I often compare breastfeeding to marathons. Why you ask? Because both require training, there's a learning curve to both, and neither are easy . I am certainly NOT a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely see the parallels between the two. My own personal motto of running is more like this:
Anyway, I do find that marathons and breastfeeding have a lot in common and more than just a marathon feeding session which you WILL feel like is happening when you are breastfeeding a newborn. If you decide that you want to run a marathon, what is the one of the first things you’ll do? Probably some research on the training and how long you should plan for in order to be marathon-ready. Here’s my list of what marathons and breastfeeding have in common:
In regards to breasts, they truly come in all shapes and sizes – xs to XL. Often women think that because their breasts are small that they cannot breastfeed, or sometimes we hear the opposite – that breastfeeding may be difficult because of having larger breasts. True, there are some accommodations and positioning adjustments that women with large breasts may have to make, but that doesn’t mean they can’t breastfeed. And, women with small breasts are more than capable of producing enough milk for their babies. One thing that lactation consultants hear frequently (or at least I do!) is that moms are concerned they aren’t making enough milk because when they pump they “only pump 3 ounces at a time and their friend always pumps 8 oz ”.
We naturally compare ourselves to our friends, family, co-workers, etc. but lactation is one area that really is highly unique based on each mom and her baby. We really can’t and shouldn’t compare ourselves to our breastfeeding friends. It’s true – some women can pump more in one session than I ever could in 3 combined, but that doesn’t mean I have a low supply. What it may mean if you are one of the moms who pumps 2-3 ounces each time is that your baby may need to feed more frequently (or may not – keep reading to find out more) – which is why it’s so critical to feed on baby’s cues and not by a clock. Anywhere from 8-12 (or more!) feedings in 24 hours is normal, particularly the first several months of breastfeeding.
Babies’ calorie requirements stay remarkably stable at approximately 30 ounces per 24 hours from 1 month until 6 months of age. Also, a pump is not a good indicator of how much milk you produce – the pumps tells you how much milk you can pump, so while you may pump 3 ounces baby may take in 4 ounces at breast because she will be much more efficient than a pump at removing milk if she has a good latch.
And going back to the title, breast size may impact the storage capacity of your breasts (yes, larger breasts likely have the ability to hold more milk) but having smaller breasts does not mean you won’t produce enough for your baby. Trust your body, watch for baby’s feeding cues, and let him decide how long he wants to feed. Those things are much more important than the size of your breasts.
Through my work as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), I've spent time in a few different hospitals working with moms and newborns and helping them learn how to breastfeed. In my (admittedly) short time as a Lactation Consultant or training to be one, one thing became clear to me. Most moms, especially first time moms, leave the hospital with a lot of uncertainty about breastfeeding. It can be overwhelming.
What I'm hoping to accomplish in this post is how you can maximize your time with your lactation consultant. I've spent time in three different hospitals either as a volunteer or as paid lactation staff. While each hospital was different, what they all had in common is that there are waaaaayyy more moms and babies than there are lactation support staff. Our job is to help you succeed with breastfeeding but we are confined by time. Meaning our time with you one-on-one is generally going to be fast - anywhere from about 15 minutes to about 45-60, at most. In addition to the time being short, we also have other factors to consider. Often most moms are physically exhausted from labor, have been up all night, and are sleep deprived due to an ever-revolving door of people checking on you or baby making the situation a less than ideal learning environment (think of your 8am Friday morning college stats class after a Thursday night out).
Here are 5 tips that I hope may help you maximize your hospital lactation experience:
1 - take a prenatal breastfeeding class. Having a baseline level of breastfeeding info and knowledge is incredibly helpful to build on.
2 - think about questions you may have and write them down (if you're creating a birth plan, writing the questions and keeping them with your birth plan would help ensure they get taken to the hospital). You can also jot down your questions once you're in the hospital and have started breastfeeding. You'll likely be asked to log your baby's feeds and dirty diapers - you can write your questions here.
3 - if you've struggled with breastfeeding in the past, have a brief summary ready to share of what your struggles were (ex: low supply, return to work and unable to pump, undiagnosed tongue tie).
4 - if you've had any breast surgeries please tell us. Often this info is in your chart, but not always and it's not always easy to find quickly. Again, we are often limited in time and will take a look at your chart prior to going in your room but may not notice if there was mention of breast surgeries, including breast augmentation, lumpectomy, breast reduction, etc. All of these may affect lactation and it's very important that we are aware if you've experienced any of them.
5 - if breastfeeding is incredibly important to you, let your partner know and ask him or her to support you in your goals. One way he or she can do this is to listen to what the LC has to say. Many significant others disengage with lactation because "they can't feed the baby", but what many partners don't realize is how truly significant their role is in supporting mom with breastfeeding. Being aware of what's normal in regards to newborns and feeding will go a long way with Dad/SO being able to say, "the baby's cluster feeding. I know it's frustrating but I remember the LC saying this is normal. I know I can't feed the baby but I'm happy to take care of dinner since I know our baby needs you right now."
If you have other tips, please share!
Just Carrie wanting a space to write about being a mom to 2, boob nerd, military wife, and food enthusiast. But mainly a place to talk about boobs and babies!
Providing lactation consults to families in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, DuPont, Yelm, Rainier, and surrounding areas.