Friday, February 22, 2008

Combating Babywise Myths #5: Babywise will cause you to loose your milk supply if nursing

This post may contain affiliate links.
This myth doesn't require a lot for me to combat it. Many people say to maintain a milk supply, you need to feed every three hours around the clock the whole time you are feeding. Others say you can't have a schedule and maintain a milk supply.

I have a good friend who is a lactation consultant at our local hospital and is also a member of La Leche League. She insists to me that I cannot maintain a milk supply on a schedule. "But I nursed Brayden for a year and stopped only because I wanted to and have nursed Kaitlyn so far, both successfully." "No, it doesn't work because your milk supply won't go up when baby has a growth spurt because you don't feed more often."

First of all, I always find it amusing that she insists it doesn't work even after I tell her it has worked for me. Second, she is right. If you never adjust the schedule to fit the needs of the baby, you will likely compromise your milk supply. Luckily, that is not what Babywise is about. It is Parent Directed and you always feed baby when baby is hungry, no matter what. You feed, then you investigate why baby is hungry. If it is a growth spurt, you wait until the growth spurt is over, continuing to feed as often as necessary. If it is a problem in some way, you try to solve it but continue to feed hungry baby.

So here are my thoughts to combat that myth:
  • Number one is my own experience. I have successfully nursed two babies on a schedule. No problems. No supply issues. EDITED 2013--I have now nursed four babies for one year each successfully while on a schedule.
  • I also know many BW moms who successfully nurse their babies.
  • Another is the experience of others. There are women who nurse beyond one year, two years, etc. Some of these women are BW moms and some are demand feeders for the first while. But for a 2 year old, they nurse on a schedule and only nurse a couple of times a day. They manage to maintain some sort of supply while on a schedule.
  • If you follow BW principles, there should not be a compromise to your supply. You adjust feedings for growth spurts. You maintain the proper number of feedings based on the age of your baby. You don't let too many hours go between feedings even at night.
  • You also need to follow other nursing principles (also discussed in BW). You drink enough water and eat a balanced diet. You rest. You can even take herbal supplements if necessary. You can pump if you aren't getting enough stimulation.
  • Some women will have supply issues, but they would have them anyway. Some are because of baby and some are simply genetic for the woman, but neither has anything to do with Babywise.
Remember, I started Brayden on Babywise at 9 weeks. Before that, my supply was so erratic. I would "let-down" randomly and in public. I never knew when he would want to eat. I seemed to always be uncomfortable. Once I started BW with him, things evened out and I no longer had let down issues. Yes, that has nothing to do with supply. And yes, it also has something to do with nursing for longer periods of time. But with Kaitlyn, everything evened out within a week of her birth. It is just a nice perk of Babywise.


Desiree said...

This is in reference to dropping our late evening/early AM feed (3am). My son is almost 8 wks and we are trying to stretch out his feeds through the evening. He currently is on a 9,12,3,6 etc schedule and doing fine with that. I feed him at midnight in hopes that he will sleep until his 6am feeding. He never does, he is up at 2:30 and 4:30. I've never had a problem with him getting full feeds, he's a great eater! He's not wet, just fussy so we give him his pacifer and after his 2:30 waking he calms and goes back but after his 4:30 waking he seems wired and completely awake. Again we offer his pacifer but it will take him a while (about an hour) to fall back asleep. I notice in your blog posting for BW Milestones Birth to 8 wks that he might be able to sleep 7-8 hours. What are my husband and I doing wrong? Also with our feeding schedule, feeding him at midnight and then again at 6am is a shorter time frame than the 7-8 hours. He just recently was cut down to 7 feedings in order to "stretch" out his nightime sleep. Is this okay since he's not completely sleeping through the night? I'm afraid I'm doing something wrong and hope that I'm not messing him up even more.

Desiree said...

Me again, if reference to milk supply, do you suggest pumping at some point in the middle of the night after feedings have been dropped?

Plowmanators said...

I hate pumping, so I rarely do so.

However, some women do need a 5th feeding to maintain milk supply. If your baby is on a 4 hour schedule and has 4 feedings a day and you need a 5th feeding, you can pump. You can then use that milk in cereal, freeze it for emergencies, etc.

It is one of those things where it certainly doesn't hurt to do so.

Plowmanators said...

For the night sleeping...

First, let me offer the advice to try to relax and not worry about doing something "wrong." It is always good to troubleshoot and problem solve, but you will drive yourself crazy thinking like that...I know from personal experience, by the way ;). But part of the calming down comes as your baby gets older.

