Breastfeeding is hard! Don't do it alone!
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Top 10 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Virtually anyone can breastfeed! All you really need is the right knowledge, and support!
Here is some of that knowledge, and some of my best tips I share with my clients!
#1: Make Sure You Have the Right Information
There is SO much information on the internet about breastfeeding, and unfortunately, most of it is bad advice!!! (Say, what?)
Whether you're learning about breastfeeding before your baby is born, or looking for an answer to your breastfeeding problem- always check your source!!!! Make sure your information is coming from an actual lactation expert, and not just another mom! Though other breastfeeding moms have the best of intentions, their advice is usually only based on their own, unique experiences. You're also likely to see information on mom's blogs to be based on common MYTHS not FACTS. (You can check out my blog debunking some common breastfeeding myths here!) Every breastfeeding relationship is SO different, and breastfeeding support is NOT one size fits all. You should rely on the support of a lactation expert who can provide you evidence based advice, support, and solutions based on your own unique breastfeeding relationship.
A lactation expert is someone who has extensive training, and certification(s), to support breastfeeding moms using a clinical and evidence based approach. As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a lactation professional is defined as a health care professional who holds at least one of two certifications: IBCLC or CLC. (I happen to be a CLC, and a CLE which is an extra certification I hold that trained me extensively to provide lactation specific education.) You can find more information about the different types of lactation support available to you in the CDC's breastfeeding report card.
What should you know about breastfeeding prenatally?
Well, there's alot to know! Thankfully there are really only a few things that are key to Successful Breastfeeding that you need to know before your baby comes. I suggest taking a breastfeeding class that will cover these VERY important topics:
-How to Latch Baby Properly
-How to Position Baby for Breastfeeding (See my video)
-Ways Your Partner Can Fully Be Involved and Support You (Get my FREEBIE!)
-What to do in the First Hour After Birth (for any type of birth outcome!)
-Planning for the First Few Weeks at Home
-What Breastfeeding is Really Like
-Baby's Cues and How to Interpret Them
-Obstacles You May Encounter and What to do About Them
Take A GOOD Breastfeeding Class!
You have lots of options for breastfeeding classes these days. Finding a class that fully covers the basics can be difficult. Avoid classes that focus on the differences between breastfeeding and formula feeding, or only focus on learning positions. Learning how to position your baby is really only something you can do AFTER your baby is born! Research show us that learning how to position your baby before baby arrives doesn't help anyways. Which makes sense. A baby is very different from a doll, and you can't actually practice latching a doll onto your breast, you need your baby for that. It's a good to have a general idea how to do it, but it should not be the focus.
Being prepared for what to fully expect immediately after birth, and for the first few weeks/months is much more important! You're going to be more prepared knowing what to REALLY expect, vs trying to learn something without your baby present.
Look for a breastfeeding class designed to set you up for successful breastfeeding by giving you research based, practical information that you can really use after your baby is born AND will also fully incorporate your partner in the experience too!
Our ONLINE Prenatal Breastfeeding Class offers EXACTLY this. So, if you still need a breastfeeding class, or feel unprepared, you can access the exact tools and resources you need, RIGHT NOW, from any internet capable device. AND you'll have lifetime access to all of the tools and information so you can come back to it for review at any time you need!!!
Your Best Start to Breastfeeding is designed to give you everything you'll need for success and fully includes your partner in the experience too!!
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#2: Be Determined!
I won't sugar coat it; breastfeeding is hard, especially in the beginning! You'll have moments when you feel like giving up. Being determined to have a Successful Breastfeeding Journey will help get you through those moments, and I promise everyone has them, you're not alone! Lean on your partner for support, or reach out to the awesome breastfeeding moms in the Successful Breastfeeding Community on Facebook when you're having a hard time emotionally. Surround yourself with the people who can best support you, both for breastfeeding and for the emotions you'll experience.
Something I DO NOT want you to do is suffer through the early days/weeks on your own!!! Asking for support is not defeat, it is a WIN for you and your baby! Most moms will wait to get breastfeeding support, and try to figure things out by themselves, or suffer with a painful latch because they thing it's normal- DON'T LET THAT BE YOU!!! Seek support immediately. Early intervention from a lactation expert will make your life SO much easier. I really cannot stress that enough! You can find support from me here or you can find a lactation consultant through your local hospital, or by searching for one on ilca.org.
