Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
One of the biggest things that new moms stress about is feeding their baby, especially breastfeeding. It’s not an exact science. Every baby is different, every mom is different and every breastfeeding relationship is different. Just because breastfeeding is so variable does not mean it need to be the source of a whole bunch of stress. Here are 10 tips to make your breastfeeding experience a little smoother.
1. Take a class
You may have been around breastfeeding a feel very familiar and comfortable with it, but I highly suggest you look into taking a breastfeeding class. Don’t know where to look? Ask your midwife or doctor about classes in your area. Odds are there is a class at your hospital, birth center or near by. Take the class before your baby comes and try to get your partner to go with you. Not only will you learn about breastfeeding, but your partner will learn how to best support you.
2. Surround Yourself with support
Having a supportive partner and family is an important factor in successful breastfeeding. It really does make a difference if husbands support their breastfeeding wives. A study out of Australia found that “Paternal emotional, practical and physical supports were identified as important factors to promote successful breastfeeding and to enrich the experience for the mother and subsequently the father.” Find the full article here.
In addition to support in the home, it is beneficial for breastfeeding moms to find additional support. Find a moms group with other breastfeeding moms, join a breastfeeding support group in social media (a GOOD, supportive group) or get connected to your local La Leche League which is an international breastfeeding support with local groups all over the world. Check out the La Leche League website to find a group near you.
3. Find a Lactation Consultant
Lactation consultants are trained professional breastfeeding specialists that help mom and babies with breastfeeding. They are especially trained to help with moms or babies that are having different problems with breastfeeding. If you are delivering your baby in the hospital there is almost always a lactation consultant on-call and should stop by during your stay. Take advantage of her services, ask questions, have look at baby feeding and help you in any way. If you are having your baby outside of the hospital, ask your midwife for a recommendation. Most midwives have lactation consultants they are familiar with and will recommend to you.
4. Trust your body
This is a hard one, but very helpful. Your body grew your baby and now you need to trust that your body can feed your baby. A woman’s body is amazing and knows what to do to feed your baby. Your baby will mainly get colostrum until your milk comes in and that is exactly what your baby needs. As your milk comes in, you will feel full, and as your milk regulates (around 8-9 weeks) you won’t feel as full, but your body will be making the right amount for your baby. Only in rare instances do mothers not make enough milk. Most mothers make enough milk for their babies. Trust that your body knows what to do.
5.Trust your baby
Yes, your baby is brand new, but baby instincts are really amazing! Newborn babies left on mom’s chest often do what is called the “breast crawl” where they crawl up mom’s chest to the breast and start trying to latch on. It is an amazing thing to watch. It also helps us understand that babies know what to do to. Yes, there is a learning curve for you and baby and you both will have to figure it out.
Yes, I know. It is hard to relax when you are trying to recover from having a baby, getting less sleep and caring for a newborn. It is ok! RELAX! (Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell at you!) Relax. Trying to feed your baby while feeling overwhelmed or stressed will make breastfeeding hard. Take a few deep breaths, just look at your new precious baby, whatever it takes to melt away the stress and get the “good feelings” flowing will help make breastfeeding more successful. Those “good feelings” help you release oxytocin, and oxytocin is what helps your “let down” or helps move your milk. Pretty cool, right?
7. Keep baby close
There are so many reasons to keep your squishy little newborn close to you in the first few days and weeks. In regards to breastfeeding there are many benefits. In the early days, keeping you baby close and having skin-to-skin time will help your milk come in. After your milk comes in, it is beneficial to keep baby close to help regulate your supply and help with the release of oxytocin (which will help with let down as noted before) and has great non-breastfeeding related health benefits for mom and baby. When people come over to help, have them help clean, cook, put away laundry while YOU hold the baby.
8. Do not be afraid to ask questions
This one is pretty self explanatory. Things will come up that you don’t know the answer to, and that is totally fine. Can I take this medication while breastfeeding? Do I have to pump and dump? What should I do if my baby gets sick? (Just examples of questions I have heard or asked myself) Have some reliable people to go to when you need to ask the questions you don’t have the answers to. Your doctor, midwife, lactation consultant, or doula are great resources that can help you.
9. Give it Time
I feel like this one is closely related to relax. Remember that you and baby are both new to this. Every mom is different, every baby is different and every breastfeeding relationship is different. Give yourself time to adjust to being a mom and taking care of a newborn. Give you and baby time to figure out the whole breastfeeding thing. You will get it, and your baby will get it. Some babies catch on fast, but others it takes a little bit, but they are still great eaters. Relax (see, I told you they were related) and give yourself and your baby some time to figure out your unique breastfeeding relationship.
10.Take care of yourself
I left this one for last because it is SO IMPORTANT! If you are not taking care of yourself, then you cannot care for your baby. So many moms forget to take care of themselves and then find themselves with supply issues or other issues. Make sure you are drinking TONS of water. Do I have a magic amount that will keep your supply up? Nope, but staying hydrated will help keep your milk supply up and help you, mom stay healthy. Also, make sure you eat! No, seriously! Breastfeeding a baby takes just as many extra calories, oftentimes MORE calories than being pregnant. Eat often, eat healthy and do not skip a meal. Skipping a meal will cause a drop in supply.
These are only 10 quick tips to make your breastfeeding journey a success, but I could probably easily added 10 more. I hope your breastfeeding experience is made a little bit simpler with these tips. If you have your own tips, add them in the comments! I love to hear tips from other experienced breastfeeders!