How are his daytime naps? Does he sleep as long as he should? Does he know how to self-soothe? If he doesn't, he is going to wake fully more often.

Also note in the milestones that SOME babies are ready for 7-8 hours at 8 weeks. Several aren't. That isn't anything you have done wrong, it is just your baby's need for food.

I wouldn't drop any daytime feedings until all nighttime feedings are dropped. Babies need a certain number of calories per 24 hours. If you drop a daytime feeding, you are keeping the need for nighttime feeding longer.

What is your feeding schedule beyond 6 PM? Do you do 9 and then 12? Some babies do better at night with less disruption. So, if you fed at 6, then 8:30, then 10:30 or 11 PM, you could get to bed earlier and he could have more of a chance for longer sleep at night.

Don't worry, he is still very young. I know those first three months feel like an eternity. Sitting at my perspective (youngest 10 months), 8 weeks seems like a very short amount of time :) You will get there, too. Buit keep in mind that I didn't even start BW until 9 weeks old with my oldest, and he has turned out just fine. So you are doing great! Please feel free to continue to ask questions as they come; I know the questions are many though the process!

Desiree said...

Thank you so much for the encouragement!!! He naps fairly well with the exception of 1 nap a day here and there. Should we not be "pacifer poppers". I try the CIO and it seems like he gets so worked up that he won't ever calm.
What is a good habit to get into?

After his 6pm feed we then feed him at 9 and at midnight. We usally wake him at midnigt because I know that he needs 7 feeds. I have let him "go" before and he then awakens at 1:30am. I figured 'power' feeding him would help with him sleeping through the night. He feeds well at midnight, do you think that this is our best option?

Plowmanators said...

Tha pacifier is an interesting topic. This is a link to a good article on the topic:

If I were you, I would try feeding at between 10-11 and see how that goes (that would be moving the 12 AM feeding back to 11 PM instead). That would be more for my own benefit; I could go to bed earlier! If that is something you would be interested in, you can give it a shot. If it doesn't work, you can always go back to the way things are if you prefer.

dora said...

Hi Val,

I just wanted to say that this is such an important topic and I hope that new moms read this. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the lactation consultants and attachment parents drone on and on about how breast feeding will never work on a schedule.

I think it's discouraging to a first time mom and breastfeeder to hear this kind of myth repeated. I was terrified of going back to work because I thought I'd lose my milk. But we have been on a pump/nurse schedule since birth, and we've been going strong. When I went back to work, and Madeline started sleeping through the night, I've only been pumping/nursing 4-5 times each day. Some days, when work is excepitionally busy, I only get to pump 3 times in the whole day!

We're at 6.5 months, now, and we're still blessed with rivers of milk. I think what helped us was establishing a strong supply in the first weeks after birth. While we encouraged her to follow a schedule, I also fed her any time she was hungry. All that time she spent nursing built up a strong supply. There were a lot of days that I doubted whether breastfeeding and babywise could coexist (mostly because of my inexperience in breastfeeding), but I hope that other moms out there read your blog and learn that it is possible!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks for adding your experience and success Dora!

JaneeNoel said...

Interestingly enough, I have observed exactly the opposite among my Babywise friends. They breastfeed on schedule successfully until baby is around 6months old and suddenly their supply is no longer suffient and they are forced to supplement. None of them have made it to 12 months.

The research I have done has shown that freqent feedings in the FIRST FEW WEEKS of breastfeeding are essential for establishing long-term supply. That may be why you AP friends who nurse a 2 year old on a schedule have good supply. . . most likely they did NOT follow a schedule in the early weeks/months.

Regardless of your opinion on the benefits of schedules, I think it's valuable to consider the advice of true lactation experts, such as the Le Leche League. I have never met a lactation consultant who recommended scheduled feedings for a long lasting, consistant supply.

Plowmanators said...

I nursed my son to 12 months, stopped because I wanted to (12 months was my goal). I am still nursing my 10.5 month old baby. I have no doubt that I could go longer if I wanted to. I have many, many BW friends with the same success. So obviously to say that following BW will cause you to lose your milk supply is not true. I am proof of that.

Plowmanators said...

I have had some thoughts through the night about your comments.

One is that I have a friend who does AP who lost her milk supply completely by 4 months with her oldest. With her second, she worked in conjunction with our lactation consultant, La Leche League friend and was able to do some nursing until her baby was 9 months old, though it wasn't exclusive the entire time.

I have another friend (I have told her story in a previous post) who is nursing her second on AP style and losing her milk supply with her 2 month old baby loosing significant weight.

