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!