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
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)