I have a friend who does Babywise who has a physical condition that she doesn't not make more milk past 4 months. She makes enough for exclusive BFing up until about 4 months of age, and then the baby needs more but she doesn't make more. Her sister, who didn't do BW with her first, had the same problem.

These examples illustrate that a woman from any parenting philosophy has the potential from running into nursing problems.

I also wanted to emphasize what my lacation consultant friend told me. She said schedules don't work for breastfeeding because your baby doesn't stimulate you more during growth spurts and increase the supply. For a hyperscheduled baby, this could be true. But a PDF baby is fed more often during growth spurts. A PDF baby is always fed when hungry. I am sure there are people out there who follow Babywise but don't follow that principle, but that is their own decision and not a problem with the Babywise program.

Another thing I wanted to point out it that my doctor and literature I have read all say that to make it to 6 months nursing is ahead of the majority of women. So for your friends who make it to 6 months and then start to supplement, they are ahead of the average--not the BW breastfeeding average, the national average.

Also, most people start solids around 6 months anyway. That is supplementing.

Also, the lactation consultants in my hospital told me this:

1-nurse baby every THREE hours around the clock until milk comes in
2-then nurse every 3-4 hours, or can go longer, but baby needs at least 8 feedings in 24 hours.

BW says to nurse every 2.5-3 hours in the day and no more than 5 hours at night, with at least 8 feedings in a day. The BW program requires more frequent nursings for a longer period of time than my La Leche Leauge lactation consultants.

Susanna said...

Don't know where to post this but how can I increase my milk supply? I've been nursing every 2 1/2 to 3 hours during the day for my 10 week old and he's been sleeping about 7-8 hours at night. This week he seems to be hungrier than usual so we've been supplementing with formula and he's been taking in quite a bit. (We are doing formula and expressed milk to see how much he's taking in and how much I can pump in the meantime) I've been pumping every 2 to 2 1/2 hours to try and increase my supply. Will it take a couple of days before my body catches up??
Thank you!

Plowmanators said...

There is a chance it is a growth spurt. You don't really want to supplement with formula long-term. It is a tool to use while you figure out if baby is really hungry, but if you do that for a while, you really run the risk of milk supply dropping. Pumping (even a really expensive electric pump) is not as efficient as your baby.

I believe it takes a few days for yoru body to catch up--but I don't really know for sure. I know there are herbs you can take to boost supply (fungreek comes to mind). You might want to check la leche leauge website and for information on herbs to help boost supply. Good luck!

Angela said...

My son was 16.5 months when I finished weaning him. I was 19 weeks pregnant with our second and my milk supply was fine. We did BW starting when he was 10 weeks old or so...but before that we did focus on a full feeding and we would go on a 2.5 hour cycle even though it wasn't always at the same time every day. I never had supply issues save two different Friday evenings when I had worked too hard that day scrubbing the house. I had too much because I had to pump once at night once he started sleeping through the night until he was maybe 13 months old or so.

Plowmanators said...

Angela, thanks for sharing! It is always nice to have more testimonials!

Chad, Amanda & Hayden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

Hi! I have a 14 week old baby boy who is sleeping about 9.5 hours at night & I have been waking him up for the one "night" feeding (he sleeps from 8pm to 5:30am, I wake him & feed & he then sleeps till 8am, the 1st official feeding..we don't do a dream feed because it's impossible to wake him after he goes down at 8!!). Since he is a big boy, about 16lbs, I would like to go ahead & see how long he can go at night & start working up to 12 hrs. A couple of months ago, he started having a lot of symptoms which seemed to be from a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, so I started feeding from only one side per feeding & that fixed all the problems. My question is this: since I am feeding from only one side, if he starts sleeping 12 hours, my time between feedings will actually end up being about 15 hrs per side at night instead of 12. Will that be okay? Or will I lose my supply? Both sides will still be receiving the same amount of stimulation per day in terms of the minutes he actually spends nursing, it will just be a larger gap at night (& dropping the one feeding). I tried doing a few feedings with both sides again, but it brought back all the same problems as before. I think I remember reading that you usually do both sides, but if you have any advice or if anyone else reading has done it this way before & has advice, I would greatly appreciate it!

Angela said...

My daughter started sleeping through (on her own) the night she hit 13 weeks/3 months. I have to pump once a night and probably will until she's 10-11 months old (I did with my son but he didn't STTN until he was 7 months-high metabolism and spit up a lot). If I don't pump then I have waaayy too much milk and my daughter will spit up because it comes out too fast. It is also for my own comfort. :) I freeze the extra in ice cube trays and then transfer it to ziplock bags if we ever need it.

