Look At The Baby, Not The Scales

How is your milk supply?

I just want to check in with you, because medical staff can often start coming down heavy on babies who are not gaining a lot of weight. I want to make sure that you understand a little about weight gain and low milk supply, so that you can make the best breastfeeding decisions for you and your baby.

If breastfeeding is going super for you, then you can have the day off. Hurray! But in case you are worried, I’m here for you.

I'm breaking all the rules here because I'm going to bombard you with information, so maybe ask your partner or a friend to do the neocortex thing and help you take this in so you can stay in your oxytocin flow.

Here's what lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata has to say about normal weight gain, and I trust her totally:

“Baby should regain birth weight by 10 days to 2 weeks. If your baby lost a good bit of weight in the early days, or if your baby is sick or premature, it may take longer to regain birth weight. If baby does not regain birth weight by two weeks, this is a sign that the breastfeeding needs to be evaluated.”

Kelly Bonyata

Did you hear that? A sign that breastfeeding needs to be evaluated. It’s not a sign that you need to top up with formula; it’s a red flag that you need more help with breastfeeding.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association gives your baby even more time to regain their birth weight. They say:

“A baby loses 5-10% of birth weight in the first week and regains this by 2-3 weeks.”

Australian Breastfeeding Association

If your baby is at or below birth weight, it's a concern, and certainly deserves the attention of a Lactation Consultant. 

Weight gain, in and of itself, with no other symptoms, is not the problem. 

It’s an indicator that you need some extra breastfeeding support. Unfortunately, good help takes time, which some medical professionals do not have. It’s quicker and easier to top up with formula, but this does not exactly solve the breastfeeding problem.

I can’t give you advice, particularly since I’ve never even seen your baby, but you may look at your baby and decide you don’t have low milk supply after all. In which case, you do NOT need to supplement with formula.

I certainly can't tell you to go against the advice of a medical professional, I can suggest you get a second opinion if you are not satisfied with the advice you have been given.

I also want to let you know that ultimately the choice is yours. You are your baby’s mother; only you know what is best.

If you really do have low milk supply, which is exceptionally rare, Christina Smilie may be able to inspire you. Once, I went to a conference with her that totally changed my life, and this is one of the things she taught me:

“Do we ever run out of tears? Only if we don’t feel sad. Do we ever run out of milk? Only if we don’t feel love.”

Christina Smilie

If your milk supply is struggling, seek the advice of an independent Lactation Consultant, if you do not love your hospital-based one. It’s really important to look at the underlying issue at this stage. There are some really simple things that can interfere with breastfeeding, for example tongue-tie or medication that has a sedative side effect. Get a Lactation Consultant to help you get on track if you need to.

But, there is also the often forgotten matter of oxytocin, which is responsible for your milk let down. If you are feeling stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed or anxious, your oxytocin system may have been interrupted. Figure out what you need to do to feel the love again, and the milk will flow too.