Feed me, Seymour

Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!
Feed me, Seymour
Feed me all night long
That’s right, boy
You can do it
Feed me, Seymour
Feed me all night long
‘Cause if you feed me, Seymour
I can grow up big and strong

I empathise with Seymour, I really do. Not that my daughter is a carnivorous plant from outer space, but there are parallels. Since Monday, Elphie has gone into overdrive – from averaging over 3 hours between feeds with a nice 4 hour break during the night, to an average 1 hour 45 mins to 2 hour 15 mins measured from the start of one feed to the start of the next. The number of feeds has risen from 8-10 to 13. I am a feeding machine.

The huge intake of food is also making her windier and, as a result, crankier. Midnight to 3am on Thursday morning was a bad time. I felt empty, my breasts felt like they had no more to give; I was down to my last 100ml of expressed milk and I was considering the maligned formula.

Welcome to a growth spurt, population ravenous.

Mumsnet explains: “babies often have intense growth bursts that last two to four days. They have about five in their first year – roughly (very roughly) at between one and three weeks, another between six and eight weeks and then at around three months, six months and nine months.”

At seven weeks it seems Elphie is ignoring adjusting for her preemieness and coming in bang on schedule.

As yesterday was day four, I can only hope the end is in sight – as glamorous as last night’s breastfeeding location was in the Empire Cinema car park, High Wycombe, at midnight following a meltdown on the M40 (luckily I am used to this particular glamorous location as I have used it in the past to deal with cat incontinence issues when travelling back for Christmas).

Do I have enough milk to cope? Certainly on Thursday morning, my breasts felt empty – devoid of any sustenance.

It seems I will, I just have to have faith. KellyMom has a really good science bit on milk production and how it works. Essentially in the first few days, milk supply is governed by hormones, the progesterone that was inhibiting its supply during pregnancy backs off leaving prolactin (the clue is in the name) to rule the roost resulting in the sensation of “milk coming in” 2-3 days after birth as the breasts start getting full of the white stuff. From that point forward milk removal will govern milk supply.

There are two parts to this removal mechanism for controlling milk supply: Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation and the prolactin receptors in the alveoli.

The catchily named Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL) is a small whey protein within breastmilk itself whose purpose is to slow milk synthesis when the breast is full (and hence avoid fembot style explosions). More milk means more FIL, so if the breast is full the milk production slows and as it’s emptied, milk production speeds up (nature abhors a vacuum or something like that).

The prolactin receptors allow prolactin from the blood stream to enter the lactocytes (milk-producing cells in the alveoli) and as milk production is dependent on prolactin, hence for milk to be produced this has to happen. When the alveoli expand, as they get filled with milk, the prolactin receptors are pulled out of shape and the way to the lactocytes is barred – reducing milk production. And when the alveoli are emptier, the receptors return to their usual shape and the rate of milk production increases.

So full breasts will mean slower milk production, as they are emptied the milk production rate will increase.

The breasts are constantly producing milk so you can’t run out, I think it’s more how easy it is to remove that is affected – a full breast will desperately produce milk at the first glimmer of there being a baby who might need it (however distant that baby may be from it at that particular point); an emptier one requires a bit more work. Drinking from emptier breasts does have other advantages in that the milk will consist of more hindmilk, the fattier milk. KellyMom has a great analogy for this (that they got from Paula Yount of Mother-2-Mother.com): a full breast is like a hot water tap that hasn’t been used for a while, initially the water will be cold (foremilk) and then will gradually warm up (with greater levels of fat) until it’s hot (hindmilk). Now if you come back to that tap only a little bit later then the water will still be hot – just as an emptier breast produces more hindmilk. This is probably why the feeding in a growth spurt is so constant – trying to get as much of that fatty milk down their gullet as possible!

I dread to think what all this feeding and hindmilk means for Elphie’s weight gain – she was already making up for lost time climbing up the weight percentiles by gaining 9-11 ounces each week (the expected range for a breastfed baby is 5-8.5 ounces according to KellyMom). What on earth is she going to have put on after all this eating?

Might be time to engage the services of Anna’s scales again…

Weigh in

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