I got very involved with a facebook discussion from a stressed out mom whose caregiver has been telling her, daily, she’s not sending enough milk for her exclusively breastfed baby. This issue hits very close to home, because caregivers for my first son often said the same thing. I allowed them to let me think my milk supply was the problem, when I’ve since come to learn that breastfed babies drink milk from the bottle very differently from bottle-fed babies.
When breastfeeding moms go back to work, unless they are super-producers, they often experience a great deal of stress about the quantity of milk they are expressing for their baby, who is home facing hunger and discomfort if Mama does not leave enough milk. I found that I obsessed about the milk at home. I thought about it all day long when separated from my son and when I’d get a call at 11am saying he’d drunk all the milk I left to tide him over until 5pm, I spent the rest of the day in a panic.
Here’s what I’ve since learned that might have helped me both calm down and speak with my caregivers.
1. Breastfed babies drink less milk than formula-fed babies. A large study done in Belarus found that young breastfed babies drink about half the amount of milk their formula-fed companions need. By five months, the formula-fed babies are drinking SEVENTY PER CENT more milk. Breastfeeding USA has a fantastic article explaining the study and the differences in milk intake. Please give it a read if you’re concerned with the amount of milk you’re leaving behind with your breastfed baby.
2. Babies drink more and they drink faster from a bottle than from a breast. The Breastfeeding USA article suggests that if you offer a baby 6 ounces of milk in a bottle, the baby might drink 6 ounces whether she’s hungry or not. It flows out steadily through that nipple and baby doesn’t have to work too hard to get it. While it’s true you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, you sure can overstress a pumping mom and easily feed a baby more breastmilk than he might require for that time period. If caregivers are offering baby 6 ounces of milk per feeding, three times per work shift, that’s putting a lot of stress on Mama to express milk.
(Tip: if your caregivers are feeding your baby too much per sitting, try sending in smaller, measured-out bottles [3 ounces] with instructions to pause in between bottles to see if baby is actually hungry for more milk)
3. Some babies reverse cycle and wind up digesting most of their calories right from Mama (when she’d prefer to be sleeping). If your baby is nursing all night long, he might not need to eat as much during the day while you’re at work. Keep an eye on your baby’s weight gain, and read the KellyMom milk calculator article for more insight.
4. Breastfed babies eat differently from bottle-fed babies. A technique called “Paced Bottle Feeding” can help caregivers to mimic the breastfeeding experience with a bottle. This means making eye contact with baby, allowing the baby to control the pace of the feeding and following baby’s cues while eating, among other strategies to slow the flow of milk.
(Tip: stick with the newborn flow nipple even if you have an older baby so the flow isn’t overwhelming)
Hopefully, some of this information can help mamas to feel a bit more confident about their milk supply and about the food they are leaving behind with their baby while they return to the workplace. Sometimes, caregivers used to feeding formula-fed babies can be very insistent and leave a new mom questioning herself! If you have concerns about your milk supply, speak with an LC and make a plan for while your baby is with the caregivers. In many cases, it’s the caregiver who needs to learn more and not a problem with your pumping stash!
Did you have a caregiver telling you there was not enough milk for your baby? Leave us a comment to share some tips for speaking with caregivers!