How do you breastfeed? Will I know what to do? Will my baby need help learning how to breastfeed? These are all the questions I had running through my brain when I was pregnant with my son. Now I have successfully breastfed my son for 1 year and 10 months! Breastfeeding that long is not for everyone, of course. You just have to do what is best for you and your baby! Here are some tips that I learned from a breastfeeding class, the lactation consultant at the hospital, and just from my own personal experience. There are many common misconceptions about breastfeeding, so I really hope this post helps you!! This post contains amazon affiliate links.
Here are the Lies:
- You're newborn lost weight, you must not be producing enough milk.
- Your baby keeps eating every 15 to 30 minutes, so they must not be getting enough milk.
- You need lactation cookies and to eat certain foods to have a good milk supply.
- If you don't have a freezer stash, you're not doing a good job.
Here's the Truth:
- Your newborn's stomach is literally the size of a grape. They are eating the amount they need.
- Your baby is sending signals to your body to make more milk AND simply looking to you for comfort and love.
- Supply and demand is best for milk production!
- Your body makes exactly how much YOUR baby needs and that can look different for every baby. Some women have an "over supply" that is also totally normal.
As a new mom, or mom to be, you’re most likely receiving a lot of advice. Wanted and unwanted. I received one-on-one advice from the lactation consultant at the hospital, and I also learned so much from the breastfeeding class. I highly suggest attending a class or two in person or virtually before your baby arrives. This really helped me gain knowledge about the importance of breastfeeding after birth and how milk production works. Learning all about breastfeeding, how it works, and any possible complications truly helped me succeed in the long run! KellyMom is a great resource!
Before I get into it, I’d like to say that I am not a medical professional. I have simply learned from medical professionals who have helped me, and I have been breastfeeding my son, using their tips and advice, for almost 2 years. Through my frustration, tears, painful nipples, and clogged milk ducts, getting through the first 30 days felt like such an accomplishment. Having that goal really helped me when breastfeeding was rough at times.
I would like to mention that there may be reasons beyond your control that breastfeeding might not be an option for you, such as taking required medication, for example. Sometimes, breastfeeding doesn’t work out and that can be frustrating. DO NOT BE HARD ON YOURSELF. Do push yourself to succeed, but do not let “mom guilt” take over and effect your mental health. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t want to succeed at breastfeeding! Give it all you’ve got and that will always be enough for you and your baby!
Now, there are a few things I want to share with you that helped me succeed! The main thing that helped me succeed on my breastfeeding journey was knowing that the best way to “boost” my milk supply (which seems to be the number one concern for breastfeeding moms) is to feed on demand. When your baby is suckling at the breast, it sends a message to your brain to activate your milk production. This is the best advice I feel I can pass on to you, from one mom to another. I recommend putting your baby to your breast as much as possible. Simply removing milk from your breast is the best way to tell your body to produce more milk. Supply and demand!
Personally, feeding on demand worked best for my milk production. Feeding on demand helped my milk supply regulate to the exact amount that my baby needed. A common misconception is that when your baby cluster feeds, or eats very often, they aren’t getting enough milk. But that simply isn’t true. Wanting to breastfeed more simply means that it’s time for your baby to tell your body to produce more milk for their growing belly. Your newborn’s stomach is very small and they only need a small amount of milk in the beginning. I would also like to add that it is common for your baby to lose weight the first few days and this is not an indicator that you aren’t producing enough milk. When your baby has multiple wet diapers a day, you can tell they are getting enough milk.
A sensation you may be feeling within the first week, is the let down reflex. I did not know about this before breastfeeding. The first stage of breast milk is called colostrum and is usually thicker than mature milk. In that first week, your milk will mature and this is what women mean when they say their milk is “coming in”. After your milk has matured it will be, well, more milk-like. This is when you can feel the let down reflex. Remember in the previous paragraph when I discussed your brain sending a message to your boobs? Well, this is the result of that. After my baby suckled for a minute or two, I felt a warm sensation called the “let down reflex”. This is when your milk is flowing out of your breasts. It will flow for a little while and then slow down.
Something I didn’t think about when I started breastfeeding was engorgement and clogged milk ducts. It can be pretty painful. The best thing to do, from my own personal experience is to keep feeding your baby. Working through those clogged milk ducts by letting your baby eat frequently can help unclog them. That’s what worked best for me. You can also try using a hot or cold compress to help relieve some pain. Sometimes clogs can lead to inflammation of the breast called mastitis. If you are over-producing milk, it may help to let your baby suckle, but not completely empty your breast. This may help reduce engorgement. If you are feeling severe pain, have a fever, or have any concerns about your breastfeeding experience, always call your doctor.
The first time I breastfed my son, I was scared that he couldn’t breathe while he was latched onto my breast. The lactation consultant assured me that he could breathe, because of the position of his nose against my body. Looking down at my baby while breastfeeding, I could see that his nostrils had full access to air. It can be a bit scary at first, because it feels like your baby is very squished against your body. So, just make sure you can see those nostrils. It also helps to know they are getting enough air, by looking at your baby’s chest and seeing that it’s moving up and down. This is simply something I didn’t know that I could worry about, before my baby was born.
If you plan on pumping, I suggest waiting a few weeks until your milk matures and your supply is regulated to fit your baby’s needs. You may want to pump to feed your baby a bottle because you’re going back to work. Or you simply need a break. Pumping as often as your baby eats, usually every two to four hours can help maintain your milk supply while you're away from your baby. It also may help to have a silicone breast pump, a manual breast pump, and a double electric breast pump. The silicone breast pump attaches to the breast that your baby is not feeding on and collects milk during the let down reflex that would have been wasted into your breast pad. A manual breast pump can go in your purse just in case you need to pump while you're out and don’t have access to electricity at that time you need it. The double electric breast pump is great for those late night pumping sessions or when you need to pump at work. I can definitely say that the products that I used the most are breast pads (disposable or reusable), a nursing bra, a nursing tank top (very convenient to layer a t-shirt over the tank top for breastfeeding in public), a manual silicone breast pump, and a double electric breast pump (for when I went back to work).
Did you know that breast milk can help heal cuts, eczema, diaper rash, and sore nipples? Simply hand express a little bit of milk and put it on the affected area. My son had a rash all over his chest sometime during those first few weeks. I started putting breast milk on it and it cleared up completely in three days. You can even make breast milk lotion or soap if you’d like. Breastfeeding not only nourishes your baby, but is also beneficial to your own body. When you breastfeed, you release a hormone that makes your uterus contract. Yes, this means that you may feel some cramping while breastfeeding those first few weeks. This is your uterus contracting back to its original size!
Breastfeeding seemed so intimidating to me while I was pregnant. These are some of the things I wish I knew. I hope this advice can help you on your breastfeeding journey. Postpartum can be a roller coaster of emotions and it’s normal to feel like you are struggling. I assure you, any amount of effort you put into feeding your baby is enough. You’ve got this, mama!
Have breastfeeding questions?
I am not a medical professional, but if you'd like to ask me a question, I'd love to do my best and help out! Sometimes, breastfeeding can feel a bit lonely since your baby is totally dependant on you for milk. I'm here to chat or lead you in the right direction to answering your questions!