Name: Anna Burch
Certification: Registered Nurse (RN), International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Worked in women’s health for 5.5 years, and most importantly, a mom.
Passionate about: Educating women to help them feel more empowered and confident in their actions.
In the five and a half years that I have worked in women’s health, I have noticed something that bothers me. A huge number of women lack confidence in their body’s ability to breastfeed their baby(ies). My goal is it to help fix this confidence gap.
What’s your biggest worry when it comes to breastfeeding or breastmilk?
Most women worry about their milk supply.
- Am I going to be able to make enough milk to feed my baby?
- Is my baby getting enough milk?
- My baby is fussier and wants to eat all the time…does that mean that I’m not making enough milk?
- What should I do if breastfeeding really doesn’t work or can’t provide breastmilk?
I am going to answer these questions for you and help you understand your body, which will help you build confidence in your body’s ability to produce milk. It will also help empower you as a mother in deciding what is best for you and your baby.
Did you know that only 1-5% of women are physically unable to produce the breastmilk needed to feed their baby(ies) (1)?
The reasons that some women are not able to produce a “full milk supply” are due to health concerns such as insufficient glandular tissue, hypoplastic breast syndrome, some breast cancers, extensive breast surgeries, and other rare instances. That means that 95-99% of women shouldn’t have any issue producing the needed breastmilk.
The number one thing to know about breastmilk is that it is supply, and demand driven. The more milk demanded of your body, the more milk it will create. This is why it is so important to start breastfeeding, hand-expressing, or pumping, as soon after delivery as you can. It will signal your body to create more milk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that you breastfeed (or pump and feed) at least every 2-3 hours for your baby to get the needed nourishment (2). This means that you will be feeding your baby 8-12 times every 24 hours. Feeding this frequently helps signal your body that it needs to keep making milk. It also gives you and your baby plenty of mom-baby bonding time. Baby cuddles are the best, and not just because they’re good for your emotional balance…or maybe that is why they’re the best! Either way, I love them.
I’ve noticed that many moms start to question their milk supply during common growth-spurt times for baby. Here’s a quick list you can use to remember when the growth spurts usually happen (3):
- During the first few days at home
- Around 7-10 days
- 2-3 weeks
- 4-6 weeks
- 3 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
During a growth spurt, it is common for your baby to  get fussier between feeds,  want to breastfeed more often, and  wake up more often at night to feed. These common reactions to the growth spurts often lead women to think that their baby is not getting enough milk and/or that their milk supply has decreased. This is not the case! Growth spurts last a couple of days. During that time, your baby demands more milk to get more calories for growth. Your supply will increase during that time and then will go back to normal when there is less demand.
If, for whatever reason, breastfeeding has not worked for you, there are other options. You can be an exclusive pumper (and more power to you if you decide to do that). You can feed your baby using formula (there is nothing wrong with that). Or you can do a mix of pumping/breastfeeding and formula. It doesn’t matter how you feed your baby as long as they get fed and both you and your baby are happy and healthy.
Breastfeeding is not always easy. I’m not the first and won’t be the last to admit it.
There are so many women who put in heroic efforts to breastfeed, and for one reason or another it doesn’t work out the way they want. If that is you, I am so sorry! But I want you to know that you are amazing. Thank you for giving your baby what you could, thank you for being a great mom to your baby. You should not sacrifice your mental/emotional health and the relationship with your baby just so that your baby can have breastmilk, that is not worth it.
Your mental/emotional health and relationship with your baby is much more important than how your baby gets fed. Don’t feel ashamed that you stopped breastfeeding, you did what was best for you and your baby. Don’t let other people shame you. You are a great mom and you did what was best for you and your baby. Yes, this is all about YOU (and your baby), and that’s just fine. How you choose to feed your baby is your choice, and as a mother you know what is best for you and your little one. No one else gets to make that decision for you.
Sadly, other people judge women for how they choose to feed their babies, whether it is breastfeeding in public, or feeding your baby formula. I wish other people wouldn’t judge, because they likely have little to no idea what you have gone through to get where you are today. All we can do is educate them and let their looks bounce off, or their words go in one ear and right out the other. Please don’t take them personally and don’t let them affect how you take care of your baby.
As an IBCLC, I have given permission to a mom to stop breastfeeding (I know…gasp!). She had tried everything she could think of. She had worked with another lactation consultant and did everything that they recommended, but she was still having a lot of pain while breastfeeding. She told me that she cried every day and that she was torn because she wanted to breastfeed, but it was making her depressed and her relationship with her baby was being negatively affected. I gave her a couple more things to try, but in the end, I gave her permission to stop breastfeeding if that was what she wanted to do. After that it was like a weight was lifted from her shoulders. She needed permission to stop breastfeeding in order to let go of the stress and negative emotions that were surrounding the situation.
I want to give you permission as well. If you have done all that you can, if you are mentally/emotionally/physically overwhelmed by breastfeeding, you can stop. You can feed your baby a different way and work on bonding and building a beautiful mother/baby relationship. No matter how you feed your baby, I encourage doing as much skin-to-skin contact with your baby as you can. You can read more about skin-to-skin contact here.
I feel honored to have been a part of your journey and I hope that this article has helped you. It is my mission to help you recognize your own power and to help you feel more empowered and confident with the power you already have.
Please share this article with other mamas that you would like to help empower.
(1) Neifert, N.R. (2001). Prevention of breastfeeding tragedies. Pediatrics Clinics of North America, 48(2), 273-297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0031-3955(08)70026-9
(2) American Academy of Pediatrics (2004). Management of hyperbilirubinemia in the newborn infant 35 or more weeks gestation. Pediatrics, 114(1), 297-316. Retieved on December 4, 2017, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/114/1/297
(3) Kelly Mom (2016). Growth spurts. Retrieved on October 2, 2017 from https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/growth-spurts/
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