Breastfeeding is such a beautiful bond between a mother and her child. I don’t care what anyone thinks, I consider it a superpower.
I mean come on, our bodies create a substance that keeps another human being alive!
It’s a superpower.
I successfully breastfed Alexa for 18 months and was so lucky to have very little complications throughout our breastfeeding journey.
Honestly I think the hardest part for me was weaning her. Giving up my superpower. Accepting the fact that she’s getting older, she needs me less, and losing that bonding time was really hard for me.
But with that being my biggest problem, I definitely consider myself lucky.
I was inspired to write this post because a lot of women have a hard time breastfeeding.
That fact made me ask myself a lot of questions, but mostly why was it easier for me than for some women and what can I do to help?
In this post you will learn about:
Tips for getting off to a good start from the beginning
How to breastfeed
When and how long to breastfeed
What you will need
Understanding your milk supply
How to know if baby is getting enough
The Ultimate Guide For Breastfeeding Success
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Starting Off Right
Here are a few tips for starting off on the right foot with your breastfeeding journey before you even leave the hospital.
Undisturbed First Hour
Breastfeeding within the first hour after birth is very helpful for breastfeeding success. That first hour is a time for mother and baby to bond and should be undisturbed.
It use to be that babies were swept away after birth for routine medical practices such as measuring, weighing, and bathing. This causes the baby stress because their natural instinct is to be with you.
Knowing what we know now, it is becoming common practice to give mothers and babies an undisturbed first hour as long as there is no medical reason that warrants otherwise.
While it is becoming more common you definitely want to make your desires clear in your birth plan and check with your hospital or birthing center to make sure they understand and support your wishes.
Immediately after birth babies should be placed skin to skin on their mothers chest, and covered with a blanket to stay warm. Within that hour, as your baby calms and awakens they will naturally try to crawl to your breast and begin feeding on their own.
This is known as “the breast crawl” and is an absolutely beautiful moment.
An undisturbed first hour is helpful for breastfeeding, but the health and safety of the baby and mother take priority. Sometimes complications arise that don’t allow for immediate skin to skin contact, and that is completely fine.
Don’t be discouraged if this happens, it will not jeopardize your breastfeeding relationship. Initiate skin to skin as soon as it is safe to do so and you and your baby will be just fine.
I strongly believe that exclusively breastfeeding for the first two weeks had a significant impact in my breastfeeding success.
What I mean by this is not giving baby a bottle or pacifier during the first two weeks, only the breast, and this is to avoid nipple confusion.
Nipple confusion is when a baby struggles to breastfeed after being introduced to a pacifier or bottle. Your baby can have difficulty latching, feeding efficiently, or refuse the breast altogether.
Allowing at least two weeks of exclusive breastfeeding before introducing a pacifier or bottle helps to establish a good breastfeeding relationship and avoids nipple confusion once a pacifier or bottle are introduced.
Write it in your birth plan, inform doctors, nurses, and family members that you are exclusively breastfeeding. They are not to give your baby a pacifier or bottle and baby should be brought to you for every feeding.
Request To See A Lactation Consultant
That hospital you’re in is full of knowledgeable professionals and the one you don’t not want to leave without seeing is the lactation consultant.
A lactation consultant is a health professional that specializes in breastfeeding. They will show you how to properly breastfeed your baby and point out any mistakes you’re making so you can correct them.
I recommend you see the lactation consultant before you leave even if you’re not having any difficulties. They may be able to see a problem that you didn’t even realize and give you a few pointers for success.
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How To Breastfeed
First, you’ll want to find a calm and comfortable place to sit.
Calm, because your baby may get easily distracted and stop feeding to check out their surroundings. This can be very frustrating if you have a hard time getting your baby to latch and then have to start over again.
Comfortable, because you may be there for a while. Most newborn nursing sessions take about 20-45 minutes. Even if they take less time than that you’ll both want to be comfortable.
Because you might be stuck in one spot for a while a lot of mothers find it helpful to create a nursing station. They’ll place a basket next to where they’re sitting and fill it with snacks, a water bottle, a book, burp clothes, etc.
It isn’t necessary but it can be helpful to nurse skin to skin. Liked we talked about before this helps create a bond between mother and baby and helps the baby feel safe and calm. A calm baby is a lot easier to nurse. Wearing a robe makes this easier.
Once you and baby are seated in a calm and comfortable environment hold baby on their side facing you, your tummy’s touching.
Most find it helpful to prop baby up with a nursing pillow or else you’ll find your arm getting very tired.
Sit up straight or leaning slightly backward and bring baby’s head to your breast, don’t hunch over to them.
Form a C-shape with your hand and hold your breast so that your thumb is on top and fingers underneath.
Brush your nipple on baby’s lip until they open their mouth wide.
Insert your nipple and try to get far enough in so that almost all of your areola is inside.
