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Thread: Emptying the breast

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Toronto, Ontario
    Posts
    2

    Default Emptying the breast

    I have gotten a lot of advice since my little one was born, and a lot of the time it includes "emptying the breast". I understand the reasoning, but how do I know when this happens? Are there any consequences if she doesn't empty it before she's done?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    23

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    Actually, your breasts are never totally empty. But your breast will become a lot softer after a good feed. If the breast is consistently not becoming empty you run the risk of plugged ducts which can lead to mastitis (infection in the ducts). If your baby nurses on one side and then unlatches and is content, it probably means that she is done with that side. Feel your breasts after a feed and before and you will become familiar with how you feel when full or "empty".
    I hope this helps!
    married to Ben 05/01/2004
    mama to 3 blessings:
    Ezra 03/01/2006
    Olivia 11/07/2008
    Eden 05/02/2012

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    20,637

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    You can't completely empty the breast because milk is always being made. The breast will be emptier (but not empty!) after the baby nurses, and you may be able to feel this with your hand, as the PP mentioned, or you may not, particularly if you have larger, softer breasts.

    You don't say how old your baby is, but I'm going to assume she's a newborn. In general, all that is required for a healthy newborn is to offer the first breast, allow baby to finish it at her own pace, and then offer the second breast, which baby may or may not take, and then to watch diaper output. If diaper output is good and weight gain is normal, all is well. In addition, you want to nurse on demand unless the baby is particularly sleepy or non-demanding. If baby is sleepy or non-demanding, make sure to rouse her to eat at least every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 at night.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    860

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    I felt better when my breasts were comfortably softer to the touch after a nursing session.
    I did not let a full breast go unanswered.
    if my baby only took one side per feeding and the second side hurt, i hand relieved some of the preesure.
    i did not express the full side b/c i did not want to overproduce.
    DD#1 July 1986 VB
    DD#2 April 1988 c/sec
    DS#3 April 1990 VBAC
    DS#4 June 1993 VB
    and suprise!
    DD#5 April 2001 c/sec
    BTDT scars and stretchmarks,: wrinkles and grey hair

  5. #5

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    Sometimes I think there is a room somewhere where people sit around and try to figure out how to overly-complicate breastfeeding with confusing terms.

    One of these terms that over-complicate things is "empty the breast." There are many others!

    As mommal notes, lactating breasts are never truly empty. You are making milk all the time!

    What is important is that a baby can/is able to nurse frequently and effectively. You can tell this is happening when:

    1) breasts feel softer/less full after baby nurses (assuming they felt full before baby nursed, which they may or may not.)
    2) latch is comfortable to you
    3) You can hear soft swallowing sounds and
    4 baby’s weight gain and output (poops) are generally on target. These last two are the most reliable ways to tell all is well.
    5) baby is nursing frequently-a minimum of 10-12 times a day in the early weeks/months. Minimum!

    If the above is generally happening, there is no reason to time feedings or worry about if your baby is getting enough. Generally, breastfeeding goes really great as long as mom lets baby nurse as much as baby likes, offers to nurse as much as MOM likes, and lets baby nurse as long as baby wants, on one side or both, each time, as baby prefers.

    As you have found, there is no end to the advice you will get as a new mother. Some helpful, some not, some, you just don't know! That is why at LLL we say “take what works for you and leave the rest.”

    I suggest you always consider the source of advice carefully. Much information thrown around about breastfeeding and normal infant development/behavior etc. is poorly stated, outdated, or even out and out incorrect.

    If you are looking online or in books, I suggest you look for info that has been published in the last decade, the most recent the better.

    And choose proven reliable sources for that particular subject. For breastfeeding, La Leche League is one (just a fact) and the LLL book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (8th edition) is very up to date. www.kellymom.com is another excellent resource for general breastfeeding concerns.

    And never forget your own instincts, observations and knowledge makes you the number one expert on your baby.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    23

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (8th edition) is FANTASTIC! IF you can't buy it, check if your local library has it, and if they don't, request that they get it in.
    married to Ben 05/01/2004
    mama to 3 blessings:
    Ezra 03/01/2006
    Olivia 11/07/2008
    Eden 05/02/2012

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Toronto, Ontario
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    Thanks ladies. My daughter is actually 4 months now, but I'm just getting to these forums to ask some of the questions I've had. I had very large breasts even before I got pregnant, and other than first thing in the morning, they never feel full. My daughter sleeps 10-12 hours straight through the night now, which explains the almost engorged feeling I have upon waking. Throughout the day though, they're always soft. My daughter is getting plenty to eat though. I assume that this is normal?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    9,280

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    Yup, totally normal. You really don't want to feel engorged all the time. A good indicator of milk supply is how many wet diapers your child is having. At 4 months, breastmilk is their only source of food. So when you are seeing lots of wet diapers you know the milk is there! That engorgement will ease in the morning as your body gets used to her not waking up to nurse in the night anymore.
    Lyn
    Nursing the girl with kaleidoscope eyes


    Mama to Daniel (12/3/06) and Lucy Jane (8/28/08)

  9. #9

    Default Re: Emptying the breast

    Yes totally normal to not feel full ever at 4 months and even much earlier. And milk storage capacity (which may have nothing to do with breast size) will change how full you feel as well. As long as baby is gaining on target all is likely fine.

    I have to say that it does make me a bit nervous when a baby this young is regularly sleeping such long stretches, though. Sleeping through the night for an infant of this age is defined as a single 5 hour stretch. Some babies certainly sleep longer without issue (just as many do not sleep even that long yet,) but I have talked to so many moms who faced supply issues after baby has been doing these long stretches. It could be completely fine, it could impact suppy, it is very individual. If you have any concerns, I would suggest you consider these factors:

    How ofter baby nurses the rest of the time. Baby is getting all nutrition at the breast, and tummy is still pretty small. If baby is spending almost half the 24 hour day not nursing, you would expect baby would be nursing very frequently the rest of the time.
    Is baby sleeping in close proximity to mom (same room) or not? Babies cue in their sleep and this could be missed if mom is not near enough to baby most of the night.
    Is baby being pacified by a pacifier during the night/long sleep stretch? Pacifiers calm baby for a reason, and some babies will pacify through a normal feeding time rather than cueing. Studies have shown pacifier overuse may impact weight gain and milk supply. Recently it has been suggested that swaddling also may keep a baby asleep through times baby would normally cue to feed.

    Not trying to alarm you, as I said, this is individual.

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