It is a female tendency to want to support others, and we rarely seek or accept the same support for ourselves. Don't fall into this trap!!! I, female in support role, am here for you. I want to support you. Consider this your official permission to seek support. You deserve it. Your baby deserves it. Please do not suffer in silence or try to rough it alone!
Listed below are some of the most common obstacles you may face in the early days, and there's not always a one answer approach to get over these humps. If you notice any of these, you need support. Just because these issues are common does not mean they are normal!! So, don't wait! Get support, and have an expert walk you through it if you come across any of these:
Disclaimer: When you need breastfeeding help, always ask a breastfeeding expert. Keep in mind most doctors and pediatricians do NOT have training to appropriately advise your breastfeeding concerns. Pediatricians are experts in pediatric diseases, OBs are experts in surgical birth. Lactation professionals are experts in breastfeeding, breasts, and baby's mouths. Call on one of us when you need support!
#3: Toss Out Formula Samples
Formula companies use aggressive, and sneaky marketing tactics, and they count on your failure! If you've created a baby registry- anywhere- be prepared to have your mailbox fill with samples- especially formula samples! When you're feeling overwhelmed and overtired, you may be tempted to supplement your baby with formula to give your body a break.
Every mom has what I call the 3 a.m. moment. It's the moment you feel overwhelmed by postpartum hormones, lack of sleep, and the neediness of your newborn. It's the moment you just want to give up, and offer your baby a bottle to take a break. I fully encourage you to take a break- momma you deserve it! I just encourage you instead to walk away, breathe, and come back and try again. Post in our support community, and I promise you'll get tons of feedback from the other mommas about how we have ALL BEEN THERE (even me!). Let your partner take over for a little while with some comfort tactics, then when you're ready, nurse your baby again. Offering a bottle, will not help.
Formula companies are very aware that you're more likely to use their product when you feel tired and overwhelmed. Formula companies know using their product may lead you to breastfeeding failure, and they are counting on it. After all, this is why they are sending you the samples. Early supplementation and bottle feeding is a fast track to a low supply. So when you are tired at 3 am, just know this too shall pass, and lean on your partner, or other breastfeeding support to help you get through it.
Did you know there is a standard set in place by the World Health Organization for formula marketing? Did you also know that other countries approach the sale of formula, and marketing very very differently than the united states? We are one of the only developed countries in the world that allow formula companies to market their products and send samples. If you're interested in learning more about this check out the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
#4: Nurse Early and Often!
Your baby will be born hungry! It is ideal to bring your baby to the breast within the first hour after birth. Your baby will need your high caloric, immune system boosting, early milk to help boost their blood sugar, and protect them from illness and infection. You should also expect to bring your baby to the breast often! Your baby will nurse at least 8 times every 24 hours, though often more. Don't worry about putting your baby on a feeding schedule. It's best to watch your baby for feeding cues and follow their lead!
If you feel your baby is ALWAYS nursing and you're feeling overwhelmed, check out our blog on this topic: Why is my baby ALWAYS nursing?!
You can also click the banner below, and get access to my FREE guide for new moms and moms to be that walks you through everything you need to know about milk supply, if you're making enough, and what to do if your supply is low!
#5: Leave Your Breast Pump Alone!
Seriously, leave your pump alone! Even if you plan to go back to work. You'll have plenty of time to pump all the milk you'll need later on. For the first 4-6 weeks, unless you have to be away from your baby, do NOT use your breast pump. Allow your baby to establish your milk supply for you. Breast pumps used too early could create an oversupply of milk, which can lead to breastfeeding struggles. If you do need to go back to work wait until a week or two before you go back to start your milk stash. (I promise that's plenty of time!)
It's important to TRUST that your body is enough for your baby. (If you're questioning it, ask an expert!) It is so tempting to want to break out your breast pump to try to see how much milk you're making for your baby, or to pump and give your baby a bottle just in case they aren't getting enough. I promise you this will not be helpful. Pumping is NOT a reliable indicator of how much milk you have. Think about it- there's not going to be much milk for your breast pump because your baby is drinking it! So, you can't pump milk to see how much your baby is getting. It really doesn't work that way. Trust that you are enough, and use the information from the Milk Supply Guide above to really know how much milk you're making.
