Advice for Expecting Moms

50 Pieces of advice for expecting moms from real, first time moms

Updated January 15th 2023

I asked my Instagram audience a while back to share with me advice that they would give either a first time mom or themselves when they were pregnant and an amazing thing happened.

Answers came in multiples! 5+ people would say the same thing about a particular topic. It’s amazing because it reassures you that you’re not alone when it comes to the experiences of pregnancy and postpartum.

I sorted through them to bring you 50 of the best, most helpful responses. You’ll notice a theme as you’re reading through. Share with me in the comments if you pick up on it.

50 Pieces of advice for expecting moms from real, first time moms

  1. Plan ahead – learn about vaginal delivery as well as c-section and recovery
  2. Trusts your instincts
  3. Get yourself gift cards before you deliver for guilt free spoiling
  4. Breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks! The road is exhausting but try to enjoy your LO
  5. Lower your expectations and understand biologically what baby’s sleep looks like
  6. Take a course, prepare food for months
  7. Please read more on breastfeeding
  8. Give yourself time. Be easy on yourself. It takes time
  9. Learn a lot before delivery!!! I regret that I knew nothing. I was clueless
  10. Just go with the flow
  11. Work with a lactation consultant before baby is born
  12. Search for a breastfeeding consultant and take it 1 day at a time.
  13. Please don’t give up on breastfeeding. It will get better and easier
  14. Go to therapy. Seek help if you need it.
  15. Invest in classes with a lactation consultant
  16. Education is key to breastfeeding success.
  17. Doulas are amazing.
  18. Be patient and take time for your body to heal.
  19. Prepare baby’s room during the second trimester
  20. Talk to someone and get on top of your mental health
  21. Be gentle on yourself and give it time
  22. This too shall pass
  23. Accept all the help
  24. Keep a list handy of what you need from others
  25. Prepare meals and freeze them
  26. It does get better and easier but ask for all the help you can along the way
  27. Take all the classes! My biggest mistake was not thinking I knew what I was in for
  28. Research a good IBCLC beforehand and get an appointment right after delivery (IBCLC stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)
  29. Discuss your expectations of support with your partner
  30. Reach out for support.
  31. You are not alone
  32. Trust your instincts and if that doesn’t work don’t be scared to seek help
  33. Make sure you have someone to talk to who will listen and only give the advice if you ask for it
  34. Go day by day. Nothing is as planned.
  35. Expect the unexpected
  36. The hormones are unreal
  37. Trust your gut and take all other suggestions and opinions with a grain of salt
  38. Go to therapy. Really important.
  39. Take a prenatal breastfeeding class
  40. Reach out for help. Don’t wait and suffer alone
  41. Take it one day at a time
  42. Organize meals
  43. Have a good support system.
  44. Invest in a lactation consultant and a doula instead of a fancy bassinet
  45. Take help when it is offered
  46. Use any support systems you have
  47. Learn about breastfeeding and babies before you give birth
  48. Set up a station with diapers and everything else you need in a few different rooms
  49. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page
  50. Prepare for breastfeeding and learn about normal infant eating patterns and behaviours with the Breastfeeding Before Baby Program!

These are really excellent pieces of advice covering your physical recovery and health as well as your emotional and mental health and relationship with your partner. And, over a fifth of these are about preparing for breastfeeding! Ok, so I added number 50 but the moms who shared advice here as well as the ones I talk to daily would encourage you to prepare ahead of time.

Breastfeeding might not come naturally and winging it isn’t a great idea

Especially because hospital staff won’t likely have the time you deserve to help you. Most hospital based IBCLCs are quite busy (often times there’s just one lactation consultant per shift) and only get a few minutes with each new mom and baby after birth. It’s barely enough time to observe a feeding and support you with latching techniques.

You can feel confident about your body’s ability to breastfeed, and introduce yourself to the key foundations of having a successful breastfeeding experience ahead of time. Planning in advance also allows your partner time to learn about the experience and what normal infant feeding and sleeping patterns look like. It will also help you partner learn about ways they can bond with the baby and there are tons that are not feeding related!

If you want to learn a little more about breastfeeding and what to expect postpartum before jumping into a class, download my FREE Postpartum Prep Guide

This guide will provide you with a packing for delivery list, a list of items that YOU need postpartum for healing and recovery (it’s not just about your baby) and some tips and guidance around breastfeeding including breastfeeding positions

Alex Wachelka is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, mother of two and her practice Motherhood Blooms Lactation support parents and birth professionals both online and in person.

How to Donate or Receive Breastmilk

And how to safely store breastmilk if you’re donating or accepting donor milk

December 12th 2022

Did you know you could donate or receive breast milk to support feeding your baby? Not many parents outside of those with medically fragile babies in the NICU even know that human milk sharing is available to them! In the NICU, breast milk is sourced from formal Milk Banks which I’ll talk more about below.

Many families outside the NICU are quick to resort to formula instead of human milk because chances are, they didn’t even know they could access it. In 2019 when my first baby was born, it was suggested I use formula to supplement my baby with. I immediately asked if donor milk was an option and was told no because he was a healthy term baby born outside of the hospital. I didn’t know I could informally source milk from another local mom so we supplemented with formula.

This post will cover how to find a donor or recipient, milk bank donation, questions you should ask a donor as well as safe storage guidelines if you are donating or receiving.

How to find milk to donate or receive

There’s two ways to go about breastmilk sharing, informal or formal. Informal is mom to mom/parent to parent. There’s no one monitoring or regulating anything. You could donate to family, neighbours or even strangers. You’re taking this person for their word about what the have or have not been consuming/their health status if you’re accepting their milk.

It’s a donation basis and you can meet up with them locally to pick up or alternatively ship the milk to them. You need to find this person on your own and it’s completely up to you to ask them about their lifestyle habits. You can find a donor by joining a local mom Facebook group or your local Human Milk 4 Human Babies Facebook group. Another is Eats on Feets. You can search “human milk for human babies + [your city name]” to see what comes up for you. You may need to join a local region rather than a specific city one depending on where you live. Once you’re accepted into these groups you can post that you either have or are looking for breast milk.

Formal is going through a milk bank (such as the Human Milk Banking Association of North America) which has very strict guidelines. Only milk from those people who pass these strict screening guidelines are accepted. It requires a blood test in addition to other screenings (including a phone screening) to be able to donate. They will send you a box to donate (once you’ve passed all the tests) and typically require a large volume of 100-150oz. Once this milk is received at the donation centre, it’s all pooled and undergoes pasteurization. This pasteurization is to remove any harmful bacteria and pathogens like viruses. lt’s is often reserved for infants in the NICU and you need a prescription to access it.

Informal donation: What to ask your donor

So you’ve found a donor inside a Facebook group! Before you accept their milk, you should ask them questions about their habits, lifestyle and how they collect milk and care for their pump parts to ensure you feel good about receiving their milk.

