Breastfeeding Norfolk Blog

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Nikki Adlam

Jan’s little something about milk supply

One of the things that fills new mothers with anxiety is whether they have enough milk. The way that all mammals (we sometimes forget that humans are mammals!) make milk is to their babies' needs. It is not by sad accident that little drops of colostrum start the process of milk making. Every newborn baby has a small stomach; about the size of a marble on day one then expanding gently as each day passes, so perfect for small amounts of anti-body and protein rich colostrum. Frequent feeding is normal and necessary to support the baby's immune system and the process of passing sticky black, then browny green meconium which then makes it less likely that the baby will be jaundiced for long and the milk making will begin sooner. Proof of “milk transfer” from mother to baby is the yellow poo that everyone wants to know your baby is producing. The evidence of good milk making in the early days is in the poo produced.

A few words about poo; babies produce 2 small ones – sometimes more every 24 hours, they start to wee more too. This will go on for about 6 weeks or so then it is normal for babies to go from pooing like crazy to – not. This is because breastmilk changes slightly to have more milk solids or casein / curds as babies get older and their digestive systems develop. On the other hand the weeing is as much and often more. 

It has been known for many years now that keeping the mother and her baby together is fundamental to breastfeeding success, and to breastfeed at least 8-12 times in each 24 hour period. Holding her baby skin to skin will encourage that wonderful seeking of the mother’s breast.

I can't go on for long without saying a little about the way a baby breastfeeds. How a mother holds her baby will result in where on her breast her baby will attach or latch on to feed. Each feed must allow the baby to drink well, and for it not to hurt the mother. If these things don't happen then the milk supply becomes more difficult to establish. Key phrase coming up; milk is made on milk removal, so not on a mega calorie diet although breastfeeding mothers find they do need to eat and drink more, sometimes quite a lot more!

All the above can feel completely wiped out when a mother's baby is born in difficult circumstances. This is such an emotionally hard time, plus there may be much physical discomfort from the birth itself. These mothers are amazing. Learning the art of hand expressing colostrum and getting support to do this as soon as possible following delivery and frequently throughout day one, then using a hospital grade breast pump from day two in combination with hand expressing will help to bring the milk in well. Then pumping at least 8 times in every 24 hours including overnight will help to establish the milk supply.

To finish; support to breastfeed as soon as possible especially if there is nipple soreness or trauma is important. Positioning and attachment are at the root and heart of breastfeeding. Mothers want a happy breastfeeding experience where it doesn't hurt them and the baby grows. Fathers also want to see this too. Breastfeeding can be so hard in our culture and so easy to give up when hurdles are in the way.