Seven Points To Know About Breastmilk Supply Issues

By Jessica Martin-Weber

This post is generously made possible by Bamboobies

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For the most part, if you decide to breastfeed, the experience will be: have boobs, feed baby. A process that has worked long enough to get us to this point in civilization, as mammals, generally speaking we will produce enough milk for our young. If everything is working normally, our breasts are going to make the milk our babies need. Lactating after giving birth is, for our species, normal, like breathing.

Which is well and good. But for as normal as it all may be sometimes there are issues with breathing and sometimes there are issues with lactation. Sometimes those issues are related to milk supply.

Before you worry about it or before you tell someone else to worry about it or not to worry about it, there are a few things that may be helpful to know. This is all just the tip of the iceberg, we’ll have more on this topic in the future but for now this is just a quick overview of breastmilk supply issues and not intended to be health care or replace medical care. If you are experiencing any problems with your supply, please see your healthcare provider and an experienced, professional skilled breastfeeding helper.

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1. Supply issues are real. Though biologically speaking it is normal to produce milk for our young, the fact is some will experience issues with supply. While they aren’t as common as it may seem, supply issues aren’t made up, they really do happen. Dismissing the concerns about supply can actually cause more supply problems as it may lead to feelings of isolation, failure, pain, grief, anger, and depression. If someone is concerned about their breastmilk supply, getting help is the right thing to do. They may discover that there is no evidence of supply issues and they can let go of their worry or they may find there is in fact a problem and take steps to address it to adequately care for their child(ren).

2. There is more than one type of supply issue. Often when talking about supply issues people assume it is low supply or not producing enough milk. Low supply is indeed a very concerning issue but it isn’t the only supply issue that may be experienced. Pumping supply, oversupply, and temporary supply issues (ovulation/period, illness, pregnancy, separation, etc.) are other supply issues that may present challenges for breastfeeding families. From poor weight gain to recurring mastitis to not reaching breastfeeding goals, the effects of supply issues cover a wide range and all of them matter.

3. Don’t borrow supply issue trouble. Yes, supply issues are real but before stressing about or trying to fix a supply issue, it is important to know if there is one (see related: Help, My Milk Supply Is Low, Or Is It?). This can be difficult to do if we don’t understand normal human lactation or normal baby behavior. For example, if you heard that I was pumping up to 24 ounce every pumping session at one point and you pumped 1-4 ounces in a session, you may think you have low supply (tip: this wouldn’t mean you have low supply- this means I had oversupply, one I manufactured to pump enough to skim the fat off to feed my very sick baby with two holes in her heart). Or if you found that your baby was extremely fussy and wanting to breastfeed every 30 minutes suddenly and you didn’t know what cluster feeding was and that it was common for babies to increase their feeding sessions during times of rapid growth, you may fear that your breasts suddenly weren’t making enough milk. Understanding the range of normal in human lactation is crucial!

4. There are multiple reasons for supply issues. Physiologically speaking, most breasts should have everything necessary to make plenty of milk (statistically less than 2% of breasts are equipped for adequate milk production) though there are some theories that this number is increasing. But a lack of milk making tissue isn’t the only cause of low supply. Other reasons for low supply include, but are not limited to, fluids in labor, tongue tie (frenulum restriction), high palate, hormone imbalance, diabetes, gut health, scheduled feedings, retained placenta, excessive pumping, ineffective sucking, health issues, some medication, early sleeping through the night, and the list goes on.

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5. Supply issues can create other issues. Yes, even perceived supply issues can create other issues. Confirmed supply issues even more so. Postpartum depression, anxiety, mastitis, gas, poor weight gain, breast tissue damage, unwanted and unnecessary supplementing, early weaning from the breast, etc. Those encountering issues with supply need more support and care on both a social level and from health care professionals.

6. Supply issues aren’t all doom and gloom. For starters, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to feeding our babies. There are ways to address supply issues including methods to boost supply, supplement at the breast, train baby to suck more effectively, and reducing oversupply. Identifying the type of supply issue, the cause, and then the most effective methods for improving the supply issue (i.e. skin-to-skin helps low supply, decreasing pumping duration and frequency helps oversupply, hands-on-breast compressions and proper flange sizes can help pumping low supply, and magnesium can help temporary low supply caused by fertility cycles) along with supplementing techniques to encourage breastfeeding (i.e. paced feeding and at the breast supplementing) may all work together to turn things around.

