Breastfeeding Tips for the Mama Whose Milk Won’t Come in
When Baby Boy #1 came along, I did everything they told me to do to stimulate milk production: I drank a ton of water, I decreased caffeine, I had skin-to-skin all the time, I ate healthy and I didn’t provide any bottles. And my child still lost weight and got dehydrated and needed to be fed with a dropper and formula until my milk got going. The thing is, he gained weight in the hospital but as soon as I got home? He lost weight, and my milk dried up. Kinda.
We were all in a panic. What happened? How could this be? What was wrong with my breasts? Was I not eating enough? Was I not enough? Were my breasts too small? Should I just give up and use formula?
Welp. We moved on to formula because I didn’t want my child to starve. But during one of those hospital visits, my doctor asked: Who is staying with you at your house? How many visitors do you have?
“Oh. There’s of course my own family and then the hubby’s family. And all my cousins have come by to meet the baby. And the neighbors. And my friends. And I’ve brought him over to the houses of elderly people that I know, and they wanted to see him at church and asked me to bring him to work. And people have been spending the night off and on for around two months now, helping out.”
“Hmm,” the doctor said. “See what happens with your milk if you put them out for the day and you stay home for the day. Don’t bring him anywhere. Maybe someone can go shopping for you and run some errands so you get some alone time with him and time to nurse. Give everyone something to do besides hold the baby for you.”
So. I tried it. And you know what? When everyone left, and I stayed home, I had the opportunity to sit with my baby and look at him and talk with him and, honestly, not share him. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved sharing him, but up to that point, I really had never been alone with him for any significant amount of time because we had so much help.) I put him to my breast and he suckled for a long time. And no one asked if I was done yet. No one said that the baby had been feeding long enough. No one said, “That baby needs formula because that breastfeeding is taking too long.” No one said: “I’ve been here two hours and haven’t held the baby yet because he’s still nursing. Shouldn’t he be full?” No one said: “Why don’t you give me the baby and let me feed him so you can get some sleep.”
See. I had plenty of sleep. I had plenty of food. I had plenty of water. But what I didn’t have was that cuddle time. And once the fam and friends slowed down with the visits, something happened and my milk started flowing. Maybe I was wound up with having visitors (because let’s be honest, having visitors non stop is hard, even if they mean well.) Maybe I was still hurting from the rips and tears that happened as that boy pushed his way out.
But I discovered that once I was able to sit with no shirt on and not worry about how I looked, or how he latched, or how to have small talk with someone who came over to “help,” but there was really nothing for them to do… it just kind of happened. First a drop came out, and then another drop and then bam: the floodgates opened. And we got back into our groove and the milk flowed. I went from zero ounces to probably 50 ounces a day – all because I got a break in visitors.
To be clear: no one shamed me. No one tried to stop me from nursing. But, between worrying about if we had enough toilet paper and if we had enough clean dishes for the visitors, all that worry affected my production. I also learned, from my doctor, that baby has to suckle in order for my body to know it was time to make milk. So, all the well meaning visitors who hold a baby for hours on end? They didn’t really help me because my body needed some bonding time in order to create milk. And, it was easier for me to do all this if I could sit on my couch and watch my shows and drink my tea without anyone asking me if it was their turn yet to hold the baby.
All that to say: If you want to nurse and things aren’t quite going right, consider the advice my doctor gave me. Put everybody out for a few days. See if it makes a difference.
Other bloggers have said much the same thing, but I thought that my experience would be different because I adore my friends and fam and they adored my baby. But the other nursing mamas were right: nine times out of ten, that crying baby needs a boob. And no amount of shushing or swaying or singing will help when a baby wants to be with the person who made him.
I learned that I had everything he needed. I just needed to get out of my own way and let my body do what wanted to do. We needed skin-to-skin contact. We needed less stress.
Other Breastfeeding Tips
- Milkshakes. Eat them. You need the calories. Plus, it’s calcium!
- When you have visitors over, feed yourself first. Eat all the things. You need the food. They can go to McDonalds.
- Drink water while your nurse.
- When you take a shower, massage your breasts or take a manual pump into the shower with you and pump while you are showering. My sister-in-law suggested doing this and it really did work. The milk starts to spurt out once you relax a bit. I prefer the manual Medela pump.
- If you are in pain due to stitches, don’t wait for the six week mark to talk with your doctor. That pain could affect milk production.
- Always check with a lactation consultant if you can. But also, look into the La Leche League and other Facebook groups for nursing moms.