Plowmanators said...


It might be fine eventually, but he is young enough that if I were you, I would just pump before you go to bed. You can save and freeze the milk. You can then use it when you introduce baby food or just as back-up milk "just in case."

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Angela :)

Susan said...

Some women do great with scheduling feeds, and some don't. Newer research has found that this is in part because of women having different storage capacities (unrelated to actual breast size): So someone like me needs to feed the child more often to maintain supply (I really have an over-abundance of milk feeding this way), but my MIL was able to schedule feeds and maintain her supply. Prolactin levels drop sometime after 4 months, which is when it really becomes about supply & demand.

alinarhey said...

Thank you for your blog! My daughter is 5 months old and have been doing Babywise since birth and it has been great! At 4 months we went on a trip and when we got back she went on a nursing strike. The Dr. thinks it was either from shots or stress of trip (on her and me) and my milk supply went down. To get it back up I increased to 8 feedings a day and pumped after every other feeding. Thankfully, my suppy did go back up. Before all this, I was feeding her 5 times a day (every 3 hours 7am to 7pm) and pumping a 6th time. Now, I'm afraid that my supply will go back down again if go back to that feeding pattern so I'm feeding her 6 times a day and then pumping a 7th time. This seems like way too much for a 5 month old. Do you think that I should just try to go back to the former schedule or stay with what I'm doing because I could just be someone that needs more stimulation? I will say, she only nurses 7-10 minutes total for a feeding. Thanks!

Archaeology cat said...

alinarhey - As I mentioned above, around 4/5 months is when the prolactin levels drop and so your milk supply is determined by how much your child is at the breast. A woman with a larger breast capacity (unrelated to breast size) may be able to schedule feeds without too much trouble, but a woman with a smaller breast capacity will not be able to do so. These are the women who often find their children feed for shorter periods of time, but more often - this is absolutely normal. This is why it is important, physiologically, to feed on demand (and no, this doesn't make the child a demanding brat, trust me).

6x a day for a 5-month-old actually seems like very little to me, but then I don't count my children's feeds. I do know that my 14-month-old feeds more than that, though.

While I have no data on it, I'd imagine that scheduling feeds will almost always lead to the child weaning earlier than they would otherwise. Since breastfeeding is still beneficial past a year, and even past 2 years (the WHO recommend breastfeeding for 2+ years)

I wish you the best!

Plowmanators said...

Archeology Cat, prolactin levels actually drop at 6 weeks.

And I have no data, I know tons of women who breastfeed a year or beyond on schedules. I could name ten moms who breastfed twins for a year or more on a schedule.

Archaeology cat said...

Like I said, some women can feed on a schedule, others can't. I know of women who scheduled feeds and their supply greatly diminished, and then there are those who did great, like you said. A lot comes down to breast capacity and how the child feeds. While I personally don't know mums who scheduled feeds and continued much past a year, obviously you do and so I defer to you on that.

Archaeology cat said...

Two random comments/questions: 1) I wonder if the lack of erratic let-down with your second was from bw or that she was your second. I say that only because I don't schedule feeds at all and also didn't have the massive let-downs and soaking through breastpads with my second.

2) I was thinking and wondering if you knew an average for return of periods with scheduling feeds. I'm asking because I know some women see either a reduced supply or that their child doesn't want to nurse as much when periods return, and so was thinking that earlier weaning (when that happens, since I trust you that it doesn't always happen) could perhaps be from that and not from scheduling feeds per se. Just a random thought.

Angela said...

I scheduled feeds with both kids and with my DS I weaned him at 16.5 months because I was 20 wks along with DD. My period came back with while nursing DS when he was 9.5 months old. I never had supply issues (he began STTN at 7 months). DD nursed until 21 months (I was done because she thinks she has exclusive rights to my bra straps....I thought weaning would help but it didn't! Arggg!). She was also schedule fed and I had no supply issues. I stopped nursing her at night at about 13 months and that's when my period began. She nursed every 3.5-4 hours at that point. I really think period return has to do with sttn. I have a friend whose period came back 3 months postpartum with both kids and she exclusively breast feeds until 7 months old...I think some of that may be due to them sttn a LOT sooner than mine. I just don't produce cream. :)

Plowmanators said...

alinarhey, if you feel like she is getting too much food, you could get a nice electric pump (some hospitals will rent them very cheaply).

There are also things you can do like take fenugreek, mothers milk tea, etc.

If you decide to back down the feedings, just do one at a time for a while so you can gauge how supply is going. Good luck!

Plowmanators said...

