Best Way to Be Successful at Breastfeeding

As a labour and delivery nurse I have extensive experience helping new moms breastfeed. I really want all mothers  to be educated about breastfeeding before they give birth.

This is a perfect post to read to get all that juicy information before your baby gets here! Read on so that you are fully prepared to breastfeed your baby if that is your plan!

Breastfeeding Common Concerns

Women have an obsession with not being able to breastfeed their newborns. How come we are so caught up in the medicalization of birthing and breastfeeding? We forget our bodies know exactly what to do. Your body made another human being. Why wouldn’t it be able to feed it? We are mammals after all. You’ve got this mama! With confidence comes success. I know you can do this if you set your mind to it. 

All about breastfeeding in the beginning. Learn how to breastfeed your baby before you give birth.

Do I Have Enough Milk?

The most common concern I get as a postpartum nurse is that the baby can’t possibly be getting enough breast milk. Or, that the milk hasn’t “come in yet”. I’m not here to give you a biology lesson. I just want women to know that mammals have been doing this for eons of time, since the invention of breasts. Why would we need to rely on a man-made substance to nourish our children? When did it become so commonplace to ignore our natural instincts? The baby’s instinct is to feed all the time and stay close to mom and our job is to listen to those needs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think formula is a great invention. If you don’t want to breastfeed, or can’t for some reason, formula or donor milk are the only options.  My rant here is about frustration with women not understanding that they totally CAN breastfeed, if that’s what they want to do.

Women need to know that they will get close to their babies, very close. In the beginning you will basically be attached to your baby day and night.

This is a good thing! Your baby has been attached to you for nine months so far, so I think it’s only natural that he or she wants to stay attached for a little while longer. 

Also, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

Whether it be a professional like a lactation consultant or maternity nurse, or other mothers that have breastfed in the past. You need and deserve the support!

It’s not easy doing it on your own. The sad fact is that most of our own mothers and grandmothers didn’t breastfeed, so it can be challenging when dealing with your family member’s opinions.

Breastfeeding: Supply and Demand

Moms, grandmas, aunts and anybody else with an opinion might say that you will spoil your child and that you should let your baby cry and get used to sleeping on their own.

Ignore that rubbish. Babies can’t be spoiled.

They know instinctively what they need and in the beginning it is LOTS of skin-to-skin time and breast suckling.

More about Skin-to-Skin from Babytalk. Skin-to-Skin: The One Place Your Baby Wants to be After Birth

Complete open access to your breasts. If they get what they need, not only will they be happy and calm, but also you will make enough milk and there will be equilibrium in the universe.

So plop yourself down on the couch and let you little one feed to its hearts content. All those naysayers can go do your laundry and cooking and cleaning.

Breastfeeding is supply and demand. The only way you WILL make enough milk is by feeding on demand. Completely forget about the clock. As long as baby is feeding at least 8 times in 24 hours and those feeds are at least 15 minutes long, you’re good. Any more or longer feeds are ok, baby cannot be overfed when breastfeeding. 

This image below is a great resource for understanding the amount of milk your baby needs in the first few weeks. It also shows how many wet and dirty diapers your baby should be having so that you know he or she has adequate output.

a great chart to know if breastfeeding is going well

Image courtesy of Best Start.

Breastfeeding Is Natural But Can Be Hard!

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.

Learn lots of tips to make breastfeeding successful in the beginning right here on Babytalk: 24 Tips for Breastfeeding That You Absolutely Cannot Miss

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 picture 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.

How to know when your baby is ready to breastfeed

When baby starts stirring, opening their mouth and turning their head, that’s your early cue from them to start feeding.

The mid cues are stretching, increasing movement and putting their hands to their mouths.

The late cues showing that they are ready to feed are crying, agitation and turning red. If you wait that long to feed your baby you’ll have to calm them first and then feed them because often times they won’t latch if they are too upset.

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.

Latching Your Baby

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.

How to Know Breastfeeding is Going Well

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 which can be 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 birth weight.

This is the same for all babies, whether or they are breastfed or bottle-fed. If you think something isn’t right go see a lactation consultant and get more frequent weighings. You want to make sure that all is going well in the beginning. 

Be sure to check out all the information on Babytalk about breastfeeding! Here’s one about increasing your supply. The Magical Way to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Your baby knows best!

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.

Please comment below or contact me to tell me how breastfeeding was for you in the beginning.

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