Questions you should ask include:

  • What supplements and/or medications they take
  • If they consume caffeine and or alcohol
  • Do they smoke
  • If they have any recent recreational drug use
  • Many moms want to know Covid vaccine status which you can also ask about
  • Ask about how they collect and store the milk to ensure they have proper cleaning, handling and storage techniques (example: how do they wash their pump parts, how often are they washed, how long is the milk in the fridge before it’s frozen)

Never pay for breastmilk unless it’s from a milk bank. This is because it can easily be altered with water (which is dangerous for your baby) and/or people can make claims like “high fat milk” – something they cannot prove. You can offer a donor of a very large donation or a long term donor the option of replacing pumping bags for them. It’s not essential but is a nice gesture.

My Story

I shared at the start of this post that I asked about donor milk when my first was born but had no idea I could access it from another mom so we used formula. My first breastfeeding experience changed my life in more ways than one but one thing it did do, was make me think about donating the next time I had a baby.

As I write this, I have been able to donate over 80oz of milk (over 2300mL). The first 50oz (about 1478 mL) went to one baby in need and the next 30oz (887mL) or so went to a second. I thought a lot about donating milk during my pregnancy because I know first hand how hard breastfeeding can be but I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to pump to be able to create an oversupply to donate. In order to donate milk and have my baby be exclusively breastfed, I needed to make more than what he needed so pumping and removing milk outside of 8-12+ nursings a day would be needed.

After my baby was born I used lots of hand expression and some pumping to help ensure my production remained high enough so that we didn’t have to supplement through his feeding difficulties. I would collect 1 oz maybe 2oz (30-60mL) every other day or so and I would just freeze it because my son was exclusively nursing. As his sleep patterns changed and he began sleeping 3-4 hours overnight, my body would wake me up before him so I would just hand express until I was comfortable and save that milk.

That adds up pretty quickly and before I knew it I had over 50oz in my freezer and my son was exclusively nursing. So I joined my local Human Milk for Human Babies group on Facebook and shared that I had milk available for donation. I ended up reaching out to a mom who posted she was in need because no one had responded to my post (it’s a big group and posts are easily missed!) She had a few extra questions for me around how I collected and stored the milk. From there, we made an arrangement for her to come pick it up from me. The second donation followed a very similar process.

These will likely be the only two families I help as I am no longer collecting milk. As someone who struggled with her first breastfeeding journey and through that experience realized my call to become an IBCLC, it feels so wonderful to be able to support other moms and babies in need beyond my everyday role.

Safe Storage Guidelines

Knowing how to safely store milk is important whether you’re storing milk to donate or accepting donor milk to feed to your baby. Freshly expressed milk should be frozen within 4 days. Always label the milk bag with the date it was expressed and how much is in the bag. Freeze the milk in small amounts of 2 to 4 ounces to avoid wasting any. Breastfed babies consume an average of 2-4 oz per feeding of milk from 1-6 months old – depending on how often they feed in 24 hours. After 6 months it actually doesn’t change much either this is just when solids are introduced to help meet their nutritional needs.

Ideally, store milk in the back of the freezer (or refrigerator before it’s frozen) and not in the door. This is because the temperature is most consistent at the back. When freezing, leave an inch of space at the top of the container; breast milk expands as it freezes. Lay the bags down flat to freeze them as a “brick”. This makes for easier storage later.

Frozen milk can be stored in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours when you are traveling to collect milk from a donor or dropping it off to a recipient.

Thawing: Always thaw the oldest milk first. Thaw milk under lukewarm running water, in a container of lukewarm water, or overnight in the refrigerator. Never thaw or heat milk in a microwave. Microwaving creates hot spots which can burn a baby’s mouth. Use milk within 24 hours of thawing in the refrigerator (from the time it is completely thawed, not from the time when you took it out of the freezer). Use thawed milk within 2 hours of bringing to room temperature or warming.

Never refreeze thawed milk. If you lose power to your freezer, and the milk begins to thaw, as long as there are ice crystals in the milk it can safely be re-frozen. 

Feeding: Milk can be served cold, room temperature, or warm. All babies have different preferences. To heat milk, place the sealed container into a bowl of warm water or hold under warm running water. Do not heat milk directly on the stove or in the microwave. Alternatively, you can use a bottle warmer if you have one but you can make do without one. Test the temperature before feeding it to your baby by putting a few drops on your wrist. It should feel warm, not hot.

If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to me.

A few final thoughts

Only you know if sourcing donor milk or wanting to donate feels right for you and your baby. It can be an amazing gift to provide for a mother and baby in need. It also feels great on the receiving end to be able to provide your baby with the powers of breastmilk.

If you do informally source donor milk, be sure to ask the donor questions. If they’re not willing to answer all your questions, they’re not the donor for you.

Interested in learning more about breastfeeding including tips and tricks to help things feel easier for both you and your baby?
Breast, pump or bottle, my free weekly email is filled with support and insights to help you on your journey

Holiday Booby Traps: Avoiding Mastitis and other issues

How to manage a baby and breastfeeding during the holidays

Updated November 15th 2022

The holidays are here and with it can come a lot of stress and worries or concerns over your family and your new baby. I’m going to start with a little story. I had a 4 week old at Christmas back in 2019. I was a first time mom, newly postpartum and I was having a very difficult time breastfeeding. I was exhausted and stressed. That Christmas should have just been my husband and I and our new baby, but that’s not how it went.

I reluctantly agreed to have some family over for Christmas. Because we lived far away from family at that time, they were also ALL staying in my home. Making the decision to have multiple people staying in my home for Christmas added to the stress I was experiencing. It didn’t help that I asked half of them to book a hotel and they flat out refused.

There is SO MUCH going on when you have a brand new baby and the holidays can bring added stress and challenges. I’m going to provide you some tips for making your life easier and still focusing on yourself and your baby during this time.

Holiday Booby Trap Number One: missing feeding cues

It’s important to know babies can become overstimulated. Newborns and young babies can easily become overwhelmed. They will express this overwhelm by crying, fussing and becoming irritable. Bringing them to a quiet, dark space will help. This helps to shut out the distractions and will be very helpful when nursing them. You may also find they want to nurse more. This is because the act of suckling helps regulate their nervous system.

Watch them for feeding cues as well. Catching those early hunger cues which include stirring, their mouth opening, turning their head side-to-side and rooting around can be missed if your baby is with another family member. When a baby escalates those hunger cues to stretching, bringing their hands to mouth and moving around more, a family member may try to shush them in the hopes of soothing them or pop a pacifier into their mouth. This will then start to spread out feedings which can put you at an increased risk of breast inflammation leading to blocked ducts and possibly mastitis (see below for more on this).

