One of the most common complaints among new nursing moms is that their baby is ALWAYS NURSING! They feel like a 24/7 milk factory, and find that their baby isn't happy unless on the breast. While it's true that there is never a wrong time to offer the breast, and I do FULLY ENCOURAGE you to nurse your baby often (at least 8 times every 24 hours!) there are likely times when your baby is trying to tell you that they ACTUALLY NEED SOMETHING ELSE.
The most common reason a baby is staying on the breast longer than what is ideal: Baby's cues are being misinterpreted which leads the mother to think she isn't making enough milk!!!
This is actually the #1 reason breastfeeding mothers give up and it's one of the most easily avoided breastfeeding "problems" when you know what you're looking for!
Usually, mothers mistake gassiness or sleepiness for hunger. When really baby is saying burp me or support me so I can go to sleep! OR another REALLY BIG misinterpretation- baby will cry after nursing and the mother will assume it means her baby is still hungry! This is BY FAR the most common misinterpretation. Crying after nursing is NORMAL and to be EXPECTED. It usually signals gas, indigestion, or the need to poop. There are rare instances where a mother is actually unable to produce what her baby needs, and if you think that is what's going on, please don't ignore it.
Listen to your instincts and check in with your support team!!!
Another reason baby may stay on the breast for longer periods is their latch may not be effective. This is usually accompanied with nipple pain, and nipples that look flattened, creased, or misshapen when baby comes off the breast. When your nipple is being compressed from a latch or positioning that isn't quite right, it can "kink" your nipple, kind of like a hose, and make drinking harder than it needs to be. If you're told your baby isn't gaining weight well, this may be the reason why.
Like I said, your baby is going to be an EXCELLENT COMMUNICATOR, you just need to read their body language. The trouble is, sometimes these cues are very subtle, or they look very similar to each other. The good news, that's what I am here for! If you're unsure what your baby is trying to say you can reach out to me for guidance. In the meantime, check out these videos to help you more fully understand your little one.
These videos are incredibly helpful, and come from Jan Tedder, owner of HUG Your Baby. You can find her videos on YouTube. I share these videos with the families I serve regularly. I began my journey into learning more about newborn's cues, states, and zones after taking Jan's training. I now use these skills in my own practice as a Lactation Counselor.
There are so many supplies and gadgets that are supposed to help you breastfeed. How do you REALLY KNOW which ones you need and what is just going to pile up unused? In this post I have compiled a list of all the products you NEED, some items that are not exactly necessary, though can be useful, AND a list of things commonly recommended that you REALLY DON'T NEED. (Some of the items in the link are Amazon affiliate links, and purchases made through these links help support this blog!)
So! Let's get to it!
Here is the list of things you ACTUALLY NEED.
First the obvious; you need at least one breast. And, yes, you could literally breastfeed with just one breast. (Women who have had a mastectomy have breastfed with just one breast!) You also need a baby (or a pump). And that's it. Literally. That is all you need to breastfeed.
One of the most beautiful things about breastfeeding is that it is virtually FREE. You DON'T NEED ANY GADGETS, special creams, pillows, or gimmicks to make milk or nurse your baby. There are some physical things that may be helpful, however not one of them is necessary.
There is one exception to this rule. There is one other "thing" you need, though it's not a "thing" it's a "who". You need SUPPORT, and maybe a little knowledge too. The KEY for successful breastfeeding is surrounding yourself with the RIGHT support at the RIGHT TIME. Find your village before you need it. Join a support community (like our Successful Breastfeeding Community on Facebook), attend a mother to mother support group, and work with a lactation counselor (someone like me) before your baby arrives. Then you'll have your support in place before you have questions so you don't need to go blindly searching for answers. (I highly recommend straying away from google when you need support.)
Ok, so there are a few things I do think can add a level of convenience to breastfeeding. Some extra stuff that may make breastfeeding a little easier, and more comfortable.
Purpose: To help break up clogs in your milk ducts.
Me recommendation: HoMedics Quatro Mini Hand-Held Massager
Purpose: To manage discomfort in the early days, and beyond!
My recommendation: Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy
Purpose: Combat Breastfeeding Thirst! (Yes, it's a thing.)
My recommendation:Contigo Waterspout 32oz Waterbottle with straw.
#4 Breast Pads
Purpose: Absorbing leaks
My recommendations:Lansinoh Stay Dry Pads Disposable Pads AND Washable Reusable Bamboo Nursing Pads
Purpose: To curb the nursing munchies!
My recommendation: Anything that's easy to eat with one hand!
#6 Burp Rags
Purpose: For catching spraying milk, and for supporting your breasts.
