YIKESSSS I don’t have any milk in my breast!!!
How many of us have said this after the birth of our babies? We feel our breast all over in the hopes that we feel some change; something that can show us there is something there as our babies suckle in what we hope is a returned investment (the baby suckles & it gets milk).
We prepare ourselves for the arrival of our baby and make sure to have all of the things our bundle of joy will need [and what we need as well]. We have the coolest baby bag [or not], we have picked out the crib, the car seat, the baby swing, the cutest outfit in the world [from every store you visited; which supposedly you only went to "look around"], and a few boxes of diapers [yes there are more things you have bought]. But what about preparing for breastfeeding? I know your obstetrician, midwife, nurse practitioner, and even your BFF have talked to you about breastfeeding; even if it’s just a few times [if not, contact me I can share with you some things you may want to know before birth]. So now that you see the benefits and all the fantastic stuff, ONLY YOU can give your baby [or donor milk can do for your baby] let’s talk AFTER BIRTH.
As a Lactation Consultant in a Hospital, I encounter women that state the same line over and over; “I don’t have any milk in my breast!”. That is a powerful line when the mommy instincts are trying to quick in, but there is doubt in the ability to produce what a formula size bottle has. Formula in hospitals comes in 2-ounce bottles. This is genuinely A LOT for a newborn baby, but hey it’s great marketing on their end and that is their job, to undermine your ability to produce milk and for you to think that A LOT is normal [formula is not the bad guy, it’s the company].
Wanting to feed our babies is an animal instinct [remember we are from the Animalia Kingdom]. We want to satisfy our babies, and when our babies are hungry we will feed them (even when they have moved away, what do we say once we see them? “Did you eat?”.) Providing for our young is second nature to us. When your baby is born, it is born with a stomach that is so small it is compared to a small marble. In size, it fits only 5-7 ML of liquid [in another word; that 2-ounce bottle will overfeed your baby causing the baby to vomit or cry). Colostrum is your first milk (remember hearing that work a million times over a million time during your prenatal visits? If not, contact me so I can drive you crazy with it). Your breast will produce small quantities of it at a time, and it will match the size of your babies belly. Your baby will drink and fall asleep, then drink again a few hours later (in motherhood that feels like minutes not hours) and will continue this pattern. This is where you (the reader) come in. You feel your breast all up, like you lost some money inside of it, and said “YIKES…. I DON’T HAVE ANY MILK INSIDE MY BREAST”. Here is where I come in to tell you… YASSS you do! (that’s for the younger moms. That wasn’t bad grammar that just means YES in a fascinating way. Try it this weekend) Colostrum is produced in small amounts; remember. The amount is so small that you will not be able to feel any difference in breast size. I know, I know, this is where you get nervous and call a nurse or call me to the room. This small amount of colostrum is truly meant to coat the intestine of your baby’s gut. You see, your baby never had to use its stomach or intestines, so it needs some practice. Feeding your baby at the breast will provide just the right amount; once the baby feels its belly full, it stops to suckle and falls asleep. Then a magical thing happens inside of the baby (well not magical like the Disney Magical Kingdom, but it’s kinda cool). The baby’s body absorbs all the nutrients and antibodies and rapidly distributes it around. Finally, it reaches the gut it coats it like honey coats the jar. Now the baby’s gut is protected, and bacteria has less chance to grow. Here comes the fun part! That wonderful milk your baby just took in works as a laxative; meaning it makes she/he poop all those red blood cells out. YUCK!! This poop is called meconium; it is black & tarry and difficult to clean (you may need the whole tub of baby wipes for one diaper change). If your baby is not able to poop enough during the first few days at the hospital, it can cause a high bilirubin level; also known as Jaundice. Your baby will appear yellowish and will appear weak and sleepy. So, don’t run for the pacifier if the baby wants to feed. A baby that is attempting to suckle is a baby that is hungry. Put yourself in their tiny shoes. If you are hungry, you would like to be fed, right? The cycle of feeding at the breast can be short the first few days.
Remember your baby’s body has a job to do; (1) it must first protect the gut (2) practice using the gut (3) eliminate waste, all before your milk supply increases. It is normal for your baby to feed every 2-3 hours (and even every hour). Yes, there are situations where the baby is unable to get enough milk at the breast and thus return every 30 minutes, but before you throw in the towel….call your Lactation Consultant in the room and ask for help. If there isn’t one at your hospital or she may not be available on the day you delivered (or you are not sure) contact your nurse; some nurses have received the necessary training and educations to assist you. You can also contact us for additional support.
Are you now seeing that you do have milk? Actually, your milk begins to develop during pregnancy. Yup, pregnancy! During the second trimester, your body starts the production. This doesn’t mean you can go ahead and pump. What this means is that your body is getting ready and maybe do some practice runs (for those that leak milk during pregnancy) just like Braxton Hicks.
As your baby’s belly grows, your milk supply will increase. By the time you leave the hospital, you will begin to see noticeable changes in your breast (note: depending on the situation this may be different for some women). By the end of the week, you will experience a more abundant milk supply and your baby will begin to feed less frequently.
Don’t freak out during the first few days; especially during the early 12 hours after birth. Babies need to recover, just like YOU NEED TO RECOVER. I know you want to feed your baby, and you are probably starving by the time you deliver, but RELAX. If your baby doesn’t want to feed during the first 12-hours, then hold him/her skin to skin (bare skin) until the baby decides its time for a feeding. If you are too tired, then REST and RECUPERATE you deserve it. Family in the room? Say; “Hey I’m tired! Can you watch the baby while I sleep?”, and go to sleep. Yeah.. yeah.. easier said than done, right? Remember I work in a Hospital; I see this every day, so yes IT IS NOT EASY…..but you can do this (I mean to feed your baby). Take it hour by hour and do not look at the clock…. Feed when the baby gives you feeding signs (rooting, sucking on their fingers, moving its head side to side) and the rest of the time just look into their eyes and say YOU LOOK JUST LIKE YOUR DADDY..UGHH…BUT I LOVE YOU.
Let’s not complicate things by being so technical. When your baby is hungry feed it, just like when you are hungry you eat, right? I know I don’t like to eat at a scheduled time; I may just want a snack, and then something to drink, and THEN a meal. Does this happen to you too? Crazy right? We don’t eat the same amount every 2-3 hours; neither will your baby.
YOU CAN DO THIS!! YOUR BODY CAN DO THIS!! LET YOUR MOMMY INSTINCTS KICK IT!!
It is ok to ask for help a million times. It is ok to ask the same questions ten times in a row. It is ok to forget what the Lactation Consultant, nurse, or Doctor told you 10 minutes ago (10 times). IT IS OK, to feel overwhelmed; it will pass faster than you know it. It is ok to say I AM TIRED. It is ok to say I NEED HELP. It is simply OK.
YOU ARE AN AWESOME MOMMY!! // YOU WILL BE AN AWESOME MOMMY!!