“I find by 7pm my supply is at nothing and my 8 week old is screaming because he’s not getting anything. So the other night of continuously putting him on the breast and him constantly pulling off after two seconds with not enough I topped him up with formula around 8pm Then the next feed at 1.30am was 100% BM and and the remainder of the day was fine with feeding until around 7pm wen again I felt empty and he was screaming and fussing like nothing else. So once again I topped him up and he was fine and now here I am at 1.30am BFing…before my operation I was expressing after most morning feeds but haven’t done that since the op as wanted to make sure I had enough. I am scared my supply will drop more and ill end up with a 100% formula fed baby. Please help!”
Firstly, you are doing a great job making such a serious effort to breastfeed.
You have had surgery and your body is recovering, so please be kind to YOU. The first rule is ‘feed the baby’. If your baby is hungry, that’s what is important and that’s just what you did. It is helpful, though, to understand what may be happening and how you can boost your milk supply so you will be able to exclusively breastfeed.
It’s common for babies at this age to ‘cluster feed’, meaning they feed very frequently over a period of a few hours. This can happen at any time of the day but it is common in the evening and can mean that as your baby feeds almost constantly, your breasts feel ‘empty’.
When this happens it’s perfectly reasonable to worry that your milk supply is lower during the evening. However, Dr. Peter Hartmann, a breastfeeding researcher at the University of Western Australia, has said that in the women he has studied, milk volume is not low at this time of day. Even if milk volume is lower in the evening, fat content is typically higher in the evening (particularly if baby is allowed to control this via cue feeding), so the amount of calories that baby is getting should not be significantly different.
However, there is research to suggest that when your baby cluster feeds over a few hours, your letdown reflex can become a bit slower over this time because of a slower hormonal response. Your letdown reflex can also be affected by tiredness and stress, especially the stress of worrying whether you have enough milk for your baby – what a vicious cycle!
One solution if your baby has been feeding for a while and you are starting to feel ‘empty’ is to take a break – pass your baby to your partner if they are around and have a drink, something to eat or a warm shower to help you relax. Your partner won’t smell like milk so your baby is likely to be fairly calm as you take this little break. Then you can come back and try feeding your baby again and he will be more likely to settle at the breast.
The best way to boost your evening milk flow is to pre-empt this time: have a rest in the afternoon when your baby sleeps so you aren’t exhausted by late afternoon/evening, make sure you eat a healthy lunch and a healthy afternoon snack – try some of our delicious Boobie Bikkies; and drink plenty of fluids. Also by allowing your baby to feed whenever he shows hungry signals, your breasts will get the signal to make more milk. And, skin to skin cuddles will boost your breastfeeding hormone levels.
In fact, a couple of days in bed, snuggling your baby skin to skin and allowing access to your breasts, as well as eating healthy foods, will boost your milk supply very quickly. Also see our Free Ebook ‘Making More Mummy Milk’
And, if you are worried about weaning your baby off formula top-ups, check out our blog to see how you can do this.Also see Pinky’s article ‘Food and Mother’s Milk – how your diet can boost your breastmilk’