Are you making enough milk? Well, your pump isn't gonna be able to answer that.

There is an alarming trend right now among breastfeeding moms who pump. Its something that's been bothering me for a while, and something I find I have to explain several times a week to different clients, so I thought it'd be worthwhile for me to blog about it.

What I'm talking about is the trend of moms obsessing about numbers. This trend is not terrible. In many ways, its better than the alternative (I suppose).

Common things I hear from my clients:

"I'm not making enough milk, because the other day I pumped and there was only XXml compared to my usual XXXml per session."

OR WORSE:

"I'm not making enough milk, because the other day I pumped and there was only XXml compared to my friend's XXXml per session."

So...why is this a problem? It is a problem because mothers are undermining their own ability to feed their children! The truth of the matter is, breastfeeding is NOT a numbers game. Breastfeeding is an organic process, just as you are an organic being. Nature is unpredictable! That means breastfeeding is, in many many ways, inherently unpredictable.



I thought these two images were so funny when you compare them, LOL. One is more a common reality for most moms - no points for guessing which. Picture credits: Jezebel.com, One Tiny Suitcase 


If you are relying on your breasts to make the same amount of milk for you as your friend's breasts does, or if you are relying on your breasts to make the same amount of milk for you at every single pumping session, then you are putting undue pressure on yourself. This leads to "performance anxiety" that will actually cause your supply to drop. Self-fulfilling prophecy - your imagined deficiency will eventually be real.

So, are you making enough milk for your baby? Here are some facts to consider:

  1. Breastpumps are NOT a reliable indicator of your supply

    Breastpumps are inferior to your nursling in extracting your milk. So the number that you are seeing is not even reflecting the actual amount of milk your breasts are really producing.

  2. There are many reasons for changes in output

    Stress, dehydration, hormones - all of these can cause your supply to dip temporarily. Some even say that output can change depending on the time of day! In order to have consistent and "enough" output, you have to always avoid stress, keep yourself hydrated, and control your hormones. Does this sound impossible? I thought so. So just try to do your best at every session, and if something seems amiss, remain calm and remedy it before the next session. It is likely that your temporary dip does not indicate a permanent effect on your supply.

  3. How's your baby doing?

    Is your baby happy and full of energy? Is he/she gaining weight consistently? Is he/she having regular pees and poops? If so, your baby is likely getting enough milk!

    These days, even weight gain is not seen as the only reliable indicator of your milk supply - Dr Jay Gordon advices that you look at your baby, not your baby's weight gain, and he makes some excellent points!

  4. Speaking of poops...

    During the newborn stage, the breastfed infant's elimination habits are fairly standard. Its only once they are a bit older (around 6 weeks) that things change a bit, and you'll find that what's normal for some is not particularly normal for others. Aqil used to poop only every 2 weeks, whereas my nephew poops at every other feed. You can find out more about infant stooling habits here.
So, the next time you're tempted to obsess over the numbers on that bottle, look away...and look at the other factors I pointed out above. Remember that breastfeeding is beyond the numbers!

If you'd like more information, please feel free to click on the hyperlinks in the post, and also visit the following resources:
"Quick Reference Card: Is my baby getting enough?" by Kellymom
"What to expect when pumping" by Kellymom