I have been seeing an article circulating called “Low Milk Supply 101.” I understand it is trying to be helpful, and it IS factually correct. But the way it is written minimizes mothers. How so? Did you know in the United States about 1 in 8 mothers have a delay of milk production?
– Milk increases in volume between the 3-5th day after birth.
– A baby can only carry himself on low volumes for about 3 days before they require supplementation of more than an ounce per feed.
– 1 in 20 mothers in America have primary lactation failure, meaning they will not be able to fully breastfeed their baby – at all.
– In the United States about 79% of babies begin life breastfeeding. By 6 months, only 49% are exclusively breastfed. (Data from 2014 CDC).
The IBCLC that wrote this article is from London. Their breastfeeding initiation rate is 87% and data shows that 40% of babies are still exclusively breastfed at 2 months. What else can we examine… 1 in 3 women will give birth by cesarean in America versus the 1 in 4 in London. Cesarean birth can have some negative implications for breastfeeding initiation. In America, we have an epidural rate greater than 90% versus London’s 40%. Epidurals have a negative impact on breastfeeding initiation. 60% of women report nipple pain in the first two weeks of breastfeeding. What does that mean? Possibly that the baby is not effectively nursing, meaning that the breast isn’t being stimulated appropriately in order to promote the best milk volumes. One more thing we can talk about here for differences between America and London. American women get ZERO paid maternity leave while London gets ONE YEAR of… PAID maternity leave. Even fathers get 2 weeks of paid leave.
There are 2 specific things I do not like about this article when America women are reading it; having “You do not have low milk supply” bolded is pounding it into that mother’s head that she doesn’t have low milk supply. What if she does? The statistics favor that a lot of women feel they do not have enough milk to satisfy their baby. In fact, that is one of the top reasons mother choose to stop breastfeeding. American birth culture does not support healthy breastfeeding. Period. Not every breastfeeding mother knows how to establish a healthy milk supply, or that the early weeks are vital for doing so. Birth and breastfeeding advocates are quick to cheer mothers on by saying things like “you don’t have low milk supply” and “trust your body” … and I’m not here to undermine the support. But please, for the sake of these babies that depend on their mothers breasts, do not give so much reassurance without knowing for a fact (taking history, monitoring output, pre-post feed weights) that this mother does not have low milk volume. I feel we are too caught up in trying to promote breastfeeding that we are afraid to tell mothers something actually is wrong. For fear of making her doubt her body and her ability to nourish her child. Breastfeeding isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. Low milk supply happens. More often than people care to admit.
On to the second thing about this article that I’m not fond of.
“Find people who know about breastfeeding. Someone who tells you just to use formula in this situation is not who you need. If that’s all they can offer you, they don’t know about breastfeeding and you need someone else. You need someone who understands how lactation works.” (I know she goes on to talk about using formula under the care of an LC)
Again, breastfeeding and the “exclusively breastfed” title, is not more important than a baby that is fed. Not only is this paragraph inflammatory it demonizes formula. If you are at home, late at night, with a baby that is screaming because they are hungry (it’s a different scream, mothers say they never forget this scream), your baby hasn’t been voiding properly, and your baby isn’t sleeping, for the love of God feed your baby. Do not wait until you are under the care of a lactation consultant just so you can get their blessing. Feed your child. You have donor milk? EXCELLENT. But this isn’t the case for most mothers in America. One reason formula is frowned upon is because it exposes your baby to massive amounts of bovine proteins and alters the baby’s microbiome. If you are able, get elemental or hypoallergenic formula in the need of supplementation. It tastes horrible. It’s expensive. But it doesn’t have those potentially harmful proteins in it.
Your baby cannot eat if they are starving. They will either not be able to calm themselves to organize their suck pattern, or they will be too calorie deprived to wake up and eat properly.
I’m not trying to disrespect this wonderful IBCLC, not at all. I’m just saying our audiences are extremely different and need to be taken in the context appropriate for our breastfeeding culture.