I’ve written a lot about low supply over the years. How to increase supply, how to drop supplements, myths surround low milk supply…and how YES, low supply is actually A THING! However there is something that drives me bonkers when it comes to low supply advice. Every day I speak with women around the world during breastfeeding consultations. And women with low supply or with baby’s who have slow weight gain or weight loss are almost always told the same thing. “You need to breastfeed, then pump, and then top up with your expressed milk”. This is told to women time and time again, in almost every corner of the world. This lovely (NOT) little activity is called “triple feeding” which I write about here.
However, while pumping is the “go to” bit of advice when someone has low supply or their baby isn’t gaining well, it’s actually something that I only suggest in certain circumstances, as pumping is never as effective as a baby who is latching well and breastfeeding efficiently. I would only suggest pumping if there was 1 (or more) of these 4 things going on…
- Your baby cannot effectively and efficiently remove the milk (or has “poor milk transfer” as it’s commonly referred to). YOU WILL NEED TO PUMP if your baby cannot latch or cannot remove the milk well. CLICK HERE for more info on a baby who is not latching.
- You will be separated from your baby and miss a breastfeed.
- Your baby did not breastfeed or could not breastfeed (for whatever reason) when they normally would have.
- You are in pain or discomfort when feeding and cannot breastfeed as frequently or for as long as your baby wants. CLICK HERE if you are in pain!
AND along with one of these 4 things…you must actually getting milk out when you pump! If you have been pumping for 3 days straight and not getting anything then it makes no sense to continue pumping.
Why are these the only 4 situations where I’d tell a woman to pump? Because simply put, if your baby is latching and breastfeeding well then it makes sense to focus on how your BABY can remove more milk more frequently, not the pump. So what is the most effective way to increase supply and does not involve being hooked up to a pump? Switch nursing! It involves moving your baby back and forth between breasts, every few minutes until your baby is done. Try to make sure your baby goes at least 3-4 times on each side total. Does this make you concerned about foremilk and hind milk? It’s OK! Since your baby is going back and forth so many times, they will get the hindmilk as well. You can read more about that HERE.
Here is the summary of how to switch nurse. Make sure you gently break the suction by putting your finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the seal as this will help prevent pain or nipple damage when switching your baby over to the other side.
If switch nursing is going to work for you, it will usually take about 24-48 hours to start to see improvements in your supply. You might notice your breasts are “heavier” or feel more full, you might start to leak more or your baby will start to swallow more frequently when feeding. You might also notice an increase in your baby’s nappy output. If you have been supplementing your baby with formula, you should continue to do so while you are switch nursing to build your supply. Once you start to see that your milk supply is increasing, then you can slowly start to drop the supplements. It is important that you work with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) when you do this though as how this is done can vary from baby to baby. If any of the following happens when you start switch nursing, please seek help from an IBCLC as soon as possible:
- Breastfeeding starts to be painful or uncomfortable for you.
- Your baby becomes increasingly unsettled or appears very fussy at the breast most of the time.
- You are not sure if your baby is getting enough.
- Any time you feel confused or concerned about you or your baby for any reason.
Breastfeeding can be hard work! And very confusing. However, there are possible solutions to every breastfeeding challenge, and there are many of us here for you to help you along the way. If you keep hearing different advice from different people, have a read through of my blog post about who’s advice you should listen to! Trust your instincts and follow the lead of your baby. ♥