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Empty Breasts

(24 Posts)
guyshahar Mon 21-Sep-09 17:16:25

Hi there

My 5-week old son, Daniel, is always hungry. He feeds for well over an hour most of the time, and is often hungry again within about half an hour, when there is still not enough milk for him.

Also, before emptying the breast, he often gets frustrated, losing the breast and looking around for it, even though it's still in his mouth. It's a little as if he doesn't want to do the work to get the milk that's farther back??

Anyone else have this, of have any idea what may be going on.


tiktok Mon 21-Sep-09 17:25:11

guyshahar - it is normal for babies to sometimes want to feed shortly after a previous feed. Short gaps between feeds speeds up the production of milk...breasts are never actually empty, but they do sometimes have less milk in than at other times, when the baby removes the milk, but the replacement milk is made more quickly when the feeds are frequent. Just feed your baby again when he 'asks'. This is the way to make sufficient for him.

The behaviour you describe with him fussing a bit, as if he wants to feed and is a bit frustrated, sounds like the sort of thing all babies do from time to time.

perhaps a call to one of the bf helplines will give you a chance to talk about all this a bit more.

PinkyRed Mon 21-Sep-09 17:27:36

Sounds about normal to me - seem to remember my ds (now 20wk) feeding like a mad thing about that time. Growth spurt probably.

He also used to bob around my nipple for a bit, then get settled again. I had a bit of engorgement because I kept thinking he was finished, when he wasn't - as soon as I just sat back and let him get on with it, it was fine. I just kept feeding on demand, for as long as he wanted, and it all settled down. Going nicely now.

PinkyRed Mon 21-Sep-09 17:29:09

Is engorgement a word? You know what I mean anyway....

guyshahar Tue 22-Sep-09 10:25:16

Hi again

The problem really is that he wants to feed before my breads have milk in them again. I feel that he is just sucking and not getting mile, and that's why he is frustrated. He seems hungry.

I am filling up a bottle of formula milk for the first time today. I really hope I don't need to give it to him, but if he has this behaviour again today, I don't think I can see him hungry.

Any advice very welcome


WelliesAndPyjamas Tue 22-Sep-09 10:28:25

why do you think your breasts are empty?

QueenOfFuckingEverything Tue 22-Sep-09 10:31:49

If he doesn't feed, your breasts won't get the message to make more milk. Its supply and demand - constant feding now means more milk later/tomorrow. Giving formula will disrupt this and lead to less milk being made.

Breasts don't need 'time to fill up' - they are never truly empty. Milk is being made constantly and your baby will be getting something, as well as stimulating further production.

I know it feels endless but if you let him feed as much as he wants your supply will increase and he will settle back down again.

ShowOfHands Tue 22-Sep-09 10:32:28

You have had some good advice here. Your breasts are never empty. It is a supply and demand process. To make the milk he needs he needs to be allowed to suck when he asks. The bobbing about and pulling off is a normal baby behaviour.

How is he otherwise? Wees? Poos? Weight?

Has anybody observed a feed to reassure you about what is happening?

Introducing formula may interfere with your supply and compromise your bfing relationship.

Of course you do not want your baby to be hungry but it's important you try and get some rl help with this. It sounds like normal baby behaviour to a person at the end of a computer but we are not able to see your son or in possession of the full facts.

TheChewyToffeeMum Tue 22-Sep-09 10:36:11

I would encourage you to phone one of the bf helplines.

From my own reading I think he needs to feed/suck on the 'empty' breasts to stimulate more milk production as he grows. The odd small top-up shouldn't hurt to give you a rest but I would try to keep them to a minimum as you may prevent him from stimulating the breast to produce enough.

FWIW I had the same problem with both mine at around the same age and I remember it being really tiring. Try to get yourself comfy on the sofa with drinks, snacks, phone, telly etc - it only lasts a few days at most. They always seemed really settled and slept better afterwards too.

tiktok Tue 22-Sep-09 10:39:14

guyshahah - I agree with ShowofHands you will be helped by speaking to someone in real life. Posters here agree and have explained why your baby's behaviour seems normal, not a sign of lack of milk, and why formula is a bad idea from the point of view of preserving breastfeeding...but I think your baby's behaviour, normal as it sounds, has affected your confidence in breastfeeding so it doesn't really matter what we say!

I suggest again a call to one of the bf helplines...I really think it will help to talk about it

PortAndLemon Tue 22-Sep-09 11:12:26

It really does sound normal. Both of mine have been just as you describe, but I bfed DS to 3.2 and am still bfing DD at 17 months and neither of them had formula until they started nursery at 8.5 and 10.5 months, when they had one bottle a day. I did try to give DS a bottle when he was 5/6 weeks, because like you I felt at the end of my tether, but he wouldn't take it and with hindsight I was very glad because there's every chance it would have spectacularly bolloxed up breastfeeding.

