Recently I had the privilege of helping a newborn family with breastfeeding their one week old. They were doing well but baby and mum were needing some support to latch better as baby had been away from the breast in his first few days of life and was just starting to learn. We were discussing the next few weeks and what to expect. We talked about the importance of a good latch in regards to avoiding nipple and breast pain and the implications for babys tummy comfort too. During this discussion the Dad asked me “What happens if he doesn’t learn to latch properly in the next few weeks, she has so much milk at the moment will that change?” His question was about milk supply.
I love these questions. It is with these simple questions that I have often come up with “little Breastfeeding Gems” and this time I stumbled upon one of those!
I answered thus:
"During the first few weeks Mum and babes milk supply is really helped along by some strong hormones namely Prolactin. Although milk supply and production is driven by how much your baby needs/drinks, these hormones still tend to be overly keen on helping. Think of these weeks as your baby's “Orientation to being a Breastfeeding Production Manager” (see what I did there! I thought it was super clever and the Dad laughed and nodded! He got it!!!).
During these early weeks Prolactin is like his Supervisor-helping him along by producing milk at a rate a little bit greater than he needs...so it’s not to tough for him. However, overtime Prolactin is going to start taking a backseat and let your baby take more of a leading role in milk production (supply and demand).
To be the best Milk Production Manager he can be, he needs to know how to latch well and remove adequate amounts of milk which will tell his Mums body to keep making it. If he doesn’t learn how to do this, milk production may start to slow and there is no longer the hormonal backup co-worker there to help him out. So with your help and his mum guiding him (which she was doing beautifully) he will hopefully start to figure this all out well in a timely manner!”
The mum and dad understood this perfectly and I was STOKED that I had come up with this cool analogy! How did I know Dad had understood? He followed with "oh so that is why he needs to be able to feed whenever he wants. So he can get practice and so he can tell His Mums body to make milk".... THIS IS WHAT LCs DREAMS ARE MADE OF PEOPLE!!
Of course as with ANYTHING to do with humans this can vary-some Mums struggle to produce adequate amounts (less common) and some have overly keen co-workers that like to over produce for quite some time! But generally speaking the above is what occurs.
What do you think of this analogy? Is it what you experienced? Or did you have an over-excited co-worker? Or did it seem like your co-workers were on strike? Perhaps your body was doing beautifully (most do!) but your Little Manager struggled? I have experienced all of these!
Remember if you are struggling with breastfeeding or have some questions like this Dads. Reach out! There are IBCLCs and Support Groups throughout our beautiful country!!
Peace and light