My recomendation:Gerber Prefold Cloth Diapers
# 7 Nursing Basket
Purpose: To store, and easily tote, breastfeeding supplies.
My recommendation: Baby Diaper Caddy- Portable Nursery Storage Bin
Purpose: To prepare you to feed your baby, and what to expect while breastfeeding.
My recommendation: Your Best Start Breastfeeding Workshop! and Dad's Breastfeeding Survival Guide!
Now, for the breastfeeding items you DON'T need, though are popularly recommended.
#1 Breastfeeding Pillows
Intended purpose: Breastfeeding Pillows are supposed to make breastfeeding easier by properly positioning baby.
Why you don't need it: You already have what you need laying around your house, and sometimes breastfeeding pillows can cause a painful latch. They are awkwardly shaped and create spaces for baby to slump into, or are just too hard.
What to use instead: Standard Bed Pillows!
#2 Nipple Cream
Intended Purpose: To soothe sore nipples.
Why you don't need it: Nipple creams are not good for baby to ingest and can breed infection! Yikes!
What to use instead: Breastmilk! It contains all the necessary proteins and immunologic properties to soothe and heal sore, chapped, or cracked nipples.
#3 Nipple shields
Intended Purpose: To help premature babies, with tiny mouths, latch onto the breast. Sometimes suggested to help with painful latch, or to encourage babies to latch if they are refusing the breast.
Why you don't need it: Nipple shields will not fix a baby's latch, rather just mask a poor latch. Babies can easily become dependent on them. Putting a barrier on your nipple will affect milk transfer, and lower your milk supply.
What to use instead: Work with a lactation expert to help your baby latch properly onto the breast!
In the United States, the average maternity leave only lasts about 6 weeks, and it takes just about that long for your milk supply to fully establish.
Then you’re expected to leave baby behind and return to work. This is not only emotionally difficult, but presents challenges when you’re breastfeeding. Working moms have an unfair disadvantage when it comes to breastfeeding, and the statistics make this very apparent- 80% of mother’s will stop breastfeeding within one month of returning to work. These statistics are very discouraging. That being said, if you have the right tools under your belt you will be ahead of the game and can take down the obstacles working and pumping put in your way.
It’s important to be aware of potential challenges and know how to beat them- so let’s break it down!
1. Make breastfeeding your #1 priority
It is essential that you make breastfeeding, at the breast, your main focus first. You can read my tips for breastfeeding success here. As I mentioned, it takes about 6 weeks for your milk supply to fully establish. Establishing a healthy milk supply is crucial and your focus should remain on nursing your baby at the breast according to your baby’s cues during this time period. Don’t worry about pumping yet, and don’t worry about having baby practice with a bottle, there is really no need for that. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk your body will make.
In these early weeks, you want to avoid pumping to “build a stash” of milk. If you are pumping while home with your baby and nursing your baby you will tell your body to make more milk than you actually need. Then, upon returning to work, you are much more likely to experience plugged ducts and increase the potential of mastitis from having an oversupply of milk.
2. The week before you go back to work.
Now that breastfeeding is going well and your milk supply is well established, it’s time to start thinking about pumping. This is your time to really get to know your pump, how to use it, and make sure it fits you properly.
Once or twice a day, go ahead and practice with your pump and store any of the milk you get out. Keep in mind, how much you are pumping is not an indicator of how much milk you are making. There are many factors that can affect your pumping output. (That’s why you’re reading this article, right?) Babies are very effective milk drinkers, and pumps are less so. When you are pumping milk while you are home with your baby, you are likely to get less milk while pumping than when you are away from your baby. Keeping this in mind, remember your main goal is to practice, practice, practice! You really only need enough milk for the first day that you are away from your baby. Which would roughly be 8-12oz, depending on how long you're away from your baby. You can get that much milk in a week!!!
3. Getting the right pump and the right fit.
There are so many pumps! Which one should you choose? Choosing a pump is a very personal matter. Breast pumps can be expensive, so you want to be sure to get one that will work well for you and really make pumping easier. I highly suggest using a brand that has excellent customer service and replacement parts are easily located. Medela and Spectra are both popular brands, with excellent customer service. You can find replacement parts for Medela at most big box stores. You also want a pump that is electric and you can pump from both sides at once, aka double electric.
Avoid pumps that are manufactured by formula companies, as they are not made well and typically have poor suction. Check the warranty on the pump you would like to purchase as this can tell you how long the pumps are meant to last. Pumps are meant to be single use and their motors are typically only fully functional for about the first year or so.
