Hey, mama! Between me and you, there is a ton of information out there on what's most important to know when you begin breastfeeding. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing! However, it can be very overwhelming to know what to focus your attention on.
How to have a solid start breastfeeding
Here, you will find some easy and simple to apply tips that will make your breastfeeding journey have a great start and continue for however long you and your precious babe decide!
Let me first say how excited I am that you want to breastfeed your baby and continue to provide all the nourishment they will need from your amazing body.
Second, I'm so happy this article has found you. Whether you are pregnant and preparing to breastfeed for the first time or you are hoping to have a better outcome for your second or third journey, read on because the goal here is to take the stress and guesswork out of what to focus on to have a successful start with breastfeeding.
Tip #1: Understand the relationship between common labour interventions and the impacts they can have on beginning your breastfeeding journey.
Through the lens of a lactation counsellor, I encourage all my mama’s to know how the interventions they choose during labour can potentially hinder breastfeeding from starting off on a positive note.
Now let's be clear, this is not in any way suggesting you change up your birth plan or forgo the epidural and pain meds if that is what you want! It is, however, beneficial for you to be aware of the possible side effects for you and/or your baby from interventions and what impacts they can have on breastfeeding.
After delivery, in the best case scenario, your baby is placed skin to skin, fully alert and ready to latch within the first hour with no separation for any routine tests and procedures. Anything that interferes with that “best case scenario” can impact breastfeeding because of the hormones that are peaking within that first hour to help facilitate breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, not all deliveries allow for that, and I want you to know, that’s okay! Just because you miss the initial first hour doesn’t mean you can’t make up for it or your milk is doomed from recovering.
No matter how your labour and delivery will play out, a sure way to protect your milk supply is to remain close to your baby — skin-to-skin is best. Offer to nurse or start with hand expression or pumping to signal to your body “ it’s time to make milk”, as soon as you and/or baby are able.
Tip #2: Place baby skin to skin!
Okay, but what does that mean? You will undress your baby, or just unzip the front of their sleeper, and have their bare skin in direct contact with your bare skin. Heart-to-heart is usually most comfortable for everyone.
This is proven to be beneficial for baby and mom! It’s something any caretaker can do, but especially beneficial for mom because of the amazing milk-producing hormones that flow by being close to your baby.
Tip #3: Know the basics of how to get a proper latch.
I can still remember when I breastfed for the first time. Due to my lack of preparation, I didn't have a clue what I was doing! I figured breastfeeding was a natural thing so the physical act of breastfeeding would be as well.
Well, yes and no. It is natural. Babies come out expecting to breastfeed, but it is something for you both to learn how to do!
How to get a proper latch:
- First, support your baby's head by holding at the nape of their neck. Bring your baby's nose in line with your nipple. Make sure your baby’s whole body is in a straight line and belly to belly with you.
- You can touch your nipple to your baby’s nose or upper lip to make them open their mouth.
- When they gape open, you will point your nipple to the roof of your baby's mouth. Your baby should have their lips flanged on your areola.
- Baby’s chin should be in contact with your breast while their nose will not be touching your breast. This allows for a clear airway.
An efficient latch will not be painful. If you are experiencing pain, unlatch and try again. If possible, utilize the lactation professional on staff! They are there to help you and show you all the tips and tricks!
Tip #4: Feed on demand!
I will be the first to tell new mama’s breastfeeding during the first few weeks of your baby’s life , breastfeeding will feel like a full-time job because… it is! I share this with moms, not to scare them, but to make sure they have a realistic expectation of what is very normal to expect!
Watch your baby for hunger cues. These look like your baby moving their fists to their mouth, sucking on their fingers and hands, turning their head looking for the breast, being alert and more active, and of course, crying. Those are all indications you should offer to nurse your baby.
Remember: You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby!
Tip #5: Watch baby and the clock.
Along with watching for cues, for a newborn baby have them nurse at least every 2 hours and around 8-12 times in a 24-hour window. This may look like you have to stir your baby to wake them during the day, sometimes at night, to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need.
It’s very normal for a baby to want to nurse more frequently than 2 hours as well. Nursing is more than just nutrition, it’s also a comfort for your baby!
Tip #6: Breastfeeding is a relationship!
There are two people involved in this relationship. Have patience with the learning process for yourself and for your baby.You both will be learning how to breastfeed together.
Have realistic expectations for yourself and your baby! Know that babies will want to nurse for more than nourishment. Breastfeeding is a powerful bond that you and your baby will work to create together.
Important to remember...
Have support in place before you begin your breastfeeding journey. Do you know other mom’s that have breastfed? Reach out to them for support!
While a lactation professional is often what is needed for individualized care when issues arise, the support that you can get from other moms that have breastfed is invaluable!
There are many ways in which you can make breastfeeding work for you and your baby. Breastfeeding is not one size fits all! I am cheering you on, mama! You’ve got this!!
You can find Mackenzie on @the_empoweredlatch for more breastfeeding tips and all the support for your lactating journey.