7 incorrect assumptions about low milk supply

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Many new mothers have a difficult time producing enough breast milk for their newborns. In fact, only 50% of Nigerian babies are exclusively breastfed for six months as is stipulated in the World Health Organisation breastfeeding guideline. While some mothers aren’t healthy enough to exclusively breastfeed, others simply lack the self-assurance required to embark on such a project. A survey revealed that many new mothers complain of low milk supply—a problem that is very common.

Low milk supply

 Factors that can cause low milk supply 

·         Poor diet

·         Lack of fluids

·         Stress

·         Post-partum insomnia

 This explains why some women adopt different lifestyle choices, certain practices and flexible schedules to help them cope with the demands of maternity.

 Low milk supply: how the problem becomes worse

 Once a mother starts experiencing problems with lactation, the unfounded theories and advice will start pouring in. In fact, one research showed that these maternal perceptions of low milk supplyare often wrong. These voices will likely urge the mother to supplement her breast milk with water and formula. What these people either don’t know or fail to acknowledge is that supplementing feeds will only complicate the problem of low milk supply.

 And if you enjoy listening to old wives’ tales, you’ll hear stories about women who didn’t lactate for days after their babies were born. Some will narrate tales of how their breasts just dried up suddenly. All these tales will end with the relief they felt after they introduced formula and water.

 What very few women will tell you is that their babies refused to breastfeed after the introduction of formula. If most women are honest, they’ll share more tales about the hurt that came after their babies abandoned their engorged and painful breasts, and how the solution (formula) produced a bigger (and more complicated) problem for them.

 Incorrect assumptions about low milk supply 

1.      Babies who don’t awake for night feeds do so because their stomachs are full

 There is no link between the babies sleep cycle and the mother’s milk supply. If your newborn isn’t waking up on their own, this might mean that they aren’t being properly fed. Some mothers take the initiative to wake their babies to feed.

 Certain medical conditions (such as jaundice, Down’s syndrome etc.)  can influence the baby’s sleep patterns. In such cases, mothers are advised to wake their babies to feed.  

2.      “I am unable to express plenty of milk”

 It isn’t uncommon for mothers to panic when they are only able to express only a few drops of milk. For most women, extracting milk is easier early in the morning. Sleep gives the breasts time to fill up. Late afternoons and evening aren’t a good time to express milk as babies often tend to nurse a lot more during these hours.

 Rather than assume that your milk supply is low, drink a lot of fluids before bedtime, and you’ll be able to express enough milk by dawn.

3.      Something’s wrong with my milk: my baby wails and fusses during breastfeeding sessions

 Babies cry for various reasons and at different times. Other reasons why a baby might wail and fret during breastfeeding sessions include:

·         fast let-down reflex

·         Fatigue or tiredness

·         Sleepiness

·         baby might be having a Wonder Week

low milk supply

4.      “My breasts feel empty”

 After the first few weeks of childbirth, the breasts often feel small and unusually light. But this is often typical of new mothers whose infants nurse and consume the small quantities their little stomachs can contain. As the child matures, he or she will suckle more and the body will naturally produce more milk.  

5.      My baby is a heavy and frequent feeder

 There is no standard measurement for the length and frequency of breastfeeding sessions. What matters is that the baby is being sufficiently fed. Some babies suckle actively and swallow more, while others just suckle passively and swallow less.

 Older babies tend to feed for shorter periods.

 Factors that affect the length and frequency of feeds include:

 ·         how hungry or thirsty the baby is

·         The baby’s state of health and tiredness

·         The level of milk supply.

6.      “Why is my five-week-old is suddenly pulling away from the breast when she or he still seems hungry?”

 In the first few weeks of birth, babies doze off when the supply of milk slows down. But as the infants get older, they learn a few manipulative tricks. When the milk supply slows down, the wail and throw tantrums and seem to throw their heads backwards in anger and frustration.

 When this happens, it is best to drink at least one litre of water and switch the baby to the other breast.

7.      My baby likes to be bottle fed immediately after nursing 

 Ever heard of the sucking reflex? It is a basic instinct that simply makes babies want to suck almost all the time. Sometimes, they’ll suck their thumbs or a pacifier when they aren’t breastfeeding. Sometimes, they will take a bottle too.

 Besides hunger, there are other explanations for your baby wanting to suck: 

·         The baby is tired.

·         The baby is trying to soothe an ache or point of pain

·         The baby wants comfort and attention.

·         The baby is just giving in to an instinctual urge to suck

Avoid making hasty assumptions about your milk supply. You probably need to change routines and strategies. If your milk supply still gives you concern, consult a lactation specialist.

 Resource: World Health Organisation 

US National Library of Medicine

Read Also: Breastfeeding Myths In Africa Exposed And Debunked

Written by

Julie Adeboye