After you have your breast pump it is important to make sure that you know how to use it and even more important that it is fitting you properly.When I support breastfeeding mothers, I always offer to do a pump fitting for them. Pumps come with one size parts, and breasts are not all one size fits all. More often than not the parts that came with the pump are not the right size.
4. Maximize output and minimizing time.
There are a few simple techniques you can use to make pumping faster and more efficient; hormone manipulation, massage, breast compression, and hand expression.
First things first, get yourself comfortable and relaxed. Your milk let down relies on those happy hormones your body releases when you experience something pleasurable- like holding your baby or thinking about something that makes you happy. Associating pleasure with pumping will help your body relax and let that milk down! So, while you’re pumping look at pictures or videos of your baby, eat a piece of chocolate, drink a cup of tea, or daydream about taking a vacation somewhere. Anything that gives you the warm fuzzies will be helpful when you are pumping. If you’re worrying about pumping or how much milk your body is putting out, then you are releasing stress hormones and this will inhibit your let down.
Second, once your pump is all hooked up and you’re ready to go, use breast massage and compressions to help your milk get moving. Start by massaging your breasts by gently kneading, then compress or squeeze them gently. This will help get the milk stored deep in your breast to come out more easily and quickly. You can use both of these techniques while your pump is running. (Having a hands free pumping bra makes this easier too!)
Lastly, at the very end of your pumping session, utilize hand expression to get those last bits of milk from your breasts. There is a bit of a learning curve to proper hand expression, but once mastered it is a very fast and effective way to remove milk from the breast. It also comes in very handy in situations where power isn’t accessible or if you (heaven forbid) forget your breast pump! Hand expressing for a few minutes at the end of your pumping session may help you get that last ounce of milk from your breasts that your pump just couldn’t get.
5. How much milk will I need?
You're probably worried about how much milk you will need for your baby, and if you'll be able to sustain your supply. Like I discussed before, that leads to triggering a stress response in your body and inhibits milk supply. Having confidence that you are pumping enough milk for your baby will help you succeed.
If you need help figuring out how much milk you REALLY need, click HERE.
Being aware of appropriate amounts of milk and baby’s tummy size will help you, andyour care provider, understand how much and when it’s appropriate to feed your baby your expressed milk. Using a paced method of bottle feeding and continuing to follow baby’s feeding cues is crucial too.
Very often babies are unintentionally over fed when a care provider doesn’t understand how to bottle feed a baby, or if they are unfamiliar with a breastfed baby’s feeding cues.
It is highly discouraging to hear from your provider that you need to provide them with more milk because they are misinterpreting your baby’s cues. So please, make sure your care provider is on board with both of these. (Click the underlined link to see our workshop that covers that and more just for infant caregivers.)
How much milk you continue to make while you are pumping at work will also be affected by how often you are pumping. You need to keep your breasts stimulated during your work day to help maintain your milk supply when you are away from your baby.
6. Making it all happen.
Now that you have mastered techniques of using your pump it is time to have a conversation with your employer about your plan to pump when you return to work. One of the biggest hurdles you may face is finding an adequate space and the time while you’re working to pump your milk. It may be helpful during your conversation to give your employer some information about why it is important for them to allow you this time. It is important for your health that you are able to have the time that you need to pump. If pumping sessions are missed you could become engorged and experience plugged ducts and a breast infection called Mastitis which would lead to you needing to take time off of work. Furthermore, breastfed babies are normal, healthy babies. If you’re not given adequate time to pump at work, it will affect your milk supply, leading to supplementing your baby. This will then affect the overall health of your child and lead to your needing to take more time off of work to stay home with a sick baby.
How could your employer deny this logic?
7. My BEST Tip Yet!
Watch my video below to hear one of my TOP tips!!!
Courageous women and breastfeeding advocates are making big changes for you and future breastfeeding mothers, not only in the workplace, but in everyday life. It is my vision that our daughters will not face the same obstacles that we have faced as nursing mothers. One day I would like to see every employer be breastfeeding friendly and go above and beyond to accommodate the needs of their breastfeeding employees.
Using these techniques will really help you be successful with breastfeeding when you return to work. Instead of becoming one of those 80% of women you will be lowering this statistic and paving the way for other mothers in the future.
You’ve got this momma!
For even MORE advice, tips, and tools to fully set yourself up for success, take our Online Back to Work Workshop!