Both of them started to space out feeds a bit more between 8-10 weeks IIRC.

guyshahar Tue 22-Sep-09 11:13:13

Hi - this is Oksana's husband (we have been writing these posts together, but she has just gone out to an appointment).

I went downstairs a short time ago, and saw that Oksana was running late and felt that ds was hungry, and so she and her mother were giving him his first 30ml of formula milk very quickly - holding it in his mouth until he took the bottle and drank it all down. He continued to cry after the feed.

I was very sad to see this. I don't think he has ever drunk so much so quickly. I am worried about the effect on his stomach and on her breastfeeding. He is only 5 weeks old, and very small (around 3kg).

She said she just couldn't see him hungry, and didn't have any other solution. Her mother has been pushing her to supplement with formula milk for some time, and she has become more and more open to the idea.

Can anyone please give her a good reason to stop using formula immediately. It would need to address her sense that he is very hungry and that she is not producing enough mile, and that this is the reason he is crying.

Thanks you.

Best Wishes


PortAndLemon Tue 22-Sep-09 11:18:55

The more formula she gives the less milk she'll produce. Someone on here came up with the analogy that suckling all the time is like leaving a note out for the milkman -- "An extra two pints, please". It can be very very very frustrating for the mother, and it can feel as though you're completely touched out and can't leave the sofa to do anything and you would possibly literally kill for an hour to yourself or, best of all, a nap, but it is the way it's supposed to work.

If you give formula, then he doesn't suckle as much, so the breasts don't get the signal to produce more milk, so they don't increase production, so he gets hungry, so you give more formula, so he suckles even less, and so forth.

tiktok Tue 22-Sep-09 11:21:39

Hello, husband of OP

I don't think we can give a good reason - all the posts on here have explained that the situation does not seem to be one of a baby being hungry, or of milk running out. Oksana does not accept this - she's lacking in confidence and is anxious, and clearly her mum has been fuelling these feelings.

Babies of 5 weeks need feeding a lot - especially babies on the small side. This might easily mean feeds which seem to be needed only half an hour after the previous one - NORMAL!!! In fact, the 'half hour later' feed might be better seen as part of the previous feed, not actually a new one

Holding a bottle into a baby's mouth in order for him to swallow the milk is actually quite dangerous and could cause choking.

Are you in touch with the health visitor? Or perhaps you or your partner can speak to one of the bf helplines? I think your partner needs to understand that milk production does not depend on waiting for the breasts to fill up - quite the opposite

Hope things get better for you all.

ShowOfHands Tue 22-Sep-09 11:25:00

Okay, somebody on here is going to provide you with some good info and links I know it (though I must reiterate that real life support from a trained professional is the best thing here) but while we're waiting for them, just a couple of things.

A baby finds removing milk from a bottle very easy compared to removing it from the breast and the novelty of being offered a bottle and them taking it is nothing at all to do with hunger or need.

Your wife has become fixated on the notion of your son being hungry (and it is hard to have faith in bfeeding when you can't see how much is going in and you have a crying baby). She must feel so pulled. It's lovely that you are so supportive of bfeeding, I'm so happy that she has you to help her through it but she is stuck between that and another family member who is so keen for her to supplement. And she stands in the middle worrying about your son's hunger. This is why you need a trained breastfeeding counsellor to explain the facts in an unbiased and supportive way.

These early bfeeding days are so hard. Formula here is not the answer I don't think but I'm not there and I cannot see your son.

Do you have the phone numbers to get proper help?

morningpaper Tue 22-Sep-09 11:28:04

Hello husband,

Firstly, well done on supporting your wife and being so positive about this.

Secondly, are there ways that you can try to make your wife's life a bit easier? Can you let her and baby cuddle up on the sofa as much as possible, feeding? While the baby is feeding, can you brign your wife snacks and drinks and talk to her, or let her watch tv, and make sure she is relaxign and feeling positive? Make sure you remind her how well she is doing, and how lovely and gorgeous and healthy your son is looking.

It's such a shame that her mother is not being more positive! Does your mother-in-law live with you? Would your wife like some time alone with the baby? Perhaps she could spend some time nesting in bed?

Try to facilitate and calm and relaxed environment where you are not rushing around and fretting. Young babies are bloody hard work for both of you and at this age it feels endless. Try to do as many household chores yourself and remind your wife that her job at the moment is to feed and love the baby and you'll look after the rest. wink

ShowOfHands Tue 22-Sep-09 11:30:05

<nods at morningpaper>

She's clever that one.

guyshahar Tue 22-Sep-09 11:42:15

Hi again (this is the husband again...)