7. There is support for supply issues. I often hear from breastfeeders with supply issues that they feel broken and alone. Supply issues can directly impact a parent’s confidence, causing them to question their competency in parenting when the most elemental aspect of parenting, feeding the child, is so difficult and overwhelming for them. While it can feel lonely when you’re dealing with supply issues, we don’t have to be alone. From social media groups to in person breastfeeding support groups to specialized breastfeeding helpers in the healthcare field, there is support for those experiencing supply issues. Working with a breastfeeding helper such as an IBCLC may help resolve the issue more quickly.

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.

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Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

by Shari Criso, RN, CNM, IBCLC

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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Can I breastfeed throughout my pregnancy?

Breastfeeding during pregnancy is very normal. Throughout history and even today in many parts of the world, children survive because they continue to breastfeed throughout pregnancy. In MOST cases, it is extremely safe, completely normal, and very healthy to continue breastfeeding while you are pregnant with your next baby.

Where this whole concept of it being an issue came from is with people who have had recurrent miscarriages, and people who are bleeding early in pregnancy. Remember, when you breastfeed, there is a hormone called oxytocin released from your brain, and oxytocin can contract your uterus. If you’re a person with a history of early miscarriage or you’re bleeding in pregnancy, this may be a consideration. But for the vast majority of people, it’s completely fine to continue to breastfeed through pregnancy, not only at the beginning but throughout.

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What I find is that for most women, their toddlers will wean themselves during pregnancy, because as you get closer to the end, the milk is changing to more of a colostrum, getting ready for delivery. The taste changes and toddlers are like, “What’s this? This is not what it was before!” And there are others that are like, “I don’t care what this is, I want it anyway!” And that’s when you have people who are nursing two children at one time. And that’s totally fine.

One thing you do want to keep in mind if you’re tandem nursing is to make sure the newborn is always going first. That the baby is getting what they need first, and the toddler is getting more of a snack. Remember that your toddler is also eating solid foods at that point, and getting other nutrition, while your newborn needs to get the full majority of it.

I hope that answers the question, but overall, it is absolutely fine to keep nursing through pregnancy and beyond!

Shari Criso MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC

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Find more from Shari supporting your parenting journey including infant feeding at on Facebook, My Baby Experts©

Thanks for Evenflo Feeding, Inc.‘s generous support for families in their feeding journey.

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Shari Criso 2016

 

For over 23 years, Shari Criso has been a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, nationally recognized parenting educator, entrepreneur, and most importantly, loving wife and proud mother of two amazing breastfed daughters.
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Breastfeeding When You Are Sick

by Shari Criso, RN, CNM, IBCLC

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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When it comes to breastfeeding, one of the myths that drives me absolutely crazy and could actually be dangerous for your baby, is the idea that if you as a breastfeeding mom are sick, that you should discontinue breastfeeding until you feel better.

This is advice that is often given to moms by their pediatricians or obstetricians and it’s actually the complete opposite of what you want to do!

When you breastfeed, your body passes along the antibodies of what you’ve been exposed to, directly to the baby. When you get sick, antibodies are created and immediately passed into your breastmilk. So what that means for you and your baby is that if you are breastfeeding and you have a virus or you are ill, your baby is actually immediately receiving specific antibodies for the exact illness you have at that moment. This will actually help keep your baby well, rather than make your baby sick.

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What CAN make your baby sick, is to stop breastfeeding during these times! Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or not, your baby is going to be exposed to you, because you will be with your baby. They will have the exposure anyway, but without the protection of your milk they are much more vulnerable.

I’ll tell you a little personal story… when I had my first daughter my husband Joe and I got the flu really bad. We were sick in bed for days! We had this little 2 month old, and I was like “what am I going to do with her?” All we could do was put her in the bed between us, and just let her nurse, nurse, nurse, the whole time! Now, we were new parents at the time, and even with all the skills and knowledge that I had, we were still scared and nervous. I was so afraid she would get sick. That never happened! Here was this little one who just nursed away in this sick bed with my husband and me and never got sick herself.

This is very typical, very normal, and what you’ll usually see – and if they do get sick, the illness will be so much less than if you weren’t breastfeeding.

So whether it’s stomach flu, regular flu, or any other kind of illness, especially if you’re sick or anyone in the home is sick, make sure you continue to breastfeed, because that is going to be the best way to keep your baby healthy.

Shari Criso MSN, RN, CNM, IBCLC

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Find more from Shari supporting your parenting journey including infant feeding at on Facebook, My Baby Experts©

Thanks for Evenflo Feeding, Inc.‘s generous support for families in their feeding journey.

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Having Enough Milk for Your First Day Back

by Shari Criso, RN, CNM, IBCLC

This post made possible by the support of Evenflo Feeding

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As you are preparing to return to work, you’ll be wondering how much should I be storing and how far in advance do I need to prepare. As with anything, it is always best not to leave things to the last minute and pumping enough breast milk for your return to work is certainly at the top of that list!

