Thursday, July 10, 2014

FAQ: How can I increase my supply so I can stop supplementing?

Of all the questions we hear from new mothers, this is one of the most common. There are a number of reasons that a mommy may end up supplementing her breastfed baby's intake with formula, but many mothers and pediatricians prefer babies to be exclusively breastfed, if possible. Here are some key pieces of information and basic steps you can take to help achieve exclusive breastfeeding for your child.

1) Call a lactation consultant. Every situation, every family, every mother, and every baby is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all fix, so if you're having any difficulty with breastfeeding or your milk supply, the first thing you should do is set up an appointment with a lactation consultant as early as you can. Lactation Consultants are trained to recognize latch and positioning problems, tongue and lip ties, and many other problems that can hinder your breastfeeding relationship. Don't balk at the cost: it often takes only one visit to point you in the right direction, and in the long run, it's much cheaper than buying formula!

2) Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand system. Particularly at the beginning, as you establish your supply, the only thing that will regulate how much you make is the frequency with which you completely drain the breast. A baby (even a newborn with a wonky latch) will always drain the breast more effectively and efficiently than a pump, which means that a nursing baby will stimulate your supply more than the pump will. If you've been relying mostly on pumping so far, that could be one reason why your supply hasn't caught up yet. Limiting feed times or adhering to a strict schedule instead of feeding on demand can also cause supply to lag.

3) An additional problem that might be going on if you're supplementing is a bottle preference. It's less work for a baby's mouth to get milk/formula from a bottle than it is to get it from the breast (literally, the tongue has to make a completely different motion), so many babies who are bottle-fed develop a bottle preference and become frustrated at the slower flow of the breast. A problem that comes with that is that they can drink more fluid in less time from the bottle, meaning their stomachs (which are TINY and usually can only hold an ounce or two as newborns) expand faster than they would were they drinking from the breast. And finally, breastmilk is metabolized much faster than formula, meaning a breastfed baby is hungry more often than a formula-fed baby.

As long as your baby can get his food from somewhere other than your breast, he won't be stimulating your production enough to increase your supply.

4) As long as your baby can get his food from somewhere other than your breast, he won't be stimulating your production enough to increase your supply. The most effective solution is also the most upsetting: Stop giving baby formula and offer the breast as often as possible. If he still wants to nurse after 40min, let him! If he wants to nurse again only a few minutes later, let him! If he wants to nurse 3 times in 2 hours, let him! Even if you think you have no milk left, you usually do, and better, if he really does manage to suck you dry, that means he's getting the fat-rich hindmilk, which is great for his weight gain! AND having him nurse you completely empty will send your supply into overdrive..... odds are you'll be engorged within 24 hours!

5) Some mothers who have been in this situation often recommend going into a quiet, dark room and just nursing for hours, some recommend trying skin-to-skin, some recommend co-sleeping, and so on: you'll find what works for you. And keep in mind that fussiness is not always hunger..... if she cries after eating, it could be gas, a wet diaper, tiredness, the desire to be held or swaddled, or just frustration. Keep in mind that your baby is likely to be upset and crying the first few days that you withhold the bottle, but as long as she's having regular wet and dirty diapers, she is healthy and there's no need for concern.

Make sure you are in communication and agreement with a pediatrician you trust at all times while transitioning your baby's diet, both for your child's safety and for your own peace of mind.

Keep calm and nurse on, mamas!

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