When these early cues and escalations are missed, babies start to cry, turn red and get very agitated. This may be the point that Aunt Rita says “let’s get you to mommy” for a feeding but at this point, your baby is going to need to be calmed by you before they will feed.

When a baby is crying because they are hungry, this is more of a distress signal than a true hunger cue so rocking, bouncing, singing, cuddling – any number of these things may need to happen before your baby is in a calm enough space to latch on and feed.

>> For more tips around breastfeeding a newborn in the first two weeks, check out my post ’14 tips for breastfeeding in the first 14 days’

person covering infant with swaddling blanket
Photo by Isaac Taylor on Pexels.com

Holiday Booby Trap Number Two: Christmastitis; how to avoid getting mastitis around the holidays

Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the breast. It’s on a spectrum along with engorgement, plugged ducts and a few other issues. If you notice a red, shiny streak on your breast paired with a fever, chills or body aches, these are signs of mastitis.

This can happen:

  • If you miss a feeding or a pumping session (easy to happen when you’re at holiday parties or with lots of family)
  • If you space out the time between feedings (whether intentionally or unintentionally)
  • If your baby isn’t effectively removing milk at the breast. This could be due to their latch or poor positioning at the breast
  • If you are using the wrong flange size when pumping
  • If you have an abundant milk supply (oversupply)
  • If there’s lots of pressure against your breast such as with a tight fitting bra (because you’re in your holiday clothes). Find a comfortable and supportive bra designed for nursing or pumping

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recently released a brand new protocol for managing mastitis. The focus is on reducing the inflammation. Breastfeed and remove milk as usual. The newest guidelines suggest there’s no need to try and “empty” the breast like outdated guidelines recommend. Excess pumping can increase inflammation further making matters worse and potentially leading to an overproduction which is an entirely new challenge to manage.

USE GENTLE MASSAGE AND COLD

Gentle breast massage to move the excess fluid towards the armpits to the lymphatic system can help. Your breasts are not muscle tissue and should not be treated as such. Hard, vigorous massage can physically damage delicate milk making tissue and your breasts and further increase inflammation. Think of it like a sprained ankle, treat it gently and with care. Use cold after milk removals (nursing or pumping) whether it’s a cold pack, a fancy ice pack for breasts specifically or a bag of frozen peas.

A great video about gentle breast massage is below. This technique helps elongate and gently stretch the milk ducts. It’s called breast gymnastics and was developed by IBCLC Maya Bolman.

https://www.mayabolman.com/videos/v/breastgymnastics

REDUCE INFLAMMATION

Reducing inflammation can include anti inflammatory foods as well as over the counter medications like Advil and Tylenol. These are compatible with breastfeeding. This is a great resource to check for medications.

Holiday Booby Trap Number Three: getting stressed out

The holidays bring their own special kind of stress. Stress hormones can interfere with oxytocin and your let-down. They can also impact your overall production (noticing a dip in your supply).This can make breastfeeding feel more stressful. Supporting milk production by reducing stress is about reducing your stress hormones and increasing oxytocin.

Taking time away in a quiet dark room with your baby can help. Watching videos or looking at pictures of your baby while you’re pumping can help support your let-down. Smelling something of your baby’s can also help.

It’s about finding ways to calm and relax yourself. When your stress hormones are low, your body can optimize oxytocin and prolactin. Maybe this means listening to music you enjoy while feeding your baby. Or maybe it’s using an essential oil you love while in the shower. Maybe you can find 5 minutes to sit still and deep breathe. All of these activities can naturally reduce stress hormones in your body and help to increase your milk production.

If it’s feeling like it’s too much, tell your company you need to feed the baby and take a time out. Go into the bedroom or nursery and spend 30-45 minutes alone with your baby skin to skin. Skin to skin releases oxytocin which is a feel-good hormone that relaxes both of you. Your baby should be in just a diaper and you undressed from the waist up. Your baby can breastfeed during this time if they want to but they can also just rest or sleep. This will help calm the both of you and give you much needed time alone.

>> if you’re wondering what else might be affecting your supply, grab my free video here

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Holiday Booby Trap Number Four: feeling family pressure

You are in charge of who is allowed to come over and for how long. You’re also in charge of your decisions to visit family in their homes or go to parties. It can be very difficult as a new parent to tell family you don’t want them over for an extended period of time but if the people visiting are close enough to be spending time with your new baby, you should be able to set some rules with them.

Set boundaries and stick to them and say NO whenever you need to. They don’t have to hold your baby. You do not have to justify your decisions, whatever they may be. You are the expert of your own baby.

When you’re navigating questions from family like “why don’t you use a bottle?” or “why are you giving him a pacifier?” or unsolicited advice like “just let her cry” or “you’re going to spoil him” you can simply respond with “because this is what works for us” and by the way, babies can’t be spoiled.

Holiday Booby Trap Number Five: worried about what you’re eating

When you are lactating your energy needs are higher than when you were pregnant. Make sure you’re eating enough. Don’t worry so much about what you’re eating but that you’re eating. It’s so busy being a new mom and if you have company over, even moreso.

The holidays are filled with foods that will support your postpartum recovery and milk supply. Protein is very important when it comes to your body healing and your energy levels. It also has a role in milk production because it helps balance your blood sugar. Turkey and ham are great holiday sources of protein. So is roast beef which is also a great source of iron, a mineral needed for milk production. Nuts are also a great snack filled with protein, fat and fibre to support you postpartum.

Other holiday themed foods that can support milk production include oats, dates, molasses, apricots, fennel, sweet potato, almonds and dark leafy greens to name a few.

>> You can learn more about foods that support milk supply and other ways to help your body maximize your milk production inside the Milk Supply Masterclass.

TL;DR

  • Follow your baby’s cues and feed them when they’re hungry. This will help ensure you’re not at risk for blocked ducts and mastitis. If you exclusively pump, keep to your schedule as best you can
  • Create some quiet time with your baby
  • Use gentle massage and cold on your breasts if you feel mastitis coming on
  • It’s ok to say no
  • Eat and enjoy yourself

Have questions? Join my private support group on Facebook and connect with other new moms.

Save yourself hours spent on google and connect directly with me and my community. I’d love to have you join us!

Was this helpful?

References:

Bonyata, K. (2018 January 15). Hunger cues: when do I feed my baby? Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/bf/normal/hunger-cues/

Hetzel Campbell, S., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Katrina B. Mitchell, Helen M. Johnson, Juan Miguel Rodríguez, Anne Eglash, Charlotte Scherzinger, Kyle Widmer, Pamela Berens, Brooke Miller, and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. (May 2022). Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinical Protocol #36: The Mastitis Spectrum, Revised 2022.Breastfeeding Medicine.360-376.http://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2022.29207.kbm

Newman, J., & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s guide to breastfeeding. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.

Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The breastfeeding atlas (6th ed.). Manchaca, Tex.: LactNews Press.

