This post is a continuation of my last post about breastfeeding.
We now know that breastfeeding is a natural process that most women are able to do with the right information. It is still helpful to know whether it is going well or not.
First, make sure you are holding your baby skin-to-skin as much as you can. This will trigger your body to release hormones that help with milk let-down (the reflex that lets the milk flow) and milk production. While you are holding your baby skin to skin, it is easier to follow your baby’s hunger cues (see pictures below), so you are not struggling to feed once baby is crying and upset. It will also allow you to feed frequently, which in turn will increase your milk supply.
In addition you should be hand expressing milk frequently in the beginning to send your body cues to make an abundance of milk. Hand expressing is expressing milk from your breasts using your hands (duh). Watch this great video here that explains how to do it very well. All this will increase your supply and make sure you have a successful start to breastfeeding.
How do you know it’s going well? Lots of women are worried about having enough milk in the beginning. It’s not so easy to gauge the amount of colostrum (the first milk) the baby is eating since unfortunately women’s breasts aren’t see-through! Thankfully, there are other ways to know whether or not your baby is getting enough.
The latch is good and comfortable:
A shallow latch is not only painful, but might mean that your baby has to suck longer to get what he needs, or might not get enough.
A bad latch probably isn’t stimulating your body to make enough milk!
Also, the latch should be strong, and you should hear swallowing, although sometimes not before your milk comes in, which is typically 2-4 days after you give birth.
Your baby feeds at least 8 times in a 24 hour period. More than that is OK!
Your baby has the right amount of output for his or her age. That means he’s peeing and pooping enough. See this cool chart from Best Start that will tell you whether or not this is happening.
Your baby isn’t loosing too much weight:
This is a tricky one. A lot of doctors aren’t well informed about breastfeeding and often recommend supplementation with formula or other foods, even when it’s not necessary. Please do your research before supplementing! Get a second opinion if you’re not sure. I’m not saying all doctors are wrong, it’s just that their breastfeeding training isn’t extensive most of the time and it’s better to have all the information available to you!
In the first few days after birth, your baby shouldn’t lose more than 10% of his or her birth weight. After that he or she should start gaining, but just be patient, it will take up to 2 weeks to get back to the birthweight. This is the same for all babies, whether or they are breastfed or bottle-fed.
Just remember to watch your baby! Some babies develop routines quickly, others seem to be all over the place and feed very frequently and inconsistently. All the guidelines, blogs, books and charts in the world don’t know how your baby behaves, but you do! Follow your and your baby’s instincts, your gut knows more than you think.