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June 14, 2007

the cleavage theory of milk supply

I saw an old friend last night who wanted to talk to me about breastfeeding. She said she thinks that the idea that "all women can produce enough milk for their babies" is not true. She said she did absolutely everything to breastfeed her baby as much and for as long as possible-- her partner has severe, life-threatening food allergies so they felt that it was extra important and paid attention to "getting it right" from day one-- but her supply never picked up to the point where she could exclusively feed. She was pumping after every single feeding. She fed through days, though nights. At this point I asked her if she had heard about the "milk storage capacity" -- it's something we wrote about in our book and is not well known. She had heard about it and had also heard-- and this part was news to me-- that the cleavage of woman can indicate her storage capacity. Apparently if the shape of the boob is very round and long-- the kind that makes cleavage-- then there's more milk making apparatus. If they are further apart with less flesh there may be less milk. The lactation consultant who advised on From the Hips told us that experienced hands can "palpate" the breast to determine how much storage there is. She seemed to think that even with a small storage capacity, a woman can make enough milk. My friend definitely did not find this to be true from her experience. And speculated that perhaps wet nursing had something to do with the fact that some women simply could not feed their babies. It makes sense: before the days of formula, that busty dame down the street with the heaving cleaved bosom would have been a life-saver.

by ceridwen at 8:55 AM
in breastfeeding


That's an interesting thought about storage capacity. I am a AA size boob & EVERYONE told me how difficult it would be to feed my baby. Even my naturopath gave me a milk inducing tincture 'just in case' 'because I was not so well endowed'. I couldn't express any milk before delivery either which just exacerbated the worry. A good friend pointed out that in the 'old days' my child would have starved to death because I was small breasted & that's why men really like big breasts - it prooves you can rear babies.
I took umbridge to the idea that I was some sort of evolutionary dead end that modern science was condesending to live in ur lush times. (Although, my logical side did whisper that evolution is a cruel master)
I read something about how during pregnancy our bodies create milk 'pathways' & such & after birth nursing tells our bodies we have a live baby that needs nourishing through breastfeeding primarily & makes more of these pathways as needed.
So I was slightly reasured.
And as predicted, I had quite the struggle. I pumped each feeding. BEFOREeach feeding so I could make my breast soft enough so my son could latch his tiny mouth on. I didn't even need the tincture to increase my milk.
My son almost never took both breasts at each feeding either - so I was feeding him solely on one breast at a time.
I suddenly felt like a woman. (hear me roar?)
So these pitiful bumps I was teased about (mostly by women) my whole life could do what they were designed to do! (granted the learning curve was steep & painful)
My son wanted to nurse every hour & a half or less for about 2 months - normal said all the breastfeeders who came out of the woodwork once they realised I was commited to nurse. They hadn't wanted to seem judgmental or like they were forcing their ideals on me but what a releif to find out they were there.
Well, anyway, to cut it short the storage capacity thing is not really an issue as your body also makes milk on demand - so we don't need as much capacity as they used to think. All the pressure I was getting was mostly well-meaning people who were still going by info that was outdated or urban ledgend.
Oh yea, the other thing I learned was that some of the storage capacity is in the armpit. And the 'storage' replaces the fat in breasts - sometimes permenantly. So bouncy or not chances are it's more about supply than storage.

It is interesting to think that I might have psycologically screwed myself up by thinking I didn't have the tits for the job, so to speak. It was only stubbornness that stopped me from having a complex about my smallness.
Maybe it was a psyche problem you friend had. If enough people are riding you about not having enough capacity, milk or whatever - you might just start to think you can't do it & then it could become a self fullfilling prophacy.
I had a friend who was sure she was starving kid because he wanted to eat 'so often' - she was so sure he only needed to eat every 4 hours....we know that's not common but she psyched her self into supplimenting with formula & starting food early & he still wouldn't space his feeding out to 4 hours!

So be aware & beware.

comment by Tania Crook at June 16, 2007 5:39 PM

I had a very similar experience, and it was frustrating because I was doing everything I could to feed my baby without formula. The thing that tipped it for me was when I read that if your breasts do not change much during pregnancy, it is probable that you do not have a large storage capacity. This was exactly the case for me, as I barely gained anything in that area, despite putting on 50 pounds or so. Knowing this, despite what all the lactation consultants and La Leche League gurus said, liberated me. I still feel guilty to this day about not breastfeeding my son, but I think that he has a happier Mom because she listened to her body and her mind which were both telling her that this wasn't working.

comment by Anonymous at June 21, 2007 10:22 PM

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