6/29/2019 3 Comments
What's the story behind these jars of milk? How did one get only 4 oz in 4hrs, but the other got 16 oz?!
Both were collected using the same techniques, the same breast pump, by a mom nursing a 4-month-old baby, so what's the deal? What do you think the difference is between the mom with the 4 oz jar on the left and the mom with the whopping 16 oz jar on the right?!
What advice would you give to the poor mom who only pumped 4oz, to help her increase her milk supply? Read on to find out exactly what our team of breastfeeding experts would do...
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Here's the truth!
The truth is there isn't a difference between the moms. Both of them are me, and both of these were pumped mere days apart. Did I do something magical to drastically increase my supply? Nope, I did not. I did NOTHING, actually. In fact, when I pumped the 16oz, I was sick and dehydrated and feeling well when I only pumped 4oz. How on Earth does this make any sense?
Because my circumstances were drastically different, please let me explain, because what I have to say is incredibly important and could likely impact your own pumping experience.
Before we dive into why my outside factors impacted the difference in my output, I need to give you this major disclaimer that these are NOT normal volumes and not what I would expect the majority of you to be able to pump. I have a natural and massive oversupply of breastmilk. As an IBCLC, I know how to manage this, and have escaped the very real struggles moms and babies dealing with oversupply face. Please don't suffer with oversupply if you think you may have it. You can read about it here and find support for oversupply right here.)
What were some of the outside factors?
Jar #1 (4oz) was pumped at home, when I was with my baby having a relaxing day.
Jar #2 (16oz) was pumped when I was away at work, and I was also sick and dehydrated none the less.
ALSO (and this is really important), I pumped at completely different times in the day.
Do you know the #1 reason why women give up on breastfeeding? PERCEIVED low supply. Not actual low supply, but they think that they are not making enough milk.
This is one of the reasons why using a breast pump when you're home with your baby is misleading. You're likely to only get a minimal amount of milk when you pump, and sometimes only drops- THIS. IS. NORMAL. Unfortunately, a mother who doesn't know this could easily think she isn't producing enough if she were to try to pump when she's been at home all day nursing her baby.
When you're with your baby, you're just not going to pump as much as you will when you're away! I'm going to say that one more time... you will pump less milk when you're with your baby than you will when you've been away because your baby is there drinking the milk, so there is less to pump out.
On the flip side, when you're away from your baby you will pump more because your baby is not with you to drink any of the milk. I really hope this is making some light bulbs go off for you.
The 4oz I pumped in 4 hours, was not only pumped when I was at home, I also pumped this milk in the evening. The 16oz I pumped at work was in the morning. Your milk making hormones fluctuate throughout the day. You will produce milk faster in the morning, and slower in the evening. Have you ever been through cluster feeding? My bet would be it happened in the evening, and this is exactly why. You still have plenty of milk for your baby. It's there. Your body is just slowing down the process a bit. This is absolutely normal.
This hormone fluctuation is why you will be able to pump more in the morning and less later in the day. It is one of the factors contributing to my 4 oz vs 16 oz output.
So why is the pump output in jar #1 drastically less than jar #2?
What is a normal expectation to pump when you're with your baby?
Anywhere from a few drops up to an ounce or two. There is not a standard, and there are way too many variables to be able to say what is normal or not.
If you exclusively breastfeed your baby all day, and just happened to pump once during a lower point in the day or for whatever reason got a low output, you might assume that's all your baby was drinking at the breast and feel like you should supplement. If you go to your pediatrician because you're worried about supply, they will often ask, "How much can you pump?" But, as you now know, pumping is NOT an indication of how much milk you're making.
Now you can see why this pumping is so misleading and why so many women are tempted to supplement.
Unfortunately, when you start supplementing and taking time away from the breast, you do start to produce less milk and it's a slippery slope to a true low milk supply.*
The easiest way to tell if you're making enough is by looking at your baby. Are they having enough stool output? Are they growing and thriving? Are they following their curve and meeting their milestones? If you answered yes, guess what, mama?! You've got enough! You. Are. Enough.
If you've read this, or you're doubting yourself, or you still think you're not producing enough, please don't panic! We are milk supply experts and can absolutely help. Please don't struggle on your own. Reach out to us for support right HERE.
Have you ever pumped when you were at home with your baby?
We want to know! Tell us about it in the comments. Did you feel like you weren't making enough after trying to pump?
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Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE
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