Normal feeding patterns

Normal feeding patterns and common false alarms - Transcript

Working with thousands of breast feeding women over many years now and even in my own breastfeeding experience, I am all too aware how easy it is to lose confidence, in some aspects of breast feeding, and this is usually because the pattern has changed or there is some other change that has happened and one of the key worries that most of you will have is whether or not you are producing enough milk for your baby.

In this video, I want to talk about eight changes that can happen during your breast feeding journey that very often cause concern, but which are absolutely normal. And I also want to show you that if your baby is gaining weight on your breast milk alone then you certainly don’t have an issue with your milk supply.

So what are these false alarms? The first one I would like to talk to you about is if you  notice that your breasts don’t feel full anymore, not in the same way as you felt in the first week or the second week after you gave birth, and this is perfectly normal because your supply will adjust to the needs of your baby over time. So please be assured that this is ok.

The second false alarm that I would like to talk about is something call growth spurts, and this is where you are going to certainly see out of the blue your baby needing to feed very frequently day and night, and this can be very disconcerting, and cause for major concern for a lot of breast feeding ladies, and it’s normal. Babies will certainly feed in this frequent way for two to four days, sometimes up to a week to boost the supply, and we think it also occurs during brain developmental jumps – we know these growth and developmental spurts happen and your body will adjust milk accordingly.

Another common concern is your baby suddenly starting to be very fussy at periods towards the end of the day, needing very frequent feeding at the breast and this can usually start around about the second week after birth, and can go on for maybe 9 or 10 weeks altogether, and some babies may do this from 4pm right up to midnight, this fussy period where they feed, feed, feed, – and for other babies it might just be 7 till 9pm. Babies have to work that little bit harder towards the end of the day to access the milk, and all the milk is available of course, but the flow is slower and some babies do get a little bit flustered with that situation, so it’s really important to do skin to skin at that time of the day if you can and look at the videos relating to breast compressions because that’s a really useful tool that will help everything to go smoothly and help your baby to get more milk at that time, and your supply will then get a real boost, just enabling your baby to feed as often and as frequently as he wants.

Something else that crops up when I am talking to breastfeeding mothers is worries about not feeling the letdown of milk. Now if you are wondering what the letdown actually is: when babies come to the breast, they will fast suck initially which sends impulses to the brain, the brain then releases hormones and the hormones cause milk to letdown on both sides at the same time and the milk will come down to your baby who is attached to one breast of course at the time.  Some women feel this letdown very strongly, some won’t feel it at all, some used to feel it and they don’t feel it now. None of this is relevant, it really isn’t a sign of your milk supply and how your milk supply is doing, so it’s perfectly normal to feel the letdown or not to feel letdown.

Another common concern that I come across talking to breastfeeding mothers is concerns about leakage of milk, and this is really a concern because you may have leaked milk initially and then as weeks have gone on, you are not seeing any leakage at all, or you never leaked milk, or you are leaking loads of milk and it’s very variable from person to person because of your own individual interplay of hormones. Also, as time goes on, generally your body adapts to the needs of your baby, so, many women  stop leaking milk as the weeks go on and some don’t. So, it’s just not a reliable sign, so please be reassured about that.

Mothers often come to me with concerns about pumping  milk and one of the really common worries is that somebody has gone away, pumped their milk and only managed to get a certain amount, and which they considered to be not very much. And so it’s really tempting to think that what you get from the pump is exactly what your baby is getting at the breast and the truth is that at different times of the day, if you use the pump, you will get different amounts. Using different pumps can produce different amounts of milk and different women using the same pump could produce different amounts as well. So everything is very variable and the amount you get with the pump is not a good indication of what your baby gets at the breast, and babies are usually far more efficient at being able to access milk from the breast than the pump.

Another really common false alarm is if you have pumped your milk and then given that by a bottle to your baby for instance and notice that your baby has guzzled that milk down, the expressed milk, or may be you have given formula, and your baby is just taking so much and so fast and yet that’s happened even after feeding at the breast. So many women can start to get concerned about that, worrying that the baby hasn’t been getting enough at the breast because of that. But please know that the mechanics of bottle feeding are very different to feeding at the breast and it’s important to know that the babies often, studies have shown that the override that feelings of fullness and they are trying to control suckling and swallowing and breathing as well. So they tend to gulp down milk quite rapidly really. I would encourage you to have a look at the videos relating to offering bottles in a safer and more biological way to babies, that would replicate more closely babies feeding at the breast.

And please note that as your baby gets older into their third month particularly, the pattern of feeding is going to change, and this is another common concern. I get a lot of calls from breast feeding mothers ringing up because the baby’s pattern is changed – they will be getting very faffy at the breast and be distractible and the feeds are much shorter than normal, and this is normal actually.

Babies become more efficient at extracting the milk in a shorter space of time, they have gone through rapid growth and the mouth shape and size is different again. But they are also distractible because of major brain development going on, so this is all perfectly normal and going on into that, it’s important to mention that they are likely to do what we call reverse cycling, which means that your baby may start to wake up more at night, your baby may already be waking up at night at this stage, but even if he have been starting to go a little bit longer and he starts to waking up at nights, that’s absolutely fine. He is trying to get that milk when it’s boring and quiet and can concentrate on getting milk more, and all perfectly normal.

So if you have been experiencing any of these false alarms, please rest assured that if your baby’s weight gain is absolutely fine, then this is all completely normal.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020

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