As a company offering support to mom and baby throughout the entire pregnancy and post-natal journey, Limerick understands that breastfeeding can be stressful for women, particularly when they encounter problems with milk letdown. For example, when new moms experience tingling and heaviness in their breast, they may think it's full and start to pump, only to realize that the pump isn't collecting any milk. This common problem can be addressed, even though it may be painful at times. Limerick has created an information guide based on the CDC's advice, which answers common questions that new mothers may have about issues with milk letdown.
Reasons for no milk when pumping, despite breasts feeling full
Here are some common reasons why moms might experience heavy breasts, yet only see a small amount of breast milk in the bottle.
Your milk still hasn't come to volume
According to the CDC, most women don't see any mature breast milk until about three days postpartum. So if you try to pump before then, it may just be that your milk hasn't come in yet. Immediately after childbirth your breasts produce colostrum, a thick, yellowish, concentrated form of breast milk, which provides all the immunity protection and nutrients a baby needs in their first few days. The body produces less colostrum than transitional or mature breast milk - possibly less than a teaspoon - even if your breasts feel heavy. The heaviness is due to the increased blood flow and extra fluid given during delivery.
Gentle massage and a warm compress will help relieve any breast pain. In addition, regular skin-on-skin contact with your baby and nursing sessions will help with milk letdown as your breasts transition from colostrum to mature milk.
Colostrum is especially important for preterm births; your physician or lactation consultant will collect this in hospital, so that your baby can benefit from this concentrated source of nutrition.
Problems with letdown
Letdown of milk is a reflex. Stimulation of the breast sends a signal to the body to release oxytocin, a hormone which signals to the breasts to release milk. Your baby's nursing is usually the only stimulation needed.
Some moms have problems with letdown; this might only occur for a day or two, before improving by itself. If not, you should speak to your healthcare provider or lactation consultant. The following things help to improve milk letdown on those difficult days.
Stay close to your baby. Oxytocin is released when mom thinks about or sees her baby. Hold your baby close and cuddle them. When you can't be physically close to your baby, have a photo or video that you can glance at.
Take a bath or shower. Warm water may help you to feel relaxed, helping your letdown reflex. Deep breathing can also help you to relax.
Massage your breasts: Gently massaging your breasts mimics the natural nursing patterns of your baby, which helps with oxytocin release. This can encourage letdown before you pump.
Low milk supply
Low milk supply is an issue faced by some new moms. The heavy feeling of your breasts after birth can be deceptive - you may not be producing as much milk as you think. So what can cause low milk supply?
Individual differences. Some women simply produce less milk than others, although this is rare. Most women produce one-third more milk than their babies can drink. The best predictor of a strong milk supply is frequent expression in the first two weeks post-delivery. You should try to breastfeed or pump at least every three hours in the first fortnight after birth to ensure a continued supply.
However, women can experience a dip in milk supply, which can be due to a number of factors.
An underlying condition. Stress, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a difficult birth or hypothyroidism can cause low milk supply. It's always advisable to contact your doctor if you're concerned about your health in any way.
Latching problems. If your baby doesn't latch onto your breast correctly, they might not take enough milk. Since the baby's feeding pattern determines the amount of milk your body produces, a poor latch can lead to reduced milk supply. This can also be the case with a flange that doesn't fit correctly. As nipple size can change over time, you may need to re-measure yourself if your pumping volume reduces. Using a Limerick pump will remove this worry as our whole cup technology isn't an insert; instead, they are made of naturally soft, medical-grade, silicone that forms to your unique body shape and size.
Infrequent breastfeeding or pumping sessions. The more milk expressed, the more the body produces. If you don't pump between breastfeeding sessions, or your baby goes more than two or three hours without feeding, your milk supply may be reduced.
Baby's growth. Growth spurts are how your baby letsyour baby’s way of letting your body know it needs to make more milk. Babies normally feed more during a growth spurt, which might give the illusion of a decline in milk supply when this isn't actually so.
How to improve milk supply
It can be upsetting and stressful when you are trying to feed your baby, although there are many ways to increase your milk supply.
Pumping more frequently can increase your milk supply. For example, you could pump between breastfeeding sessions to stimulate milk production or try 'power' pumping (pumping every ten minutes for about an hour).
Warm bath or compress
Heat increases circulation, which is why we use compression pads on muscles after a difficult gym workout. It also works for breastfeeding moms.Increasing blood flow to the breasts can improve milk flow and could help to increase the amount of milk expressed in a pumping session.
Have a shower or bath before a pumping session to help your body relax, or place a warm heated pad on your breasts.
A gentle breast massage can help open milk ducts and release oxytocin, leading to letdown. Then try to hand express your milk. Hand expression usually leads to more milk being expressed than just pumping. In addition, the more milk you can express, the more your body produces.
Nutrition can affect the amount of milk your body produces. Breastfeeding moms need to include enough protein-rich foods in their diet, as these help with milk production. Good sources include lean meat, fish or seafood (low in mercury), eggs, dairy, beans, and lentils. Plenty of whole grains and vegetables are also important.