Breastfeeding

"Someone should have just given it to me straight. That's what I do now for anyone who asks about it."

- New Mom

Breastfeeding

"Someone should have just given it to me straight. That's what I do now for anyone who asks about it."

- New Mom

Breastfeeding 

For some lucky moms, breastfeeding goes smoothly from the start; for most, it takes effort and patience to get going. And moms who continue struggling to "get it right" can slip into deep discouragement and guilt: especially when it just doesn’t work out.

There's also a vast breastfeeding community that focuses on the benefits of breastfeeding, but downplays the struggles. Because of this, moms-to-be often get the idea that breastfeeding just magically works once the baby is born...far from true. Breastfeeding can be a challenging business.

So, gather good info, know where to find support, take it one step at a time, and always make choices based on your unique baby, family, and situation. 

"We need to know how challenging it is; otherwise, we might think there’s something wrong. If you know it’s going to be challenging, you can stick with it. It really helps when husbands are on board, not just getting you something to eat, but cheering you on." - New Mom

Some Basics You’ll Need to Know  

Before Birth

  • Get Educated: Talk to your friends about their experiences, look online for resources, and be sure to take a class. The tools you'll learn and understanding how to manage common challenges will make a big difference, especially once you’re home. If you’re expecting twins, get a head start on how tandem feeding works and what you’ll need to know. 
  • Check Your Nipples: A common challenge is flat or inverted nipples that make it harder for Baby to latch, but there are solutions. You don’t want to discover this the first time you try to nurse, so take a quick look at yours then check out the simple nipple test here.
  • Line Up Support: Ask your doctor, hospital, or check online for information on lactation consultants and local breastfeeding support groups.
  • Stand Your Ground: You may meet people who think it’s OK to question your choices on breastfeeding: it’s not. Whatever you decide is best for your family is best. End of story.

After Birth

This is a learning experience for both you and your baby, so take it one step at a time.

  • The First Feed: Usually, this occurs soon after birth. Try as best you can to relax and just focus on the experience and bonding with your baby.  Skin-to-skin contact relaxes your baby and encourages breastfeeding instincts. The nurses will help you, and Dad can offer support, too. And be sure to ask for a visit from your hospital's lactation consultant. Also, once you start breastfeeding, your uterus will get busy shrinking back to its normal size, which causes period-like contractions: this will soon pass.
  • The Latch: With your hand on the back of your baby’s head, guide him to your nipple and use it to tickle his lip so he opens his mouth. Your nipple should touch the front roof of his mouth to trigger his sucking instinct.
  • The Routine: At first, it’s around 8 to 12 times a day for around 30 minutes each session, though every baby is different. At home, you'll want a comfortable “feeding station” since you'll be spending a lot of time there.
  • The Positions: You and Baby will want to be as comfortable as possible (more challenging after a C-section), so try different positions. Again, the nurses and lactation consultant are a great resource for this. And nursing pillows like the Boppy will make feedings more comfortable. 

Read More

  • Stay Fed! Breastfeeding expends calories and you’ll be surprised by how hungry you get.
  • Milk Arrival: When your milk comes in, you can’t miss it—firm, tender breasts is an understatement. Once you settle into feedings, your breasts will stop announcing milk time with such fervor. If engorgement is uncomfortable, try a cold compress, moist heat, gentle massage or hand/pump expressing some milk. 
  • Babies Lose a Few Ounces: It’s normal for your baby to drop some ounces initially and then gain it all back. They have very tiny stomachs and naturally don’t need to eat much at first. He’ll be getting colostrum for the first couple of days (full of antibodies), so don’t worry if it takes your milk some time to start flowing.
  • Get Help Early: Your baby will learn very rapidly and you’ll want to nip any bad habits in the bud, so ask for help as soon as you have a concern (especially with latching or milk production). If possible, have Dad attend the appointment so he can help you remember important information. If you experience flu-like symptoms and a tender, hot, inflamed breast, it may be mastitis or a plugged milk duct, so contact your physician for treatment.

Wisdom from New Moms...

"There are challenges with breastfeeding, just like there are challenges with everything in life. It’s about knowing who you can contact and who you get that support from in the first couple of days.”

“Take it one day at a time, and don’t give up on your worst day.”

“If breastfeeding doesn’t work in the first few hours, don’t panic!”

"It gets easier. It gets better. It’s a learning curve. Even though it’s natural, it doesn’t come naturally, and it took a little while to figure out."

“What was encouraging for me was going to the breastfeeding support group where they weighed her every week, and seeing her numbers go up and seeing how robust and healthy she was. I was like, wow, I’m doing it! I’m sustaining this baby!”

“Plan on sore nipples. They essentially need to break in.”

“I dried up at around 8 weeks. The guilt was horrible. Looking back, that’s the one thing I would change.”

