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We received this question via email, and it is a common enough concern to merit a blog post.
“My daughter is 6 1/2 months old and I am pretty sure my milk supply is decreasing. I have been pumping less milk when I work (I miss 2 feedings, 3 days a week) and when I am with her, she cries after nursing for only 2 minutes. However, she doesn’t cry during her early morning feeding or late night feeding.
I am wondering if you have any suggestions for increasing milk supply? I know I need to drink more water and probably sleep more if that’s possible.
I lost my milk with my son when my period started (he was 10 months old) and I just started my period. Could this be the end of my milk? I am not ready 😦
Should I nurse her morning and night and give up the pumping during the day? Will my milk supply keep up with that?
Any suggestions would be great!”
One challenge with email-based helping is the difficulty with asking questions to get more information or clarify what’s going on, so sometimes email responses can get pretty long because we are trying to cover lots of bases in one communication.
You are correct that return to fertility can cause a *temporary* drop in milk supply, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be the end of nursing!
The number one strategy for increasing supply is nursing more often. If you are nursing her based on her cues, try nursing before she indicates hunger. If you are feeding based on a time schedule, such as every 3 hours or so, then reduce the time between feedings to get her to the breast as much as you can. If you are using a pacifier, stop using it when you are with her and have her meet all of her sucking needs at the breast. If you are pumping rather than nursing during the day when you are with her, stop the pumping and just nurse her instead. You will get more stimulation for making milk that way.
Nursing during the night also helps provide more stimulation for your body to make milk. If something has recently changed about her sleep such that you aren’t nursing at night anymore, you might consider adding it back in if that will work for you.
You do want to take care of yourself with sufficient water, calories, and sleep, but drinking lots of extra water isn’t going to help you make more milk. Just pay attention to your body’s cues and drink when you are thirsty.
When you are away, you might be able to accomplish some extra pumping sessions at the beginning and end of your shift. For example, nurse your baby, go to work, pump (you may not get much, but it is still stimulation), pump during your work at the same frequency she is eating, then pump again right before you leave, go home and nurse your baby. Even if your breasts seem empty from the pumping, you will make milk for your baby.
Should she continue to cry during nursing, you may want to try breast compression while you are nursing. This can help give babies an extra gulp of milk and keep them on the job and can be used for any baby. The technique is described well here: http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=doc-BC
Please don’t hesitate to phone a Leader if you have other questions! 801 251 MILK
Thanks to Urban Matriarch for celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with fun support for breastfeeding. Enjoy it with your babe or share it with a friend.
Good news for families in and out of Utah — there is a new milk depot in Provo, spread the word! Read about it in the Salt Lake Tribune and click the link above to get all the details.
Human milk is important for all our children but there is a critical need for milk donation on behalf of babies facing special challenges. Think you’d like to make a lifetime of difference for a fragile premature infant? Share your milk.
In Salt Lake City, contact the Salt Lake Mothers’ Milk Donation Center.
“Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.” – from LA LECHE LEAGUE PHILOSOPHY
Last week we enjoyed our annual Couples Meeting where we invited fathers (and other support persons) to join us. We had a great discussion that included dads helping brainstorm how to change a baby’s diaper on an airplane in ways only a man would think of doing and honoring the mothers present for their commitment to breastfeeding. Having men at the meeting enhanced our discussion, and having the support of the men in our lives inside and outside of La Leche League meetings means more to us than we could ever express.
Each La Leche League Group decides how to handle the question of whether or not and when to invite men to come to meetings. At this point, our policy in La Leche League of Salt Lake City is to welcome female support persons to come to any meeting they wish and to hold a special Couples Meeting once a year to invite men to come as well. For now, this is the best way we can think of to meet the needs of the group of moms that we serve with the resources we have at this time.
Why invite men to a meeting about breastfeeding?
The men who give their support to breastfeeding mothers are so important, and La Leche League recognizes and seeks to support the unique role of fathers in their children’s lives. Having or not having the support of the one who loves a mother and her child the most can really make or break a breastfeeding relationship, so it is very important to include fathers when we are educating about the importance of breastfeeding. Additionally, fathers have a different perspective, being the non-breastfeeding parent and have a lot to add to the conversation. It is important to hear what fathers have to say.
Great! If men are so important, why do we only invite them once a year?
For starters, having one special Coupls Meeting that men are encouraged to attend helps get fathers who would not otherwise come to a La Leche League meeting to come. They know there will be other men there, and they know that the topic chosen will include them so they won’t feel out of place. Perhaps if there was more interest and we had the resources to do so (remember that we are all volunteers), we could host meetings welcoming fathers more often, but for now, this is what we have found that works best for our group.
