Today's post was inspired by a text message I received from an alumni Coach last night - I am touched by these dads who are so loving and caring for the MotherBaby.
Q: Can lack of sleep affect your milk supply?
A: See below!
There are four things a mama must obtain in order to have the energy to make the quantity and the quality of milk optimal for baby: food, water, rest and relaxation.
Food: We teach our Bradley Method® students that they should keep following the Brewer diet after baby is born, and that they can expect to need up to 500 extra calories per day beyond the food calories they ate while pregnant. A healthy nursing mom will consume between 2500-3000 calories per day. Making milk is an around-the-clock job, so it follows that you need to be well-nourished to have the energy for you and for baby.
There are certain foods to avoid when you start breastfeeding, as well as a diet you can follow if you suspect your baby may have food sensitivity or an allergy as indicated by skin rashes or behavior. Based on our own experience, it’s better to start bland and add foods in, rather than try to take out one or two things at a time to figure out what might be causing the problem.
Water: Stating the obvious here…breastmilk is a liquid, therefor liquid in, liquid out. My friend Lisa taught me that the best way to gauge how much water you need is to take your body weight and divide it by two. That number is the minimum ounces of water you need to be drinking every day. If you are exercising, exposed to heat, etc., then that number is higher. Anytime you are thirsty, your body has passed the dehydrated stage and is giving you a physical signal that it is time to hydrate.
When you add breastfeeding to the equation, then you might need even more water than your bodyweight divided by two. Use that as a minimum, and then follow your body’s cues.
Rest: Making breastmilk is a 24/7 proposition – it is a bodily function that requires energy. Sleep is a big part of the equation since the human body is conservative – it’s only interest is life preservation. Your body will decide which functions mom needs to stay alive, and cuts back on the functions that may be interfering with life function. If you are not sleeping and it’s starting to affect your body’s ability to function, your body may decide that making milk is extracurricular and start shutting down production.
This is not to say that production is permanently affected – you can start sleeping and then your milk production will return. There are many reasons why mom doesn’t sleep –the most important thing to do is find a solution. If you are so worried about the baby that you want to watch them sleep, then ask people to come over and hold the baby for a bit so you can sleep peacefully. One of the greatest gifts I ever received as a new mom was just that – restful sleep. My mom was with us and I finally gave in and let her take the baby for a little while. It was the first time I slept soundly after Ysabella was born – best two hours of sleep ever!!
Our nighttime routine to maximize everyone’s sleep goes like this: I am usually the first one to hear the baby, so I wake up Bruss to change her diaper while I use the bathroom (all that water still makes me go all the time!) Then I get back in bed, he brings me the baby and we start nursing. Then he goes to the kitchen, fixes me a high protein snack, brings me a full glass of water (at least 16 oz.) and he goes back to sleep. I eat my snack, drink my water, finish nursing baby who has nursed herself back to sleep; and then it’s back to sleep for me, too. (My dentist would probably want me to brush my teeth again – hasn’t happened yet!)
Relaxation: There is a surrender component to breastfeeding as well. Bradley Method® students learn the importance of normal abdominal breathing as relaxation tool for labor…as it turns out, abdominal breathing is a relaxation tool to use in Life. As it relates to breastfeeding, milk flows freely when mom is calm and relaxed. Deep breathing can help mom let go of stress so that nursing sessions are enjoyable and productive.
Being stressed-out creates a vicious cycle: Stressors create adrenaline, adrenaline suppresses the production of oxytocin, oxytocin regulates let-down. If the body is making milk and then the milk isn’t being removed efficiently, the body gets the message to make less. Mom stresses that she is not making enough milk...and the downward spiral continues until a mom who wanted to breastfeed gives up breastfeeding all together.
This is another temporary situation that does not need to become a permanent condition. You (mom or coach) can assess what is causing stress, do what you (mom or coach) can do to reduce the stressor(s) as best as possible, and there is a reasonable expectation that Mom’s supply will return. Remind yourself that Mom is a finely tuned machine - as her body’s hormones are back in sync for milk production and milk release, the supply and demand cycle created between Mom and Baby should return to the necessary levels.
There are already great sources for more information on increasing your supply. I send our Bradley® students to www.kellymom.com for information provided by an IBCLC, and here is a link to a blog post on the anatomy of the breast and how mom, baby and diet work together to make milk.
What advice would you share with a mom learning to breastfeed?
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.