Question: I’m exclusively my 4 month old baby girl, and haven’t had any problems up til now. She is gaining weight well – she weighed 5 lbs 12 ounces when she was born, and now at 4 months she weighs 14 lbs. I’m returning to work when she’s 6 months old, and 2 weeks ago I started double pumping after feedings so I could store up milk for the babysitter to use while I’m gone.
Answer: You have a healthy baby who is thriving and gaining weight well, and nothing that you have described sounds unusual. Ir doesn’t sound like you’re really losing your milk at all.
When your milk ‘comes in’, your breasts feel full and hard to the touch between feedings, and you tend to leak a lot when the milk ‘lets’ down. If you go long periods of time between feedings, like when your baby starts sleeping through the night, your breasts may become engorged, and if they aren’t emptied frequently, you may have problems with plugged ducts.
Once your supply is well established and your baby is several months old, it’s normal for your breasts to feel less full and for you to leak less, but that doesn’t mean that you are losing your milk. It is also normal for you to have more “extra” milk in the early stages of breastfeeding, which explains why you don’t get as much milk now when you pump after feedings. After a few months, your supply settles down so that you make what the baby needs without a lot left over.
Babies go through growth spurts periodically where they nurse more often (‘cluster feed’) for a while in order to build your milk supply. This is also normal. Cluster feedings often occur when your baby is around 7-10 days old and again at around 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. Babies tend to cluster feed in the evenings when your supply is the lowest, and may start nursing during the night again even if they were sleeping through before. Nursing often during growth spurts is the best way to build your supply, and soon your baby will go back to her regular schedule and going longer between feedings instead of nursing like a newborn.
You obviously have a good milk supply because your baby’s weight gain has been tremendous. Most babies double their birth weight by 5-6 months, and your baby is well on the way to tripling hers at 4 months!
Going back to work is challenging for all nursing moms, but since you produce such a plentiful supply of milk, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to send your body the signals to make more. Frequent nursing is the best way to build your supply, and pumping with a good double pump is the next best. Find more info here: Returning to Work, Pumping and Storing, and Increasing Your Milk Supply.
Anne Smith, IBCLC