Early as a La Leche League Leader, I learned from Linda J. Smith the lactating body works like an ice machine: When you remove ice from your ice maker, there is a sensor in your freezer that tells the freezer to make more ice. Its goal is to replace the ice. When you remove milk from your breasts, there is a trigger in your your body that tells the body to make more milk. Its goal is to replace the milk.
If you do not use the ice, the freezer does not continue to make more. If you do not remove the milk, the body does not continue to make more.
The baby and body expect milk to be removed 12-24 times in the first 24 hours of life. This ensures the baby gets enough. This ensures the body gets the message to start making milk.
Once you get past the first 24 hours, it is normal for babies to eat 8-12 times in 24 hours, and more than that can be normal, too. Milk effectively removed at this frequency is often enough to build a robust milk supply.
Keys for the first few days include:
Because the body makes milk by wanting to replace the milk that was used, we know cookies, special drinks, supplements, etc., don't improve supply alone. You can't eat lactation cookies and drink Starbucks' Pink Drink and expect more milk if you aren't feeding your baby (or pulling milk out via a pump) 8-12 (or more!) times in 24 hours.
We are a culture steeped in instant gratification. We can get things next-day from Amazon. We can get fast food 24 hours a day. We don't have to wait long in many cases to get what we want. Milk supply doesn't work like this. There is an element of work that comes with having an adequate supply, and that is feeding or pumping 8-12 times in 24 hours.
To get the most optimal start, it isn't that difficult:
Some people respond more to negative messages, so for fun, let me share ways to make breastfeeding hard:
The biggest success factor for breastfeeding is time for you and your baby to be together. Your baby is programmed to be with you, to want to be close, to want to feed freely. Babies don't come out and say, "Hey, we've been a little too close for a little too long -- please put me in my own room, in my own crib." In actuality, babies do not know where they end and their parent begins. They have been rocked, held snugly, been kept warm, heard all the sounds of your body and your voice, and they have not been hungry -- think about that! They were fed through their blood. So suddenly, it's bright, they're cold, they have no control over their arms or legs, and where's that person!? My person? It is a lot to adjust to. And can you guess what answers all those questions of discomfort? Being at the breast.
There is an amazing author out that by the name of Kimberly Seals Aller. I heard her say this at a conference once: The first time you had consensual sex, it probably wasn't the greatest. You may have wondered, How do people do this? Why do people make it seem so easy? I'm pretty sure I did that all wrong. Did you walk away and say, "Well, that didn't work, so I'm never going to do that again." Generally not. We stick with it. We figure things out. It takes time and practice.
While breastfeeding is not sexual, the idea that, if it doesn't work the first few times it isn't going to, often causes many of us to quit before we have even had a chance to practice and figure things out better. Repeat this to yourself: Just because it isn't working right now doesn't mean it won't work. Seek help, because it is out there. We should not be expected to figure things out on our own. Heck, if you can't find help, reach out to me! I may be far away from your location, and I can try to help you find support appropriate for your situation.
Let me close with Linda Smith's "Coach's Rules":
1. Feed the baby
2. The parent is right
3. It's the parent's baby
4. Nobody knows everything
5. There's another way
You can do this! And with support, you don't have to do it alone!
Places to reach out to before baby, for support, or if struggling:
Find an IBCLC
La Leche League
There are different ideas about placenta ingestion after birth. While it is true most mammals eat their placenta right after birth, they do so raw, directly after it is expelled. This cleans up a bloody mess (which keeps predators away), and it provides the mother with energy without her needing to leave her vulnerable babies alone to find food.
As humans, we don't do it this way. We process it, and then take it slowly over time. Many lactation experts say this is opposite to how the body works. While pregnant, the placenta sends out hormones that stop us from making milk. This is why, if you pump before birth, you will barely get anything out (and it will be colostrum).
Once baby is born, the placenta comes out. It is the placenta that is responsible for the hormonal changes which turn on the body's milk-making factory. If a piece of the placenta is accidentally left inside the body, it can stop the body from making milk due to the hormones it carries and releases. It can also prevent the uterus from shrinking back up like it needs to to stop bleeding. It may contribute to uterine infection, as well. This is why we should never tolerate a doctor pulling on the cord to try and yank the placenta out before it releases on its own -- the cord or placenta can be torn, and pieces can be left inside.
Many experts say by putting the placental hormones back into the body, it can confuse the body about what it needs to be doing: growing a baby inside, or making milk outside.
Here is tangent, but stick with me, it applies: Medication like Sudafed can cause a person's milk supply to decrease because of how it works (dries up sinuses). Breastfeeding people are told not to use decongestants because of this. BUT a person who has just had a baby will be less impacted, and maybe not impacted at all, because of how their body is making milk at this point -- it is making milk simply because the body had a baby -- the placenta left the body, causing that chain of hormonal responses which turn the milk-making factory on.
If a person has a breastfeeding 6 month old and takes Sudafed, they have a higher chance of it reducing their supply because their body works in a different way now -- they make milk in direct response to how often and frequently the baby nurses. This is the difference between endocrine control (automatic because of the hormones of birth), and autocrine control (supply and demand).
Another example of how our bodies and hormones differ has to do with the return of our fertility. Some people get their periods back while breastfeeding like normal, 8-10 times a day. Some won't get a period at all until their child has weaned totally and dropped off every single feed, and even then it might take a couple months for their cycle to return. Every body is different. So just be mindful of how things are working for you.
Every person is individual, and what lactation experts are noticing is: Some people have robust, healthy supplies when consuming their processed placenta slowly and over time. And some don't. So guidance to know what to watch out for is imperative. If you choose to have your placenta processed for consumption, be sure your encapsulator is aware of this, and that they can give you guidance on what to expect. Be cautious if they feel this is not true -- enough lactation professionals have experienced this for us to believe it is real and it can happen.
I may sound opposed to the practice of consuming one's placenta. I really am not. I just want more evidence of the benefits -- thus far, I believe the only documented benefit is that people have increased iron levels. I tend to think more about how things are done across the spectrum of all mammals. There is no mammal who has its placenta processed, encapsulated, and then slowly takes it over time. My belief is, if you want to ingest your placenta, do it like other mammals do -- raw and right after birth.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)