Breastfeeding, Fertility and Birth Control

Updated June 6th 2022

You’ve likely had someone tell you that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding only to have someone else tell you they got pregnant 3 months after having a baby

What’s the right answer? Should you be able to rely on breastfeeding as a method of birth control?

You can get pregnant while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding doesn’t fully prevent pregnancy however, breastfeeding within the first 6 months may be used as a method of birth control when specific conditions are being met. Even then, it’s not a method that works for everyone so always talk with your partner and your primary care provider to discuss your options.

Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM for short) is considered a non-hormonal method of preventing pregnancy. This method uses 3 measures of fertility:

1. Return of your menstrual period

2. Your breastfeeding patterns

3. The age of your baby

How does LAM work?

Breastfeeding naturally suppress fertility (ovulation) but only when it’s the exclusive method of feeding your baby (more on this below).

Bleeding in the first 56 days after birth is not your period. This is called Lochia and happens when the placenta detaches from the uterus. So if you haven’t had any bleeding after those first 56 days and your cycle has not returned, you’ve met the first criteria for LAM.

How often you breastfeed also affects how LAM works. To be able to use LAM as birth control, a second criteria needs to be met: you have to be exclusively breastfeeding.

This means all feedings are happening at the breast and you’re not using pacifiers or pumping. As soon as pacifiers or pumping is introduced, the effectiveness of this method decreases. You baby also cannot be receiving any other liquids or foods. If solids are introduced prior to 6 months, again, the effectiveness of this method significantly decreases. You also cannot be going longer than 6 hours between feedings which means your baby needs to be feeding at breast during the night. Basically, all boob all the time.

Finally, if you’ve met the above 2 criteria and are nursing a baby under 6 months old, the studies show that the chance of becoming pregnant is about 2%. This means when all 3 criteria are met, LAM can be 98% effective as a method of birth control.

woman holding child and breastfeeding
Photo by Helena Jankovičová Kováčová on Pexels.com
What are the advantages of LAM?

It can work for up to 6 months after birth which is quite a while. It’s also effective right away (there’s no delay or waiting period) and very convenient. Using this method means there are no added hormones that can affect your breastmilk production. Some birth control methods especially those that age estrogen based can reduce your milk supply. Finally, breastfeeding provides many other health benefits for both you and your baby.

Your baby has a reduced risk of allergies and asthma, reduced risk of future obesity and diabetes and your risks of breast and ovarian cancer are decreased. You also have a reduced risk of future cardiovascular disease when you breastfeed.

What are the disadvantages?

The reality is that it may be difficult for some to fully or nearly-fully breastfeed. It’s common to face challenges as breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby.

Situations such as your baby not latching, oral ties or separation may require you to pump and supplement that milk to your baby in another way. Some circumstances require supplementation with formula. Any of these situations would affect the effectiveness of LAM because the frequency your baby is at the breast would be reduced.

It’s also only effective for up to 6 months after you have your baby after that, you and your partner need to have a plan.

When is LAM no longer effective?

If any of the 3 criteria/conditions are not met, the effectiveness of LAM is reduced and you can no longer rely on this method.

Anything that would reduce prolactin levels (the milk making hormone) can lead to your period returning sooner because it increases the chances of ovulation happening.

This would include:

  • Pacifiers
  • Pumping
  • Bottles
  • Scheduled feedings
  • Sleep training
  • Not feeding during the night

All of these space out feedings and reduce the frequency of prolactin being stimulated because baby is not at breast.

Prolactin, the milk making hormone, inhibits two hormones needed for ovulation: FSH & LH. When feedings at breast are spaced out (as mentioned above) there is more opportunity for the ovulation hormones to rise because prolactin levels aren’t remaining as high.

Night time feeds have a big impact on how quickly ovulation returns as well because prolactin levels actually rise overnight.

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What happens when your cycle returns?

Everyone’s body and feeding journey is different so there is quite a range for when your period may return. It may happen as early as 6 weeks after birth and for others, they have no period for 2+ years while breastfeeding.

When your cycle does return, you might experience a temporary dip in milk production. This can lead to your baby displaying fussy behaviour and suddenly clinging to you and feeding around the clock. This dip is often temporary and it’s is normal and very common if it happens.

For some, after a few cycles they don’t notice a dip anymore and for others, every months they notice a dip in their supply.

You will still continue to make enough milk for your baby. Continue to feed your baby when they display hunger cues and work with a lactation consultant if you’re finding it difficult.

You can also check out this blog I wrote about 4 ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.

Can you take hormonal birth control while breastfeeding?

Hormonal birth control has the potential to impact your milk supply⁣ especially when taken within the first 2 months of giving birth.⁣

⁣Many doctors will suggest a progestin-only form of birth control as it’s less likely to have a negative impact on milk production⁣. Progesterone (a hormone) inhibits prolactin (the milk making hormone)⁣. Higher levels of progesterone can cause a reduced milk production for some people⁣.

⁣Even though these hormonal birth control methods are considered to be low risk for your baby – they may not be low risk when it comes to your feeding goals. Keep in mind everyone’s body is different⁣. Some see no impact on their production while others do 

⁣If you had a previous breast reduction, have thyroid issues or any challenges with infertility you are at an increased risk for lower supply and hormonal birth control could further reduce your supply so always review your options with your care provider and work with a lactation consultant to support your feeding goals.

References:

Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, March 17).Breastfeeding and fertility. Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/fertility/#:~:text=The%20Exclusive%20Breastfeeding%20method%20of,not%20menstruating%20due%20to%20breastfeeding.

Coly, Shirley. (n.d). LAM – The Lactation Amenorrhea Method. World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. https://waba.org.my/resources/lam/index.htm

My Health Alberta, (2018, November 2). Lactation Amenorrhea Method. MyHealth.Alberta.ca.https://myhealth.alberta.ca/sexual-reproductive-health/birth-control/natural-methods/lactation-amenorrhea

Vekemans M. (1997). Postpartum contraception: the lactational amenorrhea method. The European journal of contraception & reproductive health care : the official journal of the European Society of Contraception2(2), 105–111. https://doi.org/10.3109/13625189709167463

Is Breast Always Best?

Lactation Lessons From An Expert

Updated April 22nd 2022

What does “breast is best” really mean? And is it true? I recently sat down to be interviewed by Megan Pearson at The Fertile at 40 Podcast to talk all things lactation.

Megan and I quickly discovered that we shared many similarities in our breastfeeding journeys. We were both experiencing painful feedings, we both had a gut feeling that something else was going on and we both lacked the support we really needed.

