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Previously content 12 week old starting to fuss at the breast

SBBA 3 Rep.

I’m exclusively breastfeeding my 12 week old son and, until recently, things had been going very well in terms of milk supply and his growth. If anything, I had borderline over-supply and very strong letdown, to the point that my breasts were always already leaking or spraying by the time I put him on to feed. He would nurse every 2 hours during the day and every 5 or so at night. I realize now that this may have been problematic, but I often fed him only from one side at a time as he was quickly satiated by one breast after 8-10 minutes without coming off and would spit-up if given more.

Over the past couple weeks, my supply seems to be a lot less and let down often takes a while to kick in. In the morning, my supply is high and letdown is fast, so nursing is still going well, but during the afternoon my supply seems lower and my son has started to latch and unlatch quickly, to pull and twist at my nipple, and to fuss in frustration when there is not immediately a flow of milk. So far, I’ve been able to get things going by repeatedly placing my breast back in his mouth and once he finally starts to suck, I’ll feel the letdown and see and hear him swallowing. When I’ve pumped in place of feedings in the afternoon (at 2 hour intervals), I’m sometimes only getting a little over 4 ounces from both breasts when I used to be able to get at least that much from each one. My son’s producing the same amount of wet and soiled diapers, he’s still quite chubby, and he ultimately seems content, but the whole thing is making me very anxious, especially since I’m going back to work next week and he’ll be getting bottles of pumped milk most of the day.

All of this said, I guess I have a few separate questions:

  1. My guess/hope at what’s going with my son is that, while my my supply is lower, it’s still adequate and just equalizing itself to meet but not exceed demand, and he is just not used to the slower letdown and flow I have at some points in the day. Does this seem plausible? If so, is there anything I can do to prevent the fussing? I assume he’ll adjust with time, but my worry is that my son will start to reject my breast completely now that he’ll be using a bottle with presumably faster flow most of the day.
  2. Even if my supply is still adequate, it’s clearly lower and I’m wondering how much I can/should do to bring it back up. I’m now making sure to nurse on both sides each time. The other possible culprit is that my son is now regularly sleeping stretches as long as 7-9 hours and it does seem that this change coincides with the supply dip. I haven’t been waking up to pump as I didn’t want to encourage more milk production at that time of day, especially since my supply is still high at night and the morning, but should I be?

I know this is quite long. Thanks in advance for your help!

SBBA commented on answer ago
    Philippa Pearson-Glaze 292 Rep.

    Hi there, it does sound like frustration with slow flow from what you’re describing but sometimes there can be more than one thing going on. Our article The Fussy Breastfed Baby may be helpful.

    Although a mother may have oversupply one week, a few weeks later things may have changed. Yes, sleeping a good stretch at night may also be involved, your baby will likely be hungrier during the day as he will want to make up for the period he slept. Plus, whenever breasts are very full (e.g. when baby sleeps 7-9 hrs), milk production will slow down. If baby’s weight gain is still good, whether to pump/wake baby to feed at night is personal choice but night feeds are generally a good way to help a milk supply. If you wake up with uncomfortably full breasts in the night, expressing to comfort or offering a feed to your baby can help relieve engorgement and avoid mastitis. Once you go back to work you may find your baby starts to wake more at night to breastfeed again to make up for the time you were apart.

    Sometimes babies start to fuss when they have bottles. To minimise this see Tips to Bottle Feed a Breastfed Baby

    Offering both breasts, feeding whenever your baby is hungry, and using breast compressions to increase flow are all good ways to increase your milk supply and see How to Make More Milk

    For more individualised help and support, do check with an IBCLC lactation consultant in your area.

    SBBA commented on answer ago
      • Thank you! This is all very helpful! Yesterday went better and he didn’t fuss at the breast at all, so I’m hoping things are on the upswing.

        Is there a way to gauge whether I’m experiencing a problematic change in supply versus a normal leveling off? Assuming my son’s growth remains good, I’m comfortable taking a watch and wait approach before taking special efforts to boost supply, but is there a critical threshold it’s difficult to come back from? Also, is it possible my son has just gotten accustomed to having an unnecessary abundance of milk? He tends to be an overzealous eater and never ever refuses the breast or stops eating when there’s still a good flow, but seems to often be uncomfortable and to spit up multiple times after almost every feeding, particularly when my supply is highest. I 100% believe in feeding on demand, but wonder if he’d ultimately be more content if less milk were available. I wouldn’t even consider this if not for the fact that he’s been in 6 month clothing since 2 months and is covered in very ample (and adorable) rolls of chub despite being born relatively small (as of last month, he was gaining more than a pound a week!).

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