Have you ever thought about the things you don’t need to know when breastfeeding? I’m sure you have come across those lists…all about things you don’t need to know. Here are 5 of the most important things you DON’T need to know when you’re a breastfeeding parent.
How Much Milk You Make
You might think this is the most important thing to know. It’s not. You really don’t need to know how much milk you are making. In fact, there really isn’t a way to know how much milk you are making. Maybe some well-meaning individual has suggested to pump and “see how much milk you are making”. Pumping is not an accurate indication of how much milk you make. When you pump, all you see is the milk you have pumped. This is in no way related to how much milk your body actually makes. Your baby will tell your body how much milk they need when they are feeding. It’s a perfect system.
What Time Your Last Feeding Was
It is not necessary to keep track of what time your last feeding was. If your baby is feeding on-demand, meaning you are putting the baby to breast when they are showing feeding cues, the timing doesn’t matter. Babies are just little people. As adults, we don’t eat the same amount at every meal. Babies are no different. They don’t eat the same amount every time they feed at the breast/chest. This means your baby may eat more frequently at times. That’s why it’s not important to know what time your last feeding was. Maybe it was 2 hours ago. Maybe it was 45 minutes ago. Both are ok.
How Much Milk Your Baby Takes
This kind of goes hand in hand with what time your last feeding was. Babies take the amount of milk they want when breast/chestfeeding, not how much we give them. When bottle-feeding, babies often take more than they need. Try not to worry about how much milk your baby takes. If they are gaining weight, growing, and meeting milestones they are taking what they need.
One of the most common concerns I hear from new parents is “how do I know how much my baby is getting?” I remember feeling a sense of panic with my babies during the newborn period as well. It takes a little time to feel confident. Trust your body and trust your baby to tell you what they need. Some parents will default to exclusively pumping and bottle feeding because it’s the best way to see how much milk the baby gets. Obsessing over how much milk your baby gets can ruin the breastfeeding relationship. If you are breast/chestfeeding on-demand, following your baby’s cues, and changing a lot of wet and dirty diapers, your baby is getting enough milk.
How Much Milk Your Friend/Neighbor Makes
Comparison is the name of the game, right? Not when it comes to breast/chestfeeding. Now that we are in the age of social media, we are constantly networking with other people through pictures and videos. Parent groups are the only interaction some new families have, and they are used for support, advice, and connection. All of that is really important. However, it’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of comparison when you see someone posting pictures of all the milk they pumped or how much weight their baby has gained. You just can’t fall into that trap, it’s devastating. We are all made to be different, that includes how your baby grows and how much milk you make. Do not expect to pump as much milk as the next person and do not expect your baby to grow the same way another baby does.
I recently had a first-time mother contact me due to concern about her baby’s weight gain. Her baby was about 4 months old, and they had been breastfeeding just fine. Then one day she found herself in a Facebook group for babies who were all born in the same month her baby was born. The other parents were comparing weights, and this mother was worried because her baby did not weigh as much as the other babies did. This brought her into an unnecessary spiral of concern. She began questioning their breastfeeding relationship, her milk supply, the content of her milk, and even the health and wellbeing of her baby. Everything was fine.
Babies all grow the way they are supposed to when they are breastfeeding. Babies feed when they are hungry and eat the amount they want to eat. As adults, we don’t expect to weigh the same as our friends or have the same exact body type as our neighbors. That’s ridiculous. We should not expect the same of babies.
How Long Your Baby Feeds For
You don’t need to keep track of how long your baby feeds. When your baby is a newborn, there is a lot of emphases placed on how long babies will spend nursing. I understand that it can feel helpful to have some structure to the feedings and place a number on how long they should spend at the breast/chest. Families like to have something to go by. However, when it comes right down to it, the timing doesn’t matter all that much. In fact, it might be different all the time and that is perfectly normal.
You may hear that timing your baby is important. It’s a common misconception that babies will get what they need in a matter of minutes and spend wasted time at the breast. First of all, time at the breast is never time wasted. And some babies may take a little longer to feed than other babies.
As newborns, feedings can take a while because your baby is learning how to breastfeed. This is a new and important skill. As babies get bigger, stronger, and more coordinated, feedings are usually quick and easy. Usually being the keyword here. Every baby is different. Watch how your baby is feeding, do not watch the timer on your phone to know how long they are there. Watch for signs that your baby is feeding well. Look for good sucks and swallows, occasional pauses, consistent activity. If your baby is feeding efficiently, they may be on and off the breast fairly quickly. If they are sleepy and still figuring out how to breastfeed, it will likely take them much longer.
It can take a little time before you feel confident in your breastfeeding relationship. One thing is certain, you will learn more about your baby with every feeding. Continue to follow their lead and feed on demand. Try not to focus on the things that will cause you more stress during this time. If you ever have concerns about how your breast/chestfeeding relationship is evolving, don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant! They will help you through your journey. For more things you don’t need to know, check out this episode of the Badass Breastfeeding Podcast.