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a nest is defined as:
a) a bed or receptacle prepared by an animal and especially a bird for its eggs and young
b) a place or specially modified structure serving as an abode of animals and especially of their
immature stages <an ants' nest>
c) a receptacle resembling a bird's nest
As Human mama’s, we also NEST with our young, in very similar capacities as our fury, feathery friends. I can recall after having my first child, finding the need to venture out of the house to get ‘fresh air’ at the nearest shopping center or grocery store. Not only did my child remind me every few minutes that she was in the process of a growth spurt, but boy oh boy did I ever hear the flak from every person with a keen sense of maternal inclination. “OMG, tell me you did not take your child out of the house” or something to sort. That’s when a respected and beloved friend explained to me the term ‘nesting’. I had never heard of it before and immediately envisioned a bird gathering twigs or regurgitating its food from its beak to feed her infant chick. Nesting is two-fold and now years later I’ll break down 2 different ways you can look at the word NEST and apply it to the role of a new Human mother.
Can be looked at as removing all external worries or responsibilities that would typically take precedence prior to the birth of your child, while replacing it with baby-focused attention, rest and more rest. Whenever I teach a Prenatal Education class, I explain that just as baby will sleep, eat, pee and poop, REPEAT - so should mom during the early days of the postpartum period otherwise known as the 4th Trimester or the NESTING stage. It is completely healthy to have the desire to clean, organize, cook, do laundry, etc. It is also healthy to do NONE of those things. They’ll be ready and waiting when you are in the mental space to put energy and effort toward them. This is an excellent opportunity to ask grandma, auntie, neighbor or friend to assist in any way they are willing to fill in. Nesting can last for 4-6 weeks or more.
N – NURSE often, on demand, focusing on your baby and absolutely nothing else. Don’t watch the clock-
watch your baby and his/her hunger cues. Remember hunger cries are the latest cue of hunger and
baby was actually hungry 30 minutes ago.
E – EDUCATE yourself on breastfeeding, contact a Peer or Professional Breastfeeding Supporter
(Successful Breastfeeding Expert), ask questions and seek out resources in your community, debunk
breastfeeding myths (like breastfeeding is supposed to hurt a little), talk to your peers that have
been successful with breastfeeding, attend a breastfeeding support group prenatally or as a new
mom – this will help in terms of seeing breastfeeding IRL (In Real Life). Remember that years ago, we
were successful with breastfeeding because we saw it every day and knew what ‘normal’ looked
like, thanks to our village of support.
S – SKIN TO SKIN can be done at any time with any parent/baby dyad (mom, dad, sibling, grandma,
aunt) regardless of feeding choice during newborn stage and beyond. Skin to skin helps stabilize
baby’s biological function within the body (heart rate, respiratory rate, body temperature), increases
bonding and reduces mom’s stress while increasing moms oxytocin levels, thus reducing the risk of
PPD (Postpartum Depression). Keep in mind that the solution to almost EVERY infant issue can be
resolved by bringing baby skin to skin, including latching difficulties.
T – TRUST your baby and trust your body. When given the opportunity, just moments after delivery –
most healthy-term infants, moments after delivery, will make their way to the breast when placed
on moms belly or chest. This is known as the ‘Breast Crawl’. Likewise, just as your body was capable
of sustaining your unborn infants life in utero for 9 months, so is your body yet capable of
continuing that same work in sustaining your growing infants life while on the ‘outside’ of you (this
applies to both singular and multiple births).
To watch our video on NEST for BF Success CLICK HERE or watch below.
Welcome to this new blogging journey I have embarked upon. I look forward to sharing stories, successes and maybe even a few failures (since we all learn from our failures and move on to better and higher right?). I envision an intro post in the near future along with a story or two of how I started this journey as a Lactation Professional and Successful Breastfeeding Expert. In the meantime to read my Bio click HERE.
As always for more information or to schedule a Successful Breastfeeding Prenatal Class , Successful Breastfeeding Support Service (In-Home Session) or a Return to Work Workshop visit our website at http://www.successfulbreastfeeding.org/
“Jennifer was fantastic. In my second week postpartum, I was upset because breastfeeding was not going well. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my little one but I was ready to give up. Jennifer was able to come over that day and in 2 hours give me peace of mind. She was extremely professional and had a lot of information. She was also able to answer all of my questions I had, plus more. I was successfully able to get my little one latched without pain and feeding the correct way. I would highly recommend Jennifer as a lactation consultant.” Jessica M.
It will be easy. Baby will latch just fine. You’re a natural. Don’t worry. Millions of mother’s breastfeed. It can’t be that hard, right?
Those were all common phrases spoken to myself, in third person, prior to the arrival of my first kiddo. Yup that’s right, I told MYSELF all of those absolutely ridiculous things. I believed them. My affirmations were my truths until SHE came, three weeks early I might add.
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE