeding.
–Dr. Kathleen F. McCue, DNP, FNP-BC, IBCLC-RLC