Archaeology Cat,

I don't know. I have read that your body adjusts more quickly to milk production with subsequent children.

2-I haven't heard from BW moms that the child doesn't want to nurse when the period returns, but I have seen that talked about in nursing groups. I never noticed anything. I don't know the average time a period comes back. It seems like for most women it seems to be somewhere from 6-8 months, but I haven't ever polled. It would be an interesting poll.

Plowmanators said...

Angela, My period came back around 6-8 months with all of my kids. And actually, my earliest period started with my child who STTN the latest--and before he was STTN.

Momofthesouth said...

RE: Susanna said...

Don't know where to post this but how can I increase my milk supply? I've been nursing every 2 1/2 to 3 hours during the day for my 10 week old and he's been sleeping about 7-8 hours at night. This week he seems to be hungrier than usual so we've been supplementing with formula and he's been taking in quite a bit. (We are doing formula and expressed milk to see how much he's taking in and how much I can pump in the meantime) I've been pumping every 2 to 2 1/2 hours to try and increase my supply. Will it take a couple of days before my body catches up??
Thank you!"

You are concerned of your milk supply and wondering if you should pump to "stimulate your supply" if you just put your baby to the breast you won't have to pump and your supply will be stimulated often. Your baby knows this and your body does as well. The longer you delay nursing and the more feedings you "drop" you are telling your breasts, I don't need to make milk. Nurse your baby often and your breasts will make as much milk as necessary for your baby. It's AMAZING WHAT GOD And NATURE PROVIDED for us!!! A perfect food, and perfect balance. Baby and breast is all you need. Nurse them and your supply will come back up. Delay nursing and your supply will falter. :(

Natalie and Montre Parker said...

Hi, I am wondering about feeding through the night. i have a friend who used baby wise for both her kids, and at night, she never set an alarm except for the first morning feed. She would just let her babies wake her up. Baby wise says to let them sleep for no more than 5 hours for BF moms for the first 4 weeks after the late evening feed... So my question is, after that late evening feed, no matter how long baby sleeps, wether it's 3 or 5 hours, do we then resume to set our alarm and feed back on schedule, in my sons case, every three hours til the first morning feed? Or, do we just let them wake us up throughout the night? I hope this makes sense :) Thanks!

Plowmanators said...


I set alarms to wake at the 5 hours. However, most moms seem to let baby sleep as long as they will. If I were to have another baby, I think I would let the baby sleep as long as 7 hours.


My son who is currently 2months old, has started to sleep 6.5 to 7 hours a night. My main concern is whether or not I should wake up in four hours to pump. I am afraid going 6.5 to 7 hours without pumping or nursing will decrease milk supply. What would you recommend?


Plowmanators said...


For most women, 6.5-7 hours at that point will not compromise milk supply. You could always try not pumping for a few days and see how supply is doing. If you think it is getting less, you could always start pumping at that point.

Amber said...

I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to say that I nursed my daughter until 13 months, when she then weaned herself. She gained weight well and followed her growth curve. I did BW with her from day one. She STTN 7-8 hours at 8 weeks and was sleeping 10 hours by 12 weeks. I did wake up to pump until she was about 4 months, then I stopped that. She also slept 12 hours at 6 months, when I dropped the DF. I did not pump at night; she ate 5x during the day.

I also wanted to say that with her, I got my first period at 6 months. With my son, who is now 9 weeks, I actually just got my first PP period. My sister, as well as a close friend, both got their first period at 6 weeks PP when they were still nursing 2.5-3 hours around the clock. Our OB said it is a complete myth that you will not have a period while breastfeeding, and some women are just "unlucky" and will start soon after birth.

Vrinda said...

Hi! Thank you so much for your blog- it's answered so many questions for me. My baby 12 week old baby sleeps wonderfully at night from about 9pm (last feeding around 8:30) to 7:30 am and I wake her to feed around 11:30. She feeds less during this feeding and I think I can move the time back and she probably could do without it soon. But of course I worry about my supply diminishing. I exclusively breastfeed so don't know how much I am putting out but have always had ample amounts of milk it seems. If I keep moving the time back and she doesn't need it, do you think it's too early for me to just drop the feed entirely? Or would you keep doing a dream feed at an earlier time (10 or 10:30)? If so, how long? I could also start pumping at that time. Also if she is sleeping pretty soundly until the morning and except for when I wake her to feed (she's usually knocked out right after again), do you think she'd do well to just sleep through the whole period? Thank you so much! My constant worry is whether or not she is eating enough so this is very helpful.


Related Posts with Thumbnails