"If there’s an aspect of the baby life that is really stressful for you, don’t be afraid to let it go. Let it go if that’s what you need to do to be the best mom."

"Almost all women wait until they have troubles with breastfeeding before getting help. If you get help before the baby comes, you’ll be more prepared to face whatever happens."

Edel & Ryan: Breastfeeding (2:44)

Ninette: Breastfeeding & Getting Educated (2:35)

Choosing Breastfeeding Support

There’s a very strong movement that’s working hard to make sure moms  get the support needed to breastfeed. This includes lactation consultants who walk you through the steps and strategies to overcome any problems you may experience. They’re a godsend to many new moms who would have given up without assistance. But if you feel the person is actually creating more stress rather than easing your mind, ask for another referral and choose someone you’re more comfortable with. Having supportive people you click with is essential in making breastfeeding successful for you and your baby. 

Read! 23 Great Nursing Tips

"When you’re in the hospital, ask lots of questions. And have the lactation consultant come every single day, even if you kind of feel like you know what you’re doing. I had a little trouble breastfeeding. Get all the help you can while you’re there."  --New Mom

happy-newborn

Getting Dad Involved

Having Dad's encouragement is huge, and breastfeeding is no exception. Studies prove fathers who are actively supportive play a big part in breastfeeding success.

Assist with position & latch

Dad can see breastfeeding from a different angle, and he may have suggestions about feeding positions or how you can get more comfortable.

Privacy support

Many moms find breastfeeding in public to be awkward: Dad can assist with finding a private spot for you to feed or by helping you drape a blanket over your shoulders. 

Make sure you’re eating and hydrating

Breastfeeding burns calories, so Dad can help ensure you’re taking care of yourself by having snacks and water on hand. 

Soothing baby

If your baby is having a meltdown, Dad can help calm him while you get into position. 

Post-feeding support

Have Dad manage post-feeding burping, diaper changing, and soothing.

Empathy Tip: Dad can use his (clean) pinky finger as a pacifier: Tickle Baby’s lips then place the tip of the finger (flesh side up) just behind her top gum. He’ll be amazed by how hard she sucks and better appreciate what’s happening to your nipples.

A Dad's Perspectives on Breastfeeding

“When it works, breastfeeding is a beautiful moment of bonding for her and my child.”

“We finally found a lactation consultant we like. We’re getting better, but I think the main thing the LC did was give my wife confidence that she’s not doing anything wrong.”

“I’ve been with my wife since we were in high school and she’s one of the strongest, most confident people I know. It tears me up when she’s crying and saying, ‘I can’t do this.’ I feel helpless and want her to see just how great she’s doing.”

"My wife had so much trouble getting a latch and with producing enough. For the first few months, she had to pump and bottle feed. The pumping got her supply up.”

bottle-feeding

If You Aren’t Planning to Breastfeed

There are many reasons why a mom might not breastfeed. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice and always wise to make informed decisions.

In “baby-friendly” hospitals, if you say you aren’t planning to breastfeed, the nurses are required to “explore the reasons, address the concerns raised, and educate you about the possible consequences to the health of your baby” (Worldhealth.org). But once you've made your decision, staff should be supportive and help you get familiar with bottle-feeding. 

"At our two week appointment, he was almost a pound down from his birth weight, and he should have been back to birth weight at that point. It was just really hard to accept supplementing, because of all the pressure to exclusively breastfeed...But I finally just talked to other moms who had a variety of experiences and they said, 'You know, it’s okay. It doesn’t always work. You do what’s best for your baby and yourself." And it doesn’t matter what somebody else’s opinion is; they’re not in the same situation as you. And once we started supplementing, he was so much happier and I was happier too." - New Mom

Bottle-Feeding Basics

Like with breastfeeding, it may take a little time and patience for your baby to learn how to bottle-feed properly. 

  • Keep it Clean! Wash your hands before preparing a bottle and make sure the bottles are disinfected before use. 
  • Warm it Up. Expressed breast milk and formula need to be warmed to body temperature before feedings. Use a bottle warmer or place the bottle in a container of hot water. CAUTION: The microwave is not recommended since it doesn’t heat evenly and may scald your baby’s mouth. 
  • Do a Temp Check. Test the milk’s temperature by gently shaking the bottle and squirting a few drops on the inside of your wrist (that area is super sensitive to temperature).
  • Say "Ah!" Tickle (gently rub) your baby’s lip with the bottle’s nipple so he opens his mouth, then place the nipple on the front roof of his mouth to trigger his sucking reflex.

“He's still getting my milk and I still feed him all day, but that bottle was a really important time for me to sleep a little bit longer, for my husband to bond with him, and to feel like he was actually being able to help..it meant a lot to all of us." - New Mom

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