But why don’t we just invite fathers to all of the regular meetings?
There are some La Leche League Groups that do this, and there tend to be a very few men who take them up on their offer. Fathers sometimes come, but they tend to be the only man in the room. Advertising a special Couples Meeting where fathers know there will be other fathers there can actually increase the number of fathers who come, even if it is only once a year.
Also, while the importance of the support of men cannot be overstated, and it is something we certainly want to encourage, the main purpose of La Leche League is to provide mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding. Other physicians, lactation consultants, peer counselors and organizations provide valuable support in other ways. La Leche League Leaders are mothers, and our first priority is serving mothers. We want La Leche League meetings in general to be a safe place for ALL mothers to feel comfortable, and there are some mothers who would not be served as well with men at the meeting for one reason or another.
First of all, not all breastfeeding mothers have men that they would be able to bring to a meeting. Babies are born into all kinds of circumstances, and the role of La Leche League is to help mothers breastfeed… ALL mothers, not just mothers who are married, and we seek to be sensitive to mothers’ circumstances. The mothers without partners may be the ones who need the most support from a group like ours, and we do not want to do anything that might discourage them from attending.
Second, some mothers would not be comfortable nursing in front of men. Absolutely, we are in favor of mothers nursing their children wherever and whenever they need to eat, including when men are around, but La Leche League meetings are often the first place that mothers even see or try out nursing in public. Moreover, La Leche League meetings are a place where mothers can come who are having problems. Mothers often expose more than they normally would feel comfortable exposing in order to get help from a Leader with getting their babies to latch correctly, and they may be unwilling to come to a meeting to get such help if men are present. It is not just about nursing in public. It is about working out the bugs. Meetings are the main place that mothers can come to receive help in person. We do not have the Leader resources to provide home visits for every mother who would be uncomfortable getting help with latch in mixed-gender company.
Third, having men there affects the conversation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just different. As La Leche League, our purpose is to provide mother-to-mother support, to create a place where mothers can come and get support for motherhood specifically, not just parenthood in general. There is a freedom and an openness that comes from speaking only among women, and we feel that it is very important to provide a space that maintains that freedom and openness. We do believe it is very important for men and women to be able to talk about things together as well, and we do provide a forum for such conversation during our Couples Meetings, but without the resources to provide a fourth meeting in the month, we believe that it is more important to provide a place for only women and children most of the time and to invite men once a year, even if that means there is one month out of the year when mothers who can only come to an evening meeting will not have a female-only place to bring their concerns. It is the best balance we have been able to find so far.
How do you support a father’s “companionship” and “unique relationship with his baby” the other 11 months of the year?
Many mothers come to meetings with questions of how to share information or discuss issues with the fathers who join them in parenting. They receive support and encouragement on how to meet Dad’s needs as well, how to listen to his point of view, how to facilitate a father’s bonding with his child, and how to give him the same respect that we would hope he would give the mother. Actually, some of these conversations would be the very conversations that would disappear with men in the room. As La Leche League Leaders, we are mothers, not fathers, and we are most qualified to offer suggestions to mothers on how they could respond to family situations. Mothers themselves are the most important ones to build a relationship with the fathers of their children and support them in their unique role, and we are always available to equip mothers for this mission.
At our Evening Series meeting last night we had a lively discussion about planning for success when baby(ies) are newly born including strategies to manage well-meaning guests and visitors whose notions of infant care or personal space may not match those of the new parents. One idea that we discussed was announcing ahead of the birth that you plan to take a babymoon with your new family. No one thinks that it is odd for newlyweds to take off for a while to recover from the event, enjoy each other, and explore this new dimension of their lives together as a married couple rather than single people. The same principles can apply to arrival of a new baby! It can be helpful and even empowering for the new family to take some time to focus attention inward, to recover from the birth, enjoy each other, and explore this new dimension of their lives together as a family with a baby rather than a couple.
Such a babymoon might help get breastfeeding off to a good start by encouraging mom and baby to have lots of uninterrupted time together with the support of baby’s father without distractions of other people who might want to be entertained, wonder where to find more toilet paper, or unintentionally introduce breastfeeding difficulties by holding the baby so that mom can sleep or expressing concern about milk supply or wanting to feed baby.
Come to our next meeting and share your ideas and successes on this topic and many others – we’d love to meet you and hear your story!