Mother Nature. She is beautiful, wild, a little crazy, capable, of so much, and man is she smart! (no pun intended).
A woman's body is quite similar I think. It can grow a child, birth a large doughnut sized head and go back to normal, sustain life, function on very little sleep, multitask like it's no ones business and reach a level of love and devotion to her children that can hardly be explained.
One of the many wonderful things about a woman biologically, is that fact that she can produce human milk to nourish and grow her young. Let's fast forward to the day your baby is born and how your breasts are full of colostrum (the thick, immune packed, perfect liquid gold). As long as baby is latching effectively & frequently and removing colostrum soon enough your breasts are going to be bursting with milk by day 3 (for most). You are going to feel like you are 3 sizes bustier, leaking constantly, engorged, and the blue veins in your breasts are so bright you look translucent.
This is A M A Z I N G! Your milk is in! This is the milk you want to hear your baby guzzle while they're drinking and poop/pee out a few hours later. It's wonderful because you may finally be able to have that "sigh of relief" that your baby is "actually getting something" after three days of constant drinking and cluster feeding (even though colostrum is still milk and they were getting something).
So as much as this can be great, there can be some challenges that come with this massive amount of milk. Yes, i said it, I am sorry but I have to be real with you and upfront because If you run into these issues you will blame me for telling you that this much milk was the best thing ever. It is the best thing ever, but it can cause a shallow latch... sometimes.
The basics of a latch: Tummy to Mommy, Nipple at the Nose, Chin against the chest, Bum tucked and voila! Right? It sounds so precise, easy, natural. Then why does it still pinch and why are your nipples starting to get cracked and raw? Because, sometimes that overabundance of milk can be the cause of your baby having difficulty getting an effective, deep latch.
See what happens, is when the breasts are too full of milk the breast tissue becomes tight and hard. It is hard for a newborn baby to get enough of the areola in their mouth to actually achieve a deep latch. Remember, it isn't nipple feeding its breast feeding so that areola NEEDS to be in their mouth too! We need the areola and breast tissue surrounding the nipple to be somewhat soft and stretchy so that baby has something to grab with their mouth. If your baby can not get a deep latch because of this issue, over the next few days these things can occur:
*Shallow latch, causing sore damaged nipples (which is a portal of entry for bacteria. Yikes!).
*Incomplete drainage of the breast which can lead to plugged ducts, mastitis and even breast abscesses, which in turn can cause low milk supply.
*Slow weight gain in the baby
*Fussy, constantly hungry baby
*Supplementation which can cause bottle preference and breast refusal or poor milk supply and end a breastfeeding relationship that could have otherwise been thriving.
We do NOT want these things. So here is what you can do to make sure when you are about to latch your newborn baby they can get on that soft, stretchy breast tissue and get a deep, effective latch.
You are going to hand express or manual/electric pump your breast that is super engorged just until your areola starts to feel softer. If you have time you can even have a warm shower and massage your breasts downward so that some milk leaks out in the shower and helps soften your breasts for a latch (but this is kind of like wasting milk, and I am all for saving it because every drop counts). Sometimes 1-1.5oz is just enough. If you take your fingers and poke your breast it should feel like the tip of your nose or your cheek before you get baby on. I PROMISE you, you are not taking milk away from your baby as your breasts are still full and are going to make more milk AS your baby drinks. This is just getting out some of that fore-milk that has been sitting there to make it easier for your baby to latch on. After you do this, try and go back to the basics of a latch after doing some skin to skin with baby. See you if you can obtain a deep, effective latch this way.
Overtime, your milk supply is going to regulate more for your baby and be made based on their needs (supply and demand). But generally, the first few weeks of your baby's life your body goes into "oversupply mode" because this is natures way of making sure you have LOTS of milk for your baby. While this isn't true for every woman, its quite common so being prepared is essential so you have those tips to make the start of your breastfeeding journey positive.
If you find that your baby is only drinking off one breast per feed and is content with this, but your other breast is getting so engorged it is uncomfortable; pumping it or using a HAAKAA during the feed or right after may be right for you. You will only want to take off enough milk to feel comfortable, because draining that breast completely is just telling it do the same thing over and over with supply and does not "fix" that engorgement problem.
I'll post a link below of where to purchase the haakaa pump. It seems to be the latest fad, and it is actually a very useful tool to help with over-engorgement but also creating a freezer stash of milk. If you put the haakaa
on your non-feeding breast every feed and collected 1-2oz, that can add up to almost 16oz a day of breastmilk which could be 112oz a week! That is literally amazing. I wish I would have used one in the early days with my little one, because then I wouldn't have to be pumping like a mad woman in time for my return to work!
I hope these tips helped, and obviously if these tricks don't help and you are still finding you are unable to get that deep, effective latch, you are still getting nipple trauma, or you feel your baby just is not removing milk appropriately REACH OUT for an IBCLC to help you! Don't ask your doctor (unless they are a lactation specialist, which I highly doubt), don't ask google (you could get clicking and get the wrong advice that can backfire), ask a qualified lactation professional who has the RIGHT answers, supports you and can help you with your concerns.