4 Tips to Manage Your Breast Milk After Giving Birth
Within a few days of your child's birth, your breasts will fill with milk. It's helpful for all expectant birth mothers to have a plan to cope with this aspect of post-pregnancy care.
The following tips will help you manage your milk supply and breast discomfort.
Decide Whether You Will Nurse the Baby
You may notice a sticky, yellowish ooze dripping from your nipples during middle to late pregnancy. This substance is called colostrum, and it's loaded with proteins, vitamins and antioxidants. Colostrum is also the first milk that your breasts will produce after the birth.
Some birth mothers choose to nurse their babies before they are officially adopted in order to give the newborns all of the benefits of the immunity-boosting colostrum. In some cases, the adoptive family may request that you nurse the baby to provide these benefits.
Only you can decide if nursing is the right decision for you. The bonding experience of breastfeeding may make it harder to relinquish the baby. It will also cause your body to think you'll be nursing in the future, so your body will begin releasing more of the hormones that help you produce an abundant milk supply. It may take a few extra days to dry up your milk once you stop nursing.
There's no need to feel guilty if you choose not to breastfeed. In many cases, the baby will have a hard time latching on at first, so only a small amount of colostrum actually makes it to the baby's belly.
Understand the Sensations of Your Milk Coming In
Your body will produce only colostrum for a day or so after the birth, since the baby needs very little nutrition during that time. There won't be any mistaking the feeling when your actual breast milk comes in, because your breasts will become very full. The breasts may become very hard and feel hot to you.
You may also notice a feeling called the "let-down" reflex. This reflex is your breasts' way of releasing the milk from the ducts so baby can eat. It feels like a tingling sensation, and you can feel the breasts soften as milk flows to the nipples. The let-down reflex may be triggered when something touches your nipple, you hear a baby's cry or you think about your baby.
Once let-down occurs, your breasts may leak. The pressure of the milk in your full breasts forces milk out. Some birth mothers don't ever feel the let-down reflex before their milk dries up, since the reflex may take a few weeks to occur. The breasts will still leak, however, so be prepared with nursing pads to protect your bras and clothing from milk stains.
Have a Kit Ready for Your Discomfort
Most women will feel mild to moderate pain in their breasts when the milk arrives. If there's no breastfeeding going on, your body will send a signal to your mammary glands to stop producing milk, but it may take seven to ten days for your milk to dry up. Meanwhile, your breasts may feel rock hard and very painful to the touch.
Have a breast-comfort kit ready for you when you get home from the hospital. Include the following items:
- Supportive, non-binding bras
- Breast pump
- Vitamin B6 to help relieve engorgement
- Sage tea or tinctures
- Ibuprofen or other pain reliever (talk to your doctor first)
It's okay to use the breast pump to express a bit of milk and ease your pain. Lactation experts recommend you only express milk for five minutes at a time from each breast. Do this several times a day for a few days, then stop completely as you produce less milk.
Use cold compresses and ice packs on the breasts, but avoid warm showers and hot packs. Heat applied to the breasts encourages let-down and may cause you to produce more milk. You doctor may prescribe medication to help dry up your milk. Ask about the side effects of this medication before accepting it.
Choose Whether or Not to Donate Milk
Some birth mothers who give their babies up for adoption ease their sadness by continuing to pump the breast milk. They donate the breast milk to mothers' milk banks to help premature newborns and other babies receive the benefits of human milk.
You may wish to completely dry up your milk. That's an appropriate and completely understandable thing to do.
If you do wish to donate your breast milk, be aware that pumping alone will not always guarantee a continued milk supply. However, even a few weeks’ worth of milk will be appreciated. You will also need to contact your local milk bank in advance of the birth if you want to offer your milk to other newborns. The staff will advise you on testing and other requirements you must meet to donate your milk.
The compassionate and caring staff at A Child's Dream are ready and waiting to help birth mothers through the process of placing their newborns for adoption. Call us today with any questions or concerns you have about your pregnancy and adoption plans.