We sat down to discuss:

  • What I think about the saying “breast is best“⁠
  • How new parents can set themselves up for breastfeeding success⁠
  • How older women can support themselves in the breastfeeding journey⁠
  • What foods can help with milk supply⁠
toddler taking a photo of her parents
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com
We talked about how pain isn’t normal

A big misconception around breastfeeding is that it’s supposed to be painful. Breastfeeding should be enjoyable and comfortable, not painful; no matter what your mother-in-law says. A painful latch means we can improve something.

In the first few days/week your nipples might be tender. Mild soreness or tenderness can be normal provided pain goes away after a few seconds of your baby being latched, the pain doesn’t last the entire feeding, doesn’t show up after the feeding has ended and there are no concerns over milk supply or weight gain.

If you’re dreading feeding or pumping due to pain or if you’re holding your breath while your baby latches, there’s a reason for your pain and you deserve to get skilled support. If someone tells you pain is normal or dismisses your concerns, that’s a red flag to find someone else knowledgeable in lactation.

We talked about milk supply

Removing milk could be by your baby at a feeding or by a pump or by hand expression. What’s most important to consider is that the milk removal is effective. If milk is removed ineffectively, milk will be left behind in the breast. When milk is left behind, the body adapts and slows down milk production. When your baby is effectively removing milk because they have a good latch and you’re still concerned about your supply, you may start considering galactagogues.

There are foods and supplements (and medications) that can increase milk supply. These are called galactagogues. While there’s many products out there claiming to boost milk supply, it’s important to know galactagogues are not a “quick-fix”. Galactagogues will not stimulate a let down nor will they help empty the breasts. They need to be combined with an effective latch and frequent milk removal.

Grab my free video guide to what might be hindering your supply here.

We talked about skin to skin

Enjoying time skin-to-skin with your baby releases oxytocin which is the hormone that helps your milk let-down. In addition, this provides comfort and a safe space for your little one. Skin to skin helps regulate your baby’s body temperature and reduces stress in both your baby and you. A lower level of stress helps support milk production. Your baby is biologically wired to want to be close to you.  

You do skin to skin immediately following birth during the “golden hour” and can also do skin to skin in a warm bath after you’re home. This is another great environment to breastfeed your baby. Allow any attempt or opportunity your baby takes to breastfeed during skin to skin. The more often they are at the breast, the more opportunity to increase your supply.

We talked about support

This can make all the difference when it comes to reaching your breastfeeding goals. You need to be informed and supported. You deserve to work with someone skilled in lactation. The average pediatrician or nurse is not. You deserve the time and attention it takes to find the root of why you’re struggling.

You can listen to the full episode HERE

If you have questions when it comes to feeding your baby, join Breastfeeding Mavens. My free community where you can connect with other moms who are feeling just like you.

References:

Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The breastfeeding atlas (6th ed.). Manchaca, Tex.: LactNews Press.

Weaning: my personal experience weaning a toddler (part 2)

Part 2

Updated March 30th 2022

If you haven’t had the chance to read part 1 of my journey yet, read it here.

When I weaned my son, I didn’t tell anyone I weaned him. Here I am, a lactation expert, helping people solve breastfeeding challenges, encouraging natural term weaning and I was feeling guilty for weaning my child. I felt guilty for doing it even though I know all breastfeeding journey’s come to an end for different reasons.

Some would consider weaning a 17 month old extended breastfeeding. The World Health Organization currently recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months at which point solids are introduced and breastfeeding should continue alongside the solid foods until 2 years of age or the child decides to wean.

The global average age of weaning is 4. Many children in other parts of the world breastfeeding until this age or later. Here in North America, there is societal pressure to wean by age 1. Somewhere along the lines, the recommendation of at least 12 months, became “end at 12 months”. So by some standards, my son breastfed for a long time and by others, he was weaned early.

The days after he weaned, I went through an entirely new experience. Post weaning depression is feelings of sadness, irritability, feeling tearful or depressed after weaning. It’s thought it’s due to the shift in hormones and the reduction in prolactin and oxytocin after weaning. The more gradual the weaning process, the less likely you are to experience these emotions.

Even though my weaning process was slow, I did experience bouts of sadness, grief and some tearful moments. It’s a big change in your feeding relationship. Breastfeeding is truly that, a relationship. It’s so much more than just nutrition. So when this relationship comes to an end, it’s still a very difficult time

Weaning isn’t a linear process either. Because breastfeeding is a relationship, there will be times when your infant is upset, in pain, or needing closeness and they’ll want to breastfeed.

Here are a few suggestions if you’re feeling like you are ready to wean

Weaning suggestions for a toddler over the age of 12 months:

  • Start by dropping one feeding per week – e.g. you drop only the morning feeding for an entire week and see how that goes for you
  • Set boundaries – for example: we only breastfed in this chair, while mommy sings this song etc
  • Offer a distraction – snack, drink, toy, game, change of scenery etc
  • Hold space for big emotions – expect them to be upset and provide that connect with lots of cuddles, hugs, kisses and 1:1 time
  • Layer in new things before sleep – an extra book, a drink of water, a new game, a new song, an extra song, bouncing, rocking etc
  • Expect it to take time; the gradual weaning process can take months
  • It’s not a linear process. If they are teething, sick, upset, hurt – breastfeeding provides comfort, they may want to go back to the breast

If you’re needing to wean from a pump or wanting to just wean during the day and breastfeed in the mornings and at night and are needing some guidance, my on-demand class, Weaning With Love, has the answers!

woman breastfeeding her toddler under the tree
Photo by willsantt on Pexels.com

References:

Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, January 13th). Weaning techniques. Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/weaning-techniques/

Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, January 15th). Sadness and depression during (and after) weaning. Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/depression-and-weaning/

Pearson-Glaze, Philippa. (2021, February 25th). How to stop breastfeeding. Breastfeeding.Support. https://breastfeeding.support/how-to-stop-breastfeeding/

World Health Organization. (2020, August 24). Infant and young child feeding. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding#:~:text=WHO%20and%20UNICEF%20recommend%3A,years%20of%20age%20or%20beyond

Weaning: my personal experience weaning a toddler

Updated February 22nd 2022

Part 1

If you’re just finding me now, welcome! My name is Alex and I help breastfeeding moms have a calm and confident fourth trimester and breastfeed with ease. I am a lactation expert. My passion is helping parents breastfeed. I love working with families to support their infant feeding goals. I do this because I had a hard time myself.

My journey was filled with challenges, dismissal from care providers and a lot of hard work.

I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I understood it might not come naturally at first but I did not expect to have the challenging experience I did. I had just about every nursing struggle you can think of. While I didn’t have them all we struggled with: 

  • Incorrect latch due to Tongue tie and Lip tie 
  • Low Supply issues 
  • Cracked nipples 
  • Blisters 
  • Plugged ducts 
  • Mastitis 
  • Immense pain

It was incredibly challenging. I tried to work it out on my own for the first week or two but I knew I needed help. I saw a few lactation consultants and they were able to help us get the tongue and lip tie released but I did a lot on my own.