If you do plan to go back to work, check out our blog post: Top 7 Tips for Successful Breastfeeding Back at Work! We even have an online workshop to fully prepare you for your transition back to work when the time comes. You can access your online Back to Work Workshop here, or click the banner below.
#6: Skin to Skin Contact
When in doubt, use skin to skin! Skin to skin contact is like a super power. It will help you bond with your baby, and your partner can do it to bond with baby too. It will also help regulate baby's temperature, heart rate, breathing, and blood sugar!
Skin to skin contact is also incredibly comforting to an overstimulated newborn, and believe me they get overstimulated easily! Skin to skin contact also helps promote and establish a healthy milk supply!! So, in the early weeks, use this tool as often as you need to. There are also many different forms of skin to skin contact. You don't just have to put your baby on your chest. You or your partner can use massage, bath time, and baby wearing with your little one to get in some skin to skin time too!
#7: What Goes In Must Come Out
There's not a meter on the breast to tell you how much your baby is drinking. So how do you know if your baby is getting enough milk?
Simple; check baby's diaper! If your baby is pooping enough, then your baby is drinking enough. You also want to pay attention to the change in color of your baby's diapers too. Around the 5th day baby's poop will be yellow and seedy looking.
Another way to tell baby is getting enough is to look at their weight loss and gain. In the first week your baby is expected to loose up to 10% of their birth weight. Sometimes it's a little less, and sometimes a little more, especially if you've had a cesarean or IV fluids during your labor. At the end of the first week, you should see baby gaining weight again, and back to their birth weight by the end of the 2nd week.
If your baby is gaining weight well, and pooping enough, there should be no reason to question your milk supply!! If you are still questioning your supply, you may just be misunderstanding your baby's cues.
#8: Mindful Birthing
The way you birth matters when it comes to breastfeeding. Certain interventions during labor can create some roadblocks for breastfeeding. For example, IV fluids can make your breasts puffy and harder for baby to latch. Using an epidural can make baby sleepier after birth and less able to engage at the breast. Having a cesarean can make getting into a comfortable nursing position difficult. None of these interventions mean that you won't be able to breastfeed. I do recommend establishing yourself with a lactation expert prenatally so you already know someone you trust to contact after baby arrives!
#9: Avoid Pacifiers
Did you know that pacifiers were invented to replace the suckling babies were NOT getting from bottle feeding? Babies need to nurse often, and breastfeeding is so much more than just food. A baby's need to suckle is just as important as food. It takes about 6 weeks for your milk supply to fully establish, and it's best to let your baby come to the breast as often as they need during that time. If you introduce a pacifier early on you're likely to miss some of your baby's feeding cues, and your milk supply may take longer to establish if baby is comfort suckling on a pacifier instead of the breast.
Side note: I am NOT worried about nipple confusion. I am worried about baby missing our on crucial time at the breast. Again, even with bottle feeding, I am NOT concerned about nipple confusion- but I would be concerned about baby developing a flow preference. Drinking from a bottle is a lot less work than breastfeeding, and babies are smart! Using a bottle early on could lead them to prefer the bottle over the breast. Make sure, if you find yourself needing to bottle feed, you are using true paced feeding to keep bottle feeding and breastfeeding consistent as possible!
#10: Create a Breastfeeding Plan
Birth plans are very popular now. Breastfeeding and postpartum planning should be just as popular too! There are many things you'll need to prepare for that you may not have expected to encounter. Not just right after baby is born, but for the first few weeks home too.
Some things to include in your plan:
Keep track of what you normally do, and make a plan for the postpartum so you know exactly what you need. You will really be glad you did! This is probably the most important thing you can do to prepare for your baby before birth.
If you want more information about putting together a plan of action for those early weeks, you can get access to all of our templates, and resources in the Your Best Start Online Breastfeeding Class.
Also, check out our blog post that covers everything you'll NEED for breastfeeding, and also the things you don't need too.
Your Best Start to Breastfeeding!
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Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE