Breastfeeding can be a hard, isolating, and emotional journey, which is why it's so important to have support. That's why Romper launched a Facebook breastfeeding community, Breastfeeding TBH — to help make feeding another human being with your own body a little easier. Every day readers ask questions because, let's face it, breastfeeding is complicated, and each week in Rack Facts, Romper speaks with a lactation consultant to answer as many of those questions as possible. After all, everyone can use a little expert help, especially when it comes to feeding your kid.
Parenting is a lot of trial and error and, as it turns out, so is breastfeeding. Never wake the baby, experts say. But what if the baby keeps falling asleep on your breast? You should pump to build up a supply, experts say. But what if your baby eats so often that your pumping sessions are not only painful, but unproductive? Supplement with formula if your supply is low, experts say. But what if you want to get your baby back on the breast?
I spoke with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Rachel O'Brien to get the answers to these questions and more. O'Brien is in Sudbury, Massachusetts and makes visits to families in their home in order to help them with their breastfeeding journey. Thanks to her Master of Arts Degree in Lactation Studies, she's definitely an expert on all things breastfeeding. You can follow her on Facebook for more information and be sure to check out her blog, too. But before taking her advice into account, however, O'Brien always recommends reaching out to an IBCLC for any breastfeeding help, including pumping, combo feeding, and weaning issues.
1. Painful Pumping
I can only get a quarter of an ounce on each side before the pump starts to really hurt and there seems to be no more milk. How can I increase this? I want to be able to pump and I'm going to have to very soon.
Don't panic, mama. O'Brien says you're getting ahead of yourself. "If you're exclusively breastfeeding your newborn, it's very unlikely that you'll get much milk when you pump," she says. "If you're pumping when you're away from your baby, then the pump session replaces a feeding." She recommends not stressing out as most people who are exclusively breastfeeding aren't able to pump much. She also suggests getting some help if you're in pain. "Pumping shouldn't hurt," O'Brien says. "If you have pain while pumping, stop and get help."
2. From Bottle Back To Breast
I started out breastfeeding my daughter from day one. It became really overwhelming so I started to introduce formula as a supplement. Needless to say, the supplementing became her only source as I got lazy and just started to "make her a bottle" rather than pump or have her latch on. She has been only formula fed for about two to three weeks. I still have milk and she will latch on, but I am feeling really guilty for not breastfeeding her anymore. Is it too late? I pumped and only extracted a half of an ounce. Has my supply diminished too much to bring it back?
Nope, it's definitely not too late. "If she'll still latch and you're still making milk, you have a good chance of being able to increase your milk supply again," O'Brien says. "The best way to do this is with frequent milk removal — nurse your daughter as much as you can and you may want to add in pump sessions as well. You can work with an IBCLC to increase your milk supply safely and effectively. Remember that frequent milk removal is key to producing enough milk." O'Brien also notes that breastfed babies digest their milk quickly, so they often need to eat every two to three hours in the early months.
3. Drying Up Your Milk
I am not breastfeeding due to medications. I was wondering when I will be completely dried up and when the engorgement will go down. My son is 3 weeks old and I'm so tired of having to change shirts and bras because of wetness. What can I do to help it dry up faster?
"When you first deliver a baby, your milk production is ruled by your hormones," O'Brien explains. "When you don't remove milk from your breasts, this tells your body to stop making milk, so you're already on the right track." She suggests trying cold compresses, such as a bag of frozen peas or corn wrapped in a dish towel, to help speed up the process. "You may also want to look into eating strong peppermints, like Altoids, or sage, as both have been shown to reduce milk supply," she adds. "You can also, talk to your doctor about taking a decongestant like Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) which has been shown to drastically reduce milk production in some people."
4. Increasing Supply After Days Away From Baby
I am a mom of a 15-day-old baby girl. Over this past weekend I came down with bad mastitis, a pelvic infection from birth, and sepsis. I had to be away from my baby for three days while in the hospital. While away from her, my milk supply got very low. I tried to keep up pumping but was feeling so awful and was so stressed being away from my daughter I couldn't pull it together. How can I build my supply back up so I don't lose it and in the meantime have enough for her?
That's a rough turn of events and it's no wonder that it has affected your milk supply. "Mastitis and time away from baby can definitely lower your milk production," O'Brien says. She recommends contacting a local IBCLC for help with upping your supply. An IBCLC can also determine what caused the mastitis. "The IBCLC may have you pump after every daytime nursing session to help stimulate milk production," O'Brien says.
5. Baby Falling Asleep While Eating
I have a 1-month-old and I am breastfeeding. I am having problems with him falling asleep while eating then waking up 10 minutes later wanting more milk. Any suggestions?
O'Brien has a perfect trick for you to try — milk delivery. "When you notice his sucking slowing down and him starting to drift off, use your hand to express some additional squirts of milk into his mouth," she says. "Delivering the milk into his mouth will often remind him that he's eating and wake him up enough to start nursing again. If he drifts back off, deliver more milk. Repeat as needed."