So much so that the more I discovered, the more I realized I was passionate about breastfeeding and lactation and helping others so they didn’t have to feel like I did.

It took 10 weeks to resolve our issues for me to reach my goal of exclusive breastfeeding. It was fairly smooth sailing from then on. Sure we went through the distracted feeding stage, starting solids, a baby learning to crawl and what that meant for breastfeeding but not anything that was truly making it difficult.

So when my period returned at 10 months postpartum, I started to experience a new chapter of my breastfeeding journey…aversion.

Every month, 3-4 days before my cycle would start I would begin to experience these feelings I could only describe as irritation. My son would latch and immediately I felt uncomfortable in my skin. It was like an itching sensation and at the same time incredibly irritating. After those days passed, things were back to normal.

©2022 Motherhood Blooms Lactation

This is a common phenomenon called breastfeeding aversion. It can happen at any time. Before your monthly menstrual cycle is a common occurrence. This happened monthly for me but only lasted 3-4 days.

Around 14-15 months, I had been experiencing breastfeeding aversion every month for 6-7 months. I used distraction techniques to manage the aversion. I would watch or read something on my phone, sing a song in my head, rub my knee, scratch my leg etc. I did this because I knew it wouldn’t last. My son was feeding 3-4x per day which was upon waking, before nap and then before bed so it was easily manageable for me.

When 15 months starting approaching 16 months, the aversion didn’t go away once my period came. I thought it was a bit odd but figured maybe an extra day or two and it would go away. That didn’t happen. Every day at every feeding I was feeling my skin crawl. I was irritated, my mood would shift and I had the urge to remove my son from the breast. I continued to try and distract myself because I so desperately wanted to breastfeed my son until he wanted to end on his own terms.

As each day passed, I had a decision to make. My son was nursing less often but he still wanted to breastfeed. I wanted to breastfeed him but my body was physically telling me otherwise.

There was one night where I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time I began the weaning process. My heart was breaking for the change in our relationship that was about to happen but I knew it was the right thing to do for my mental health.

There was one night where I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time I began the weaning process. My heart was breaking for the change in our relationship that was about to happen but I knew it was the right thing to do for my mental health.

Alex Wachelka, Motherhood Blooms Lactation™

I began with night feedings. He was waking once or twice (at 15 months) and I would nurse him back to sleep. The night I decided to wean him, when he woke, I offered him a sip of water from a straw cup (I introduced a straw cup early on). I picked him up, rocked him and then sat down in the nursing chair and just let him lay in my arms. The motion of rocking in the nursing chair put him back to sleep. Weaning does not guarantee your baby will not wake in the night as they wake for so many other reasons!

After a few days of this, changing his settling techniques to something other than nursing, I moved to the first feed of the day. My son was eating solids 3x daily with snacks at this point (now 16 months) so when he would wake in the morning, I got him ready for breakfast right away.

No offer of breastfeeding. This was the method that was going to work for me. At night time, I actively set the boundary he would not nurse. This would give me a longer stretch without him at my breast. For the daytime, my choice was don’t offer, don’t refuse. This meant if he signed for milk, tugged at my shirt or actively tried to breastfeed, I would allow it but I wasn’t going to offer.

This method doesn’t work for everyone. Some people DO want to offer at certain times and set boundaries at others. Every parent has their own unique situation and feelings around weaning their baby. Some toddlers nurse as often as newborns so the method of “don’t offer, don’t refuse” wouldn’t accomplish anything because your child would feed all day!

©2022 Motherhood Blooms Lactation™

He dropped the morning feeding almost immediately. The naptime and before bed feedings took a few weeks. I layered in new things to our routine and used different ways of soothing him to slowly remove breastfeeding.

It took a little over 2 months from the time I began weaning my son to when he actually weaned around 17 months. I chose mother-led weaning when I wanted it to be baby-led. I wanted my son to be able to choose. I did not want to make that decision for him but my body was telling me otherwise.

My supply was low at that point because he wasn’t feeding often (it was meeting his needs) so I just allowed my body the extra hours and would check in with my breasts for areas of firmness or engorgement. Because I chose a gentle weaning process, I didn’t experience any issues with engorgement or plugged ducts or pain.

Gently weaning, when it’s possible to do, is the most beneficial for the both of you. There are big emotions when weaning (more on that coming) and taking your time through the process is supportive for the both of you.

Are you thinking about weaning and not sure how to begin?

Wondering how to wean from night feeds only? Or maybe how to wean from the pump? Or how to stop completely?

Then my on-demand class Weaning With Love is for you!

References:

Hetzel Campbell, S., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Melissa A. Morns, Amie E. Steel, Erica McIntyre, Elaine Burns, “It Makes My Skin Crawl”: Women’s experience of breastfeeding aversion response (BAR), Women and Birth, 2022, ,ISSN 1871-5192,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2022.01.001.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871519222000014)

Starting Solids: a bittersweet milestone

Updated February 1st 2022

Starting solids is such an exciting milestone! Your baby has reached a new developmental stage and they are about to try foods other than breastmilk or formula for the first time. This milestone can also bring a lot of questions, worry and overwhelm. Questions about which foods to start with, baby-led weaning or purees, allergens, and more. This also brings a change in your feeding relationship which can make it bittersweet.

I am asked about starting solids all the time so I’m going to answer some very common questions I get around starting solids.

When can I start solids?

There’s so much different information on this one! You might hear anywhere between 4-6 months. 30 years ago 4 months was very common. There are many pediatrician’s out there providing outdated information to families so I am here to provide you with the current evidence.

The general recommendations from the World Health Organization as well as the Canadian Pediatric Society and the AAP is that breastmilk should be the exclusive form of nutrition for babies in the first 6 months of life. After 6 months, solids (also called complementary foods) can be introduced with breastfeeding continuing alongside for up to 2 years or when the child is ready to wean.

Solids are suggested when your baby is about 6 months old because their digestive system is much further developed to digest the new foods. Most of your immune system is within your gut. This also means their immune system is ready to handle other foods and protect their body against pathogens. The advice of 4 months old is very outdated. If your pediatrician recommended your baby start solids at 4 months because of weight gain concerns, connect with a lactation consultant. Starting solids will not correct a breastfeeding issue.

How do I know if my baby is ready?

While 6 months is the general guideline, it doesn’t mean that when your baby turns 6 months, they are magically ready for solids. All babies are different. Few babies are ready sooner than this and some are ready slightly later than this. This would also include babies born prematurely. We want to use their corrected age for beginning solids.

