January 17, 2011

Establishing a Good Breastmilk Supply

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, just a mother who has nursed 2 children.  Please consult your doctor before trying anything new with your baby.  I assume no responsibility or liability for any advice herein.

Once again I'm inspired by my friend, a brand-new momma, to write about babies.  I talked to her husband a few days after the birth.  Very casually, he said, "Yeah, her milk ran out today.  She just stopped producing."  Huh?  I could not wrap my head around the idea of a brand-new mother running out of milk so soon after giving birth. My memories of the immediate post-partum period include leaking, wet shirts, lots of towels.  I kind of stuttered, "Um, well uh, what does the doctor say?"  As he told me they had not asked the doctor, I listened to the background noise.  I could hear other people talking.  Her family was at their house. 

After we hung up, I thought about how my friend has been spending her first few days as a new momma.  She lives very close to her tight-knit family.  I could picture them coming in and out all day long, while she sat on the couch.  I looked at some of her pictures on Facebook.  There were about 20 family members and friends at the hospital when she gave birth, and they all wanted a turn holding the baby.  Suddenly my vision grew crystal clear.  Everyone wanted to help her by holding the baby so she could 'rest' on the couch and chitchat.  Her family thought they were helping her out, but really they were helping her out of a successful breastfeeding relationship!  Grandma (or Aunt, or Cousin, or Friend or Neighbor) likes to be able to connect with the baby, which is understandable.  But from a health standpoint, it is more important that Mom connect with baby in those first few days.

I wrote her a quick email and advised her to tell her family to let her rest with the baby.  Family members can do all kinds of other things to help Mom- bring a home cooked meal over, do the dishes, do the laundry, answer the phone, go grocery shopping, bring water and fresh cut up fruit to Mom, vaccuum, clean the toilets, dust, sweep, mop, take out the trash, clean out the car, bake bread, take care of older kids, answer the phone, make breakfast- you get the idea!   

 To paraphrase Dr. Bradley, author of Husband Coached Childbirth,
Mom and baby need to snuggle together in bed, nurse alot, and just rest for 3 days.  It's not because you are sick, but it's to help you bond with your baby. 
For the sake of establishing a good milk supply, mom and baby should rest together.  Sleep as much as possible with your baby.  Try to figure out how to nurse laying down.  If you have trouble nursing laying down, then sit up and nurse.  But stay in bed for the most part.  When you do get up, put your baby in your baby carrier and take a walk outside for some fresh air. 

My son and me

Another thing you can do to build up a good milk supply is to delay using a pacifier and bottle.  There will be plenty of time for these a few weeks down the road!  Don't rush into using these just so that other people can hold the baby.  If other people need to bond with baby, they can bathe the baby, change diapers, get baby dressed or hold the baby while Mom showers.  The only one feeding the baby immediately after the birth should be Mom.  (Ya'll, I'm talking about normal births where Mom is able and desires to breastfeed.  I know there are special situations where this isn't possible).

By focusing all your energy on establishing a good milk supply, you are laying the foundation for a long and successful breastfeeding relationship

Do you have any tips for establishing (and maintaining) your milk supply?

Linked to WFMW.


Tricia said...

The same thing happened to me. My SIL stayed with us the first week when we had our first child. I was breastfeeding but she held her the rest of the time. I found myself doing dishes, laundry, cooking while she held my baby. I developed postpartum depression and had a really hard time bonding with my baby. It took months to repair what happened during those first few weeks. I learned my lesson.

I have had 2 additional children since then and I do not allow anyone to stay with us. We (DH and I) do it ourselves. I am also a postpartum RN. Part of my discharge instructions are for the mother to care for her baby. Visitors are great for laundry and food preparation.... new mommies need to be mommies!

Anonymous said...

I am going through this right now. The family were all annoyed because I told them they were not invited to come visit, but I knew it would turn into what you described...them holding the baby while I hosted house guests. So it has been me and my husband taking are of the three of us and I have never been happier. My milk is still slow to come in, but at least we are making progress. She isn't even a week old yet!

Dem said...

Tricia- that is great that you tell your patients that!

Alotalot- way to stand up for your family!

Dill Family said...

Love this! Even though my baby had to be in the NICU for 20 days, I was there every day for 12 hours holding him and trying to nurse. We had a hard start, he had a poor suck and had to be additionally tube fed but we went through the motions and I pumped what he couldn't get. We finally got the real thing down at 2 months and went strong until he was 16 months! Best HARD work I've done, I've never been more proud of myself or my body. I know beyond a doubt that it's the reason my son is so healthy today!

Dem said...

That is wonderful that you stuck with it! My son was in the NICU for 10 days, so I know where you are coming from. It can be so discouraging when you get off to a rough start.

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