Start several weeks prior to your first day back at work and calculate how many ounces you will need for your baby on the first day as well as your freezer stash.  

For example, if you will be away from your baby for 8 hours and will need to pump 3 times for 3-4 ounces each, that will be 9-12 ounces of milk needed for your first day back at work. If you add another 10 3oz bags for your freezer this will add an additional 30 ounces that you will ultimately need. In this scenario, in total you will need about 40 ounces of milk to be fully prepared.

Waiting to store this until the last week before you go back, will make it really difficult to achieve, and in this case I would recommend that you only focus on getting the 9-12 ounces pumped that you will need for your first day. You’ll have to catch up on the freezer stash later. Ideally, you will give yourself a minimum of 4-6 weeks to start pumping and storing.

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Pumping 1-2 ounces per day in addition to the ½ ounce of milk that you will continue to feed to your baby each evening (just to keep the bottle going) will give you more than enough over the 4-6 weeks to have all the milk you need for your first day back at work, plus your freezer stash.

For some moms this is not a problem and for others you may find it difficult to pump in between feeding your baby to get this extra milk.

One of the ways to work around this is to not try and pump between feedings, but to express a small amount, like a ¼ of an ounce from each side prior to each breastfeeding during the day. If you’re breastfeeding 8 times, and you express a ½ ounce each time, you will essentially be storing 4 ounces per day.  This is even more than I am even recommending you do, if you give yourself enough time.

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To view the whole video, click here.

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Shari Criso 2016

 

For over 23 years, Shari Criso has been a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, nationally recognized parenting educator, entrepreneur, and most importantly, loving wife and proud mother of two amazing breastfed daughters. See the entire library of Shari’s My Baby Experts Video Program here.
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Mother’s Day Wishes- Mother’s Milk Tea Giveaway

Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk has long been a trusted option for moms looking to boost their breastmilk supply.  I had the chance to ask Dannelle Jenkins, marketing coordinator for Traditional Medicinals, some questions about the company, how they are celebrating moms this year, and what their Mother’s Day wish is for all moms.

TLB:  What should TLB readers know about Traditional Medicinals?

Dannelle:  We love breastfeeding moms and support you all the way! We know that breastfeeding can be a wonderful, challenging, rewarding and sometimes awkward journey and we hope to provide you a little moment of peace and comfort with our Mother’s Milk(r) tea, used for centuries by women to help them breastfeed.*

 

TLB:  How did Traditional Medicinals come to be?

Dannelle:  In early 1974, three young friends started Traditional Medicinals(r) in the back store room of a small herb shop along the Russian River in Northern California. For nearly forty years, we’ve been passionate about connecting people with plants and passing along the centuries-old wisdom of how to use them. After all these years, our aspirations remain the same: help you use plants to be healthy. We are devoted stewards of traditional herbal medicine, practitioners of sustainable sourcing, meticulous judges of highest quality herbs, caring members of our communities, proud employee-owners of our independent company, herb nerds, and plant people who, without meaning to sound too hippie about it, feel like the plants are talking to us. We hope you will enjoy the fruits (or flowers, roots and leaves) of our labor. With over 50 herbal teas created by herbalists for your health and wellness, we invite you to explore the wonderful world of plants. In good health!

 

TLB:  How are you celebrating Mother’s Day?

Dannelle:  This Mother’s Day, we created a slideshow of our employees and all the reasons they love their moms. Check out our Facebook page to see what we have to say to our own moms this year.

 

TLB:  What do you wish for all mothers this mother’s day?

Dannelle:  We hope all you mothers are able to enjoy and embrace the wonderful (sometimes messy!) experience of being a mom. It’s one of the greatest things to do and to be and we love you for it. We hope you love yourselves too.

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Three lucky winners will be randomly selected to win a case (each case has 6 cartons!) of Organic Mother’s Milk Tea, a retail value of $32.94 each.

From the Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea website:

Promotes Healthy Lactation*
Herbal Dietary Supplement

Organic Mother’s Milk® promotes healthy lactation* and is traditionally used to increase breast milk production.* This traditional combination of anise, fennel and coriander has been used for centuries by European women, often recommended by lactation counselors and medical herbalists. Organic Mother’s Milk® is a pleasantly aromatic balance of sweet, spicy and slightly bitter tastes.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered and be sure to visit Organic Mother’s Milk tea Facebook page to get to know this company that makes it a priority to support breastfeeding moms through their sponsorship of TLB and thank them for this opportunity.  This giveaway is open from May 11, 2012 through May 18, 2012.

This giveaway is only open to residents in the USA, thank you.

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