This is why it’s important to be watching your baby for cues he or she is ready for solids. These cues include:

  • Shoulder and neck muscles are strong enough for good head control (we want baby to be able to turn their head side to side without it flopping over)
  • Baby can sit up relatively unassisted 
  • Tongue thrust reflex is gone (this means they won’t automatically push food out of their mouth and ensures they can safely swallow food)
  • Baby can grab objects and bring them to their mouth
  • Greater interest in foods the family is eating (this alone does not indicate readiness)
  • May open their mouth if food is coming their way
  • You can still begin solid introduction if your baby is displaying the above sign of readiness but still does not have any teeth
Should I start with Baby-led weaning?

Baby-led weaning also called baby-led feeding, is a method of self feeding. This method helps babies learn to self-feed and explore their foods. This method of feeding also ensures the baby paces the feeding themselves and allows them to listen to their own hunger cues. Babies are very intuitive eaters and we want to continue to develop that when they begin solids. Allowing them to self feed really helps encourage this.

Purees was the gold standard of food introduction for a while and still a preferred way to begin for some. With puress, to encourage self-feeding, you can preload the spoon and allow your baby to pick it up and insert it into their mouth themselves (see below image).

If you are using the baby-led weaning approach, foods are generally offered in large strips until your baby develops the pincer grasp around 8-9 months. This is where they can use their first finger and thumb to create a “claw crab” and pick up smaller pieces o food. As a general rule, if you can squish the food between your fingers means it’s soft enough for your baby to mash with their gums. Because remember, your baby does not have to have teeth erupted to start solid foods.

Do I need to pump when my baby is having solids?

The short answer is no. As your baby gradually begins to consume more solids, they will slowly begin to consume less breastmilk and the feeding intervals may increase.  This can be a bittersweet moment for some. You baby is reaching a new and exciting milestone and at the same time, it’s going to change your breastfeeding relationship. Provided you continue to nurse your baby on demand, your body will gently down regulate your supply to match your baby’s needs. Yes, over time, breastmilk will be replaced with more solids. This may mean your baby now eats every 3 ½-4 hours instead of every 3. Each baby is different but continuing to follow your baby’s cues will mean your supply will adapt. Babies breastfeed for many reasons beyond nutrition. They will continue to nurse for food but also comfort, if they are sick, tired, upset etc.

If you’re also formula feeding, you may notice over time you need to make up smaller bottles or change the frequency of the bottles. Always follow your baby’s lead.

To learn everything you need to know to feel confident about starting solids grab a spot in my on demand class.

  • Includes all of the above as well as
  • How to introduce foods
  • What foods to start with
  • How to introduce allergens
  • The difference between choking and gagging
  • Danger foods
  • And more including lifetime access to the class and the e-book so you can go back and rewatch

Grab a spot in my on-demand class

References:

Canadian Pediatric Society. (2021). Feeding your baby in the first year. Caringforkids.cps.ca. Retrieved from: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/pregnancy-and-babies/feeding_your_baby_in_the_first_year

Hetzel Campbell, S., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Infact Canada. (n.d). Complementary feeding: Starting solids. InfactCanada.ca. Retrieved from: http://www.infactcanada.ca/Complementary_Feeding_-_Starting_Solids.pdf

Newman, J., & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s guide to breastfeeding. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. 

World Health Organization. (2020, August 24). Infant and young child feeding. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding#:~:text=WHO%20and%20UNICEF%20recommend%3A,years%20of%20age%20or%20beyond

4 Signs Your Baby’s Latch Might Not Be Ideal

Updated December 7th 2021

How are you supposed to know if your baby has a good latch when the most common thing you hear about breastfeeding is that it can hurt? While it’s common to hear this because yes, some people do have painful experiences, breastfeeding should not hurt. There should never be a time where you’re tightening up your body, bringing your shoulders to your ears or holding your breath in anticipation of the latch. If you’re experiencing that, your baby does not have an optimal latch.

What’s more important to me than what a latch looks like is how it feels. I ask every parent I work with how the latch feels. The latch could look pretty good from the outside but if you’re in pain, or uncomfortable or it’s causing damage to your nipples, then it’s not a good latch and something needs to be adjusted.

I spent weeks breastfeeding a baby with a painful latch. The latch was shallow so not only did it hurt but he was hardly removing any milk which wasn’t allowing my body to create a full milk supply. I know how frustrating, defeating and uncomfortable it is to nurse a baby with a less than ideal latch.

So let’s go through some of the most common reasons your baby’s latch might not be ideal.

1. You are in pain

Breastfeeding should be enjoyable and comfortable, not painful; no matter what your mother-in-law says. A painful latch means we can improve something. In the first few days/week your nipples might be tender. Mild soreness or tenderness can be normal provided pain goes away after a few seconds of your baby being latched, the pain doesn’t last the entire feeding, doesn’t show up after the feeding has ended and there are no concerns over milk supply or weight gain.

If you’re dreading feeding or pumping due to pain or if you’re holding your breath while your baby latches, there’s a reason for your pain and you deserve to get skilled support. If someone tells you pain is normal or dismisses your concerns, that’s a red flag to find someone else knowledgeable in lactation.

2. Your nipples are coming out pointed

When your nipples come out of your baby’s mouth as a different shape, this means the nipple is not reaching to where it should. Your baby’s tongue needs to lift the nipple and draw it all the way to the back of their mouth. When this doesn’t happen, the nipple is being compressed against the roof of your baby’s mouth (the hard palate).This is likely causing you pain and creating a white compression stripe on your nipples. Sometimes you may have a pointed nipple, like the tip of a pencil, in which case you should also reach out for specialized support.

If your nipples are not coming out rounded, it’s very likely your baby has a shallow latch. Why they have a shallow latch needs to be determined by a lactation consultant. It could be their positioning at breast, it could be related to their oral function or something else.

3. You don’t hear or see any swallows

Seeing or hearing your baby swallow is one of the signs your baby is getting milk. They may not be swallowing because they have a shallow latch. A deep latch is required for your baby to be able to remove milk. A shallow latch can reduce the amount of milk they are able to drink.

If your baby is not swallowing, they are not removing milk. This could be due to your supply or it could just be because of their latch. This will not only affect their weight gain and growth but will also negatively impact your supply and may lead to a reduced production and require supplementation. Hearing a baby swallow sounds like a soft “K” sound. When looking for swallows, you can watch their chin, jaw and ears. When they move rhythmically, milk is being swallowed. Here’s a video of what swallowing looks like.

4. Baby’s chin is not touching your breast

Or their nose is pressed into your breast. Their chin needs to be against the breast for a deep, effective latch. If their chin is not, it’s likely a shallow latch which will also be painful and reduce milk removal. For your baby to get a deep latch, they need to “lead with their chin” as you’re bringing them to the breast. This allows their chin to touch the breast first which encourages a wide latch.

Keeping your baby very close to you (touching tummy to tummy) will help their chin to touch the breast as they open their mouth to latch.

Why might this be happening?

