New mothers understandably find it really hard to trust easily in a process they cannot measure. Concerns about low milk supply is the number one reason mothers give for not being able to begin early breastfeeding after birth and also the number one reason to not continue breastfeeding for as long as the stated standard recommendation — breastfeeding for minimum of first two years of baby’s life.
In my many years of experience of supporting mothers, interesting, I began to notice that milk supply issues are much easier to address than most other breastfeeding related issues. That seems to open up a whole different discussion and perspective. Many mothers may find that quite surprising and often get interested to know why and how. Most if not all new mothers, family and friends around often think low supply is the cause for breastfeeding not going well. This has a potential to make mothers feel inadequate and in secured. On the other hand, the mother-to-mother support forums and group tend to think milk supply issues are a myth and perceived by mothers. The reality truly lies in between. A clear understanding of four most important components of breastfeeding can help us understand to know how to differentiate true milk supply issue and symptomatic low milk supply:
How the lactating breasts work?
Mothers feel empowered when they understand how breast work to nourish their babies. They begin to trust in the process more and begin to appreciate the amazing process of exclusively supporting their newborn’s life even more. The third and the most significant development of breast happens during pregnancy apart from during embryonic stage or during puberty. The many hormones of pregnancy which include progesterone, prolactin, estrogen among others work synergistically causing significant changes to occur in the breast such as development of lobes and lobules, nipple tissue, the areola, and the Montgomery glands during pregnancy preparing the body for breastfeeding a baby. It is interesting to know that a mother’s breasts begin to make milk as early as second trimester of the pregnancy as against what is often believed to be 2 or 3 days after birth. This is often called as “Milk Coming in” in almost all cultures of the world. What this “milk coming in” really is-is only an expected increase in milk making rather than just the beginning of milk production after the placenta is expelled after birth causing a plunge in the hormone progesterone and increase in prolactin levels. Therefore the low milk supply during the early days after birth is often a perceived one or delayed milk production is often an aftermath of a poor management of labour, birth and mother’s bonding with the baby soon after birth.
Post birth, knowing that more milk is constantly being produced in the alveoli (milk making sac) will give a mother the confidence she needs to put her baby to the breast, even when it feels empty to her. Infact the empty breasts is what is needed to stimulate more milk production.
Birth practices affect on milk supply:
It is extremely important to understand that even though labor and birth may most often take only few hours, how the birth experience is has a direct and profound effect on how the breastfeeding gets established. Research has now established that birth drugs and procedures not only affect the baby’s ability to suck, swallow, and breathe which hinders in early stimulation of breast immediately after birth but these drugs and procedures also interferes with the natural augmentation of mothers’ hormones essential for normal lactation along with rendering the mother incapable of caring for her baby due to pain, sedation and separation. The lack of early and frequent breastfeeding results in low milk production rather than low milk supply causing a breastfeeding failure. It then helps to know that protecting the mother’s birth experience and being instinctive can go a long way to set the stage for a smooth beginning of breastfeeding. For more understanding refer to the Dec 2012 issue of Mother’s World.
Mother-related low milk supply issues
Mothers often take on personal responsibility thinking that low milk supply is somehow a sign of their inadequacy. Most reasons are due to lack of early and frequent stimulation of breast. Being proactive and better management of birth and postpartum can address most.
Baby-related low milk supply issues
The most significant piece of the puzzle of low milk supply syndrome is the infant ability to suck effectively and efficiently. The various concerns related to a baby are often undiagnosed, unacknowledged or remain unaddressed.
The basic simple mechanism of milk making process is breast stimulation. Ensuring to address primary infant sucking issues for better latch and better effective suckling of milk will protect and improve dramatically the more fragile milk supply issue during the post partum during the establishment of lactation by expert assessment and clinical lactation management from an International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Most other secondary low milk supply issues can be addressed either by timely counseling and basic lactation support by certified lactation Educators (CLE) or La Leche League Leaders (LLLL).
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