We know that milk supply is a function of so many things- a delicate dance between hormones, baby and breast. It is also deeply affected by the health and wellness of the breast/chestfeeding person and this is where postpartum care and support really comes into play.
The first few weeks postpartum are typically exhausting- your body is recovering, you’re adjusting to life with little sleep and a 24 hour clock and are probably realizing the reality that sometimes it is difficult to even manage 3 square meals a day! Below, a few of the common foes to establishing great supply in the early days and how you can be best prepared to avoid and overcome them in your journey.
1. ““Stress is the No. 1 killer of breastmilk supply, especially in the first few weeks after delivery. Between lack of sleep and adjusting to the baby’s schedule, rising levels of certain hormones such as cortisol can dramatically reduce your milk supply.” Dr. Shavani Patel MD
2. Eating/Drinking Too Little
Sometimes when we are GO GO GO and just relentlessly busy with baby or family or playing host, the food is the first thing to go. The quantity and quality of your milk is super dependent on what you put into your body- and now is not the time to be thinking about cutting calories or “bouncing” back to some kind of prepregnancy mode.
3. Misinformation about breastfeeding etc.
In the early days, it is all about establishing supply AND about establishing your relationship with baby- two things that are an uphill battle if you are worried about sticking to a schedule or some kind of plan. Many of us are so worried about when we will ever sleep again or how to tell baby is getting enough milk that we fall into the advice of heavily scheduled, one-size-fits-all kind of planning and these not only cause unnecessary stress (see #1), they are often the enemy of establishing a great supply in the crucial early days.
The great news is, the common challenges of the early days can be overcome with some simple solutions all aimed at providing loving care and nurturing to the birthing/feeding person in the early days of recovery.
*A thoughtful Postpartum Plan: Go beyond the birth plan! Your postpartum plan can cover everything from who makes the meals to who takes out the trash or walks the dog. If you choose to welcome visitors, post it on the fridge for helpful friends to chip in-people love to be helpful. Planning ahead for these details will make the day to day of this time less weighted by the stresses of daily life- put those bills on autopay, let your best friend plan the meal train and
*Postpartum Doula Support: A postpartum doula can support you in everything from your physical recovery to the daily tasks required to keep the calm in your home. She’ll make sure you’re fed, nurtured, heard and set up for a healthy transition. In short- she takes care of you, so that you can recover and focus on the things that need you (like staring into your babies eyes, nursing, and resting!) This is one of those things that somehow seems hard for us to understand until we are in it- like how it might be possible to NOT have the time for a shower or how a person could go all day without eating….but once you’ve had a postpartum doula in your home, trust me- you’ll never want to let her go! I also really see this as a significant way to mark the phase that you are in- you are intentionally taking the time and space to make this an important part of your journey and it will pay you back, trust me!
A relationship with an incredible lactation consultant can change your experience from start to finish. I always recommend that families meet their consultant before baby if at all possible, once baby arrives, and then as needed. So many of us are working with less than perfect latches, tongue-ties or other challenges that we don’t even realize- and there’s not reason to struggle with these things for weeks only to find out that it could have been easier for all of you! Furthermore, with a professional on speed-dial, you can avoid falling into the trap of the schedules or routines that so commonly harm our supply in the early days. As the common questions and hurdles of the early days ease, others will come up- when to pump? How to keep supply up at work? You get the idea, and having this person in your back pocket is one of the best ways to ensure you meet your personal breastfeeding goals.