breastfeeding, encouragement

The myth of low milk supply

In the next few weeks,  we will look into milk supply and more specifically in low milk supply.  Today, we will see why many mamas worldwide stop breastfeeding before they reach their goal because of presumed low milk supply!

In reality 98% of women are able to provide enough milk for their infants – whether they have 1 child, twins, triplets and even more.  So how come many mothers cite low milk supply as the reason for having to stop breastfeeding?

There are 3 main issues that lead to such a conclusion and one can safely say that these are all interlinked.

  1. Lack of knowledge on normal infant behaviour is a major contribution to both women & health professionals in believing that there is not an adequate supply to feed an infant. These include frequency in feeding, wanting to just comfort suck, mother’s breasts feeling soft and do not leak milk (or little) and the milk flow itself which many times is confused with supply.  Know that a breastfed infant is made to feed frequently and to comfort suckle as well.  For newborns this is a mechanism to make sure mama will produce enough milk to the baby.  In fact the more a baby nurses for the first 6 weeks the better, as it makes sure your milk supply will be at optimal levels.  After 6 weeks infants will continue to nurse a lot this is a mechanism to keep up the milk supply and not have it diminished.  It is normal for breasts to feel soft and seemingly back to normal after the first month and a half.  Your milk supply is now established and at any time in your breast there is just enough milk for a feed.  Not all mothers leak milk.  Just because you do not does not mean you do not have a good milk supply. The flow of milk varies not just from woman to woman but throughout the day. The flow of milk is ruled in part by how relaxed we are; which means that the more relaxed, the quicker the milk will flow out of our nipples. So it is normal that by 4 pm our flow is slower and baby more demanding because we are starting to get tired!
  2. Lack of confidence in our own body together with a mistrust of what we cannot see is another contributor that leads to the belief that a woman has a low milk supply. Just know that we have been created perfect and our body knows what to do and how to do it with the help of our own infants.  Our body makes milk especially for our human babies, it changes according to the baby’s need and age; it gives the right amount of vitamins, nutrients and so much more to our infants all of which is easily digested and absorbed by the body and provides immunity against diseases. Know that your infant normally would not take more than ¾ of the milk in your breast at any one feed. Your milk supply is not decided by how big or small your breasts are, but how often your baby nurses.  The amount of milk available at any one time is not decided by how big or small your breasts are but by the storage capacity of the breast.  But having a small storage capacity does not mean you do not produce enough milk it simply means your infant will most likely feed from both breasts every time and probably feed more often. Lastly what a woman expresses, is not necessarily what milk is produced. Pumping can vary a lot!
  3. Lack of support generally linked to lack of knowledge on normal infant behaviour and how our own body works is the third contributor to believing our milk supply is not enough for our infants. Family, friends, health care professionals and the world in general all change how we view things and how we should proceed.  Most undermine our own goals unconsciously – because they see us worry, suffer, tired and want to help us make it better!  And because they do not know, understand or remember certain aspects of child birth, child rearing and as part of that nursing, they give us the wrong information, help us come to the wrong conclusion and unfortunately can continue spreading wrong information about breastfeeding and how there is most of the time not enough milk for the baby.

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