I’m posting this to my instagram as well because I realized just how little the general public understands about human milk production. I‘m not sure why we aren’t teaching this in sex ed, but perhaps it’s something to be further explored in my role on the board of education.
I also recently started my IBCLC program and
so I’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing lactation and clinical research. Thought why not share my knowledge with the world as I embark on this new track of my educational pathway in the field of perinatal health.
Let‘s break it down:
Starts at 16-20 weeks gestation. Yes! The body is amazing, it begins stage 1 of lactogenesis once your body hits around end of the first trimester heading into the second. Notice those boobs getting bigger, heavier, more sensitive and darkening areolas? Those are all signs of positive changes towards milk production. Sit back and allow your body to do it’s thing.
Can’t say this enough, your body makes the amount of milk you and your baby tell it to make. This is through an intelligent system of hormones and brain signals that respond to stimulation and compression of the breast. If you are stimulating your breasts often (2-3 hours) whether at breast with a pump or both, you will regulate your production and produce what your baby needs, if there are no underlying inhibiting factors. Try hand expression in the first hour of birth to help increase milk production onset and volume.
The placenta is an amazing organ that we don’t give enough praise! Your body grows it when you become pregnant to provide the nutrients your baby needs to grow from fetus to tiny human. When you deliver the placenta after birthing your baby, this is what causes a drop in progesterone levels which tells your body it’s now ok to turn on the “milk flow switch” which has been sitting with the parking brake since the necessary breast changes finished while you grew your baby. Within hours after delivering your placenta you can start supplying what your baby needs which is drops of rich nutrient dense colostrum for the first 3 days until you have full bodied mature milk. Colostrum is the perfect first food and is all your baby needs first 3 days of life. Their belly is only the size of blueberry when born, it can only hold about 1 tsp per feeding session. Make sure they look at your placenta to be sure it is all intact. Any piece leftover inside your body can cause postpartum hemorrhage which negatively effects breastfeeding.
Which leads me to explaining the next point. Your milk is made from your blood not the amount of liquid you intake. A lot of people think the more water, milk or any beverage you drink will make you have more milk. This is simply not true. Yes, if you are severely dehydrated you will probably see a dip in your supply. If you are drinking normally and stay well hydrated, not feeling thirsty, you don’t need to stress. If you lose a lot of blood, say during your birth you had some degree of hemorrhaging, you are more likely to see a delay in the onset of your production (24-72 hours) because your body needs that blood back to function properly in order to begin milk production which has a lot of working parts. If you see lactation in the hospital and you lost blood, let them know and ask if there are any suggestions they may have for you.
Primary organic causes of lactation failure are rare. If you are struggling with an issue, it is more than likely not something you did. I blame the deeply flawed medical system for failing breastfeeding families with inadequate lactation support and follow up care. Support groups and free classes would help with confidence to breastfeed which would help decrease lactation failure. The more often you breastfeed in the first 3 days of life, the less likely problems will develop for you and your infant. You both must practice and allow yourselves some grace when it comes to the art of breastfeeding.
Support is everything. If you don’t have a good support system in place your journey can be a treacherous one. What I do know is formula feeding is not easier or less time consuming than breastfeeding. If you are looking for a way to make your infant feeding journey easier, start by writing down your top 1-3 challenges. Ask your partner, spouse, doula or a good parent friend to help you find a lactation professional to get your questions answered. Next, build your circles of support for any plan of care you may receive. Then, learn to accept good help when offered, say no when you need to and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t know what you need help with then say that and a trusted source should understand and help you find someone that can best support you.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about these random tidbits of education on breastfeeding. I try to keep it simple but informative. I know many of us are running on parent brain, so I’m hoping this has been as easy to digest as breastmilk!