Thanks for all of this. Yes, her mother is living with us for the next 5 months. She has come over from Russia, where they have quite strong ideas about these things (also about wanting a very hot room for the baby, but that's another story in another post.....)

And Oksana is caught in the middle, as someone rightly said. She has the Russian background that tells her that a hot room is best and that eating more is right and that formula does no harm (she had it and her brother had it, etc). Her mother is re-inforcing these ideas, and I am challenging them. She is angry with both of us at times...

At the same time, she is very distressed at seeing Daniel (our baby) hungry - and feels that she is letting him down. She feels that she is not able to produce enough milk, and that she faces a choice between letting him go hungry, which would harm him, or supplementing. She doesn't understand that supplementing might undermine breast feeding in the future - and feels that letting him eat well now is more important.

I have told her about these posts, and will print them for her to read (which she MIGHT), but she says that nobody else understands her body, and that she has seen how it has worked over the past month or so. She can be quite strong-minded!!!

I know it is unlikely that anyone can really say anything to change her mind (though please try if you think you can), but I just needed to share all of this.

Thanks for reading....


tiktok Tue 22-Sep-09 12:03:53

Where's the health visitor in this? Getting the HV to explain why a hot room is dangerous for the baby might help your wife see her mum does not have all the answers.

Must be really, really hard for everyone and as everyone has the best interests of the baby at heart but strong views on how this might be achieved....hmmm, sparks are gonna fly.

Oksana's body will work no differently from anyone else's, but I think you have explained it well that she sees the immediate issue as the baby's hunger now and she is less concerned about maintaining or building up a supply for later.

If the baby is gaining weight and thriving you can be pretty sure she has enough milk; he may cry, but if he is (mostly) comforted by being held plus the offer of a breastfeed (even if he fusses sometimes) then she does not have a problem with supply...even if the baby feeds often. Sometimes he won't want the breastfeed, but just a cuddle and a snuggle. That's fine, too.

But force feeding with a bottle - I think you might have to put your manly foot down. That is dangerous.

LuluMamaaaaarrrrr Tue 22-Sep-09 12:08:09

would your wife speak to a breastfeeding counsellor or supporter, face to face?

she needs someone to sit with her and talk directly to her, and help her to understand what is going on

the surest way to undermine feeding and to make her believe her breasts are empty/not full enough , is to give the baby less time at the breast

it is hard, before you have a baby, to imagine how long they will spend feeding in the first few weeks, it takes you by surprise

force feeding formula is bad, topping up properly with support is not bad, but can still affect breast milk supply

your wife has had brilliant, competent advice on this thread and i hpoe she reads it

ShowOfHands Tue 22-Sep-09 13:25:26

Oh I feel for your wife.

Oksana, I understand how hard it is. It's frightening, you worry you are depriving your baby, he is starving, he is unhappy. It's a big leap of faith trusting your body to do this for your boy. And when he cries you want to do something for him. We can't tell you why he is crying, but it's possible that he may just cry because some babies do. Your husband said he cried after you supplemented with formula too so it's very possible indeed that it isn't hunger. Is he weeing? Pooing? Having periods of alertness? Gaining weight? These are things that will tell you your baby is transferring milk effectively.

We do not understand your body but we do understand breastfeeding and how it works in those early days and weeks. You may not want to believe the word of faceless women on the Internet, and good on you for needing more than that but please talk to somebody in real life who can look at you and your baby and tell you the facts and offer some advice about feeding and about room temperatures.

tiktok Tue 22-Sep-09 13:38:48

Fab post, Show

Hope Oksana takes heart.

catkinq Tue 22-Sep-09 17:53:07

babies tend to go through a growth spurt at about 6 weeks and milk is produced in response to sucking so it is normal (and natural) for them to suck pretty constantly at 5 weeks as they are gettign your body to produce more milk ready for the growth spurt. It will probably settle down a bit in a week or two, then he will fuss again when he is about to have another one. They do also comfort suck - dd used to latch on every evening at about 6pm and stay sucking until about 2am. It is well worth it in the long run though. It will settle down and I used to feel so sorry for parents who had to cart all that bottle feeding "stuff" everywhere whereas I could just grab a nappy an dgo, always stay longer than intended etc as you've always got your boobs with you

JetLi Tue 22-Sep-09 19:51:10

Hi Husband - the telephone number for your HV should be in baby Daniel's "red book" at the front.

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