Your baby’s latch could be shallow for several different reasons. It could just be how their body is positioned and some small adjustments can make the difference. Baby’s born prior to 37 weeks can have some challenges coordinating the suck-swallow-breathe pattern babies need to eat. Sometimes babies have physical restrictions such as lip ties, buccal ties or tongue ties that are affecting their ability to get a deep latch. Sometimes babies have tension in their bodies from delivery or oral restrictions. Sometimes low muscle tone can affect a baby’s ability to latch. All of these situations require the skilled support of a lactation consultant to help you get to the root of the problem and then provide you solutions.

To recap, if you’re in pain and/or your nipples are a different shape after feeding and/or your baby isn’t swallowing much during feeds and/or their chin isn’t often on the breast, they likely do not have an ideal latch. It’s best you work with a lactation consultant to pinpoint exactly what’s going on so you can get tailored support specific to you and your baby.

If you have questions, join Breastfeeding Mavens. My free community where you can connect with other moms who are feeling just like you.

References:

Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

La Leche League International (LLLI). (2021). Pain: General. Retrieved from: https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/pain-general/

Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The breastfeeding atlas (6th ed.). Manchaca, Tex.: LactNews Press.

5 Tips to Boost Your Milk Supply

Updated October 29th 2021

Are you catching yourself comparing what you produce to someone else online? ⁣⁣Social media is filled with with images of collection bottles filled to the caps and bags upon bags upon bags of frozen milk. It’s no wonder you’re comparing yourself and feeling bad.

⁣⁣Most of what you see is either an over production or from some who exclusively pumps or is false and it’s days upon days worth in one image⁣⁣. What you produce depends on numerous factors including the time of day and how relaxed your body is. The average breast milk production for an infant over 4 weeks old is 3-5oz combined total from both breasts. This means if you were to pump in place of a feeding, you would pump somewhere around this number, again, from both – combined! The average breastmilk fed infant drinks about 25-30 oz per day. That’s over a 24 hour period.

Your baby’s appetite will fluctuate just like yours does. Some days more and some days less⁣⁣. Some people produce more for their baby because their baby eats more. Your baby is their own person with their own needs.

There are of course, times where you may not be producing enough. Usually you would be working with a lactation consultant to determine the root cause of your low supply. This is a topic I cover quite often with clients. You’re not alone if you’re concerned about your supply. So, I’ve put together a few of the top suggestions I provide to clients.

Optimal Latch

More importantly than what a latch looks like is how it feels. I ask every parent I work with how the latch feels. The latch could look pretty good from the outside but if you’re in pain, or uncomfortable or it’s causing damage to your nipples, then it’s not a good latch and something needs to be adjusted.

A good latch should feel comfortable. You should feel a gentle tugging/pulling/stretching sensation. If you’re feeling anything other than that, the latch should be assessed by a professional. This includes compressing (nipple comes out squished) pinching or pain.

An optimal latch means your baby is able to drink milk so watching your baby for swallowing is a great sign they are getting milk. If they are drinking milk, it means milk is being removed from the breast which is ultimately how milk supply works. The more often milk is removed, the faster it is made (which means an increase!).

This short video explains the reason an effective latch can help support milk production.

Skin to skin

This is probably the most underutilized tool when it comes to increasing milk production. Spending time skin to skin means having your baby in a diaper on your bare chest. You can wear a bathrobe and just open it or be completely shirtless. Whatever you choose, you should be undressed from the waist up. Your baby should be in just a diaper. If it’s a little cool you can keep a light blanket over you both, making sure not to cover your baby’s head.

Enjoying time skin-to-skin with your baby releases oxytocin which is the hormone that helps your milk let-down. In addition, this provides comfort and a safe space for your little one. Skin to skin helps regulate your baby’s body temperature and reduces stress in both your baby and you. A lower level of stress helps support milk production. Your baby is biologically wired to want to be close to you.  

You can also do skin to skin in a warm bath. This is another great environment to breastfeed your baby. Allow any attempt or opportunity your baby takes to breastfeed during skin to skin. The more often they are at the breast, the more opportunity to increase your supply.

Relax and Reduce Stress

It’s hard being a parent whether this is your first baby or your third. Having a baby changes your life and creates stress on your body. Your body is physically stressed due to a lack of sleep and just everyday life. Your body can also be nutritionally stressed. There are key vitamins and minerals you need more of when you are postpartum and lactating.

This stress can impact your body’s ability to produce milk. I like to encourage my clients to find a few relaxing activities and techniques to incorporate into their day. Most of these don’t take more than 5 minutes so very easy to fit into a busy day spent caring for a small person. These techniques and activities could include aromatherapy, journalling, deep breathing and meditation to name a few.

©2021 Alex Wachelka, Motherhood Blooms Lactation™ | All Rights Reserved.

Hand Expression

Hand expression is a valuable skill for all lactating parents to have. It is not cost prohibitive because all you need is your hands! It’s been shown that hand expression increases breastfeeding rates when compared to pumping at 2 months postpartum.

Hand expression is useful in the first 24 hours after birth as it can help assist with the transition from colostrum to copious milk production (your milk “coming in”) and assist with colostrum collection. Hand expression is also useful when working to increase supply because you can use this technique after your baby feeds at the breast or after you pump.

To learn more about hand expression and how to perform this technique, click here. I wrote an entire blog post dedicated to the subject!

Feed on Demand (aka Responsive Feeding)

If you have a newborn, your baby is experiencing hunger for the very first time. They had 24/7 access to nutrition via the umbilical cord in utero. It’s normal for them to want to feed every 1-3 hours. Often, it’s on the lower end of that.

Newborns eat frequently and the best thing you can do for your milk supply and breastfeeding is to feed them on demand. This is known as responsive feeding and essentially, is feeding your infant whenever they cue they are hungry.

These early hungry cues include your baby starting to open their mouth and smacking their lips. Your baby will begin rooting and turning their head. They will begin to increase their movement (arms and hands moving) and start to become more vocal to eventual crying if they are very hungry. Crying is a late sign of hunger. It’s actually a distress signal and it can make for a very frustrating and difficult time trying to latch them. You baby will need to be calmed first before trying to latch them.

Feeding an older baby should follow the same principle. As soon as they let you know they are hungry, feed them. Spacing out feeding or deliberately waiting can signal to your body to slow down milk production which can begin to reduce your supply.

As you’ve realized if you’ve read this far, there is no quick fix for milk supply. And if something does claim to boost your supply overnight, it’s likely not backed by evidence. Yes, while there are people who claim a certain food or drink boosted their supply almost overnight, they likely just needed more calories and were a little dehydrated.

If you’ve tried everything on this list and checked out the associated links for more information but still find yourself struggling, connect with a lactation consultant. You deserve to work with someone skilled in lactation. The average pediatrician or nurse is not. You deserve the time and attention it takes to find the root of why you’re struggling.

Cheers to a confident breastfeeding experience!

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