If you have latched correctly there shouldn’t be pain and you should begin to feel a tingling sensation in your breasts as your milk starts to flow. This is called let-down.
If baby doesn’t have enough of your breast you may feel pain and they may not be efficiently getting your milk.
If this is the case gently put you finger inside baby’s mouth to release the latch and try again.
Also check to make sure your babies lips are not tucked in, and if they are gently pull them out.
The hold I described above was a cradle hold and is a good place to start. But there are other ways you can breastfeed baby that might be more comfortable for you.
Football Hold – Hold your baby at your side, level with your waist. Baby’s back should rest on your forearm and your hand should support their head and guide it to your breast.
This is a great position if you are recovering from a c-section because it takes baby’s weight off your abdomen.
Side Lying Hold – Once you and baby have developed a good breastfeeding relationship and you have mastered the latch you can try the side lying hold where you nurse baby while lying down facing each other to nurse.
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When And How Long To Breastfeed
Knowing when to feed your baby is essential to breastfeeding success. Waiting too long can lead to problems like engorgement, which we will talk about later, and a fussy baby.
Feeding baby on demand, whenever they want to nurse, helps to establish a good milk supply.
On average a newborn will nurse every 1 1/2 – 3 hours, this would be the first three months.
After the newborn stage your baby will nurse every 3-5 hours.
Keeping those time frames in mind will help give you a good idea of when you should be nursing your baby.
But babies will also give you multiple hunger cues. It is important to try to catch these cues and feed your baby before the last hunger cue that is crying.
These cues include:
- opening their mouths
- moving head from side to side
- sticking out their tongue
- smacking their lips
- sucking on their hands
- nuzzling into mothers breast
- rooting (moving their mouth in the direction of anything that touches their cheeks)
Life is hectic, especially with a newborn. Missing these cues happens, but if you do your baby will start to cry as a last resort.
Try your best to calm baby by gently rocking them in your arms and making a loud shhhh sound. It is a lot easier to nurse a calm baby than a fussy baby.
One breast or two per nursing session?
This depends on how hungry your baby is and your milk supply.
I had a high milk supply and Alexa was almost always full after feeding on one breast. If this is the case with you just remember to start with the other breast for your next feed to keep up your milk supply in that breast and avoid engorgement.
If your milk supply is lower or your baby is still hungry then they may nurse on both breasts per nursing session.
You should allow your baby to nurse at your breast until they stop before trying to switch to the other side.
Your breast milk consists of foremilk (at the beginning of a feed) and hindmilk (at the end of a feed) which is higher in fat.
If you try to switch baby to your other breast before they have gotten that hindmilk this can cause a foremilk hindmilk imbalance. Your baby needs that fatty hindmilk for their growth and development.
If you notice that your babies poops look foamy this is a sign that they aren’t getting enough hindmilk.
Breastfeed babies don’t swallow as much air as bottle feed babies so they usually don’t need to be burped as often.
Usually just once when they are done nursing is good. If baby is fussy, crying, or arching their back while nursing this is a sign that they are gassy and need to be burped.
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What You Will Need
Let me just start this section off by saying that you only NEED yourself and your baby to breastfeed.
With that being said there are hundreds of products that can help make breastfeeding easier for you.
Here is a complete list of links to products that I truly believe are helpful when you are breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Care Essentials
Nipple Cream – During the first few weeks a lot of women experience dry cracked nipples. Nipple cream, like Lansinoh, helps heal, soothe, and protect your nipples and is completely safe for baby.
Gel Packs – These gel packs are amazing. They’re reusable and can be cold to relieve pain from engorgement or hot to relieve plugged ducts, mastitis, and encourage milk let-down.
Nursing Pads – When breastfeeding you can experience leaking between feedings, if you are late feeding, and from your other breast while you are nursing your baby. Nursing pads soak up the milk so you don’t soak through your shirt.
I used these disposable pads in the beginning when I was leaking A LOT, but as time went on I was leaking less and switched to reusable pads. They don’t hold as much milk as the disposables but as time goes on you’ll leak less and they are a money saver.
Nursing Bras – Bras with detachable straps. Probably the worst part of breastfeeding for me was having to sleep with a bra on. I leaked so much that it was that or wake up completely soaked. I found these the most comfortable to sleep in.
Nursing Clothes – Clothing that is nursing assessable is super convenient and keeps you comfortable. Being on a budget I found it best to get a few nursing tank tops and wear them under my shirts.
This way I could pull my top shirt up, unsnap the tank top and still have my stomach and back unexposed. I lived in a robe or nursing nightgown at home. That worked but here is a list of nursing clothes I would have loved to have while nursing.
Rocker or Glider – I am not kidding you when I say those first few months you are going to feel like all you do all day is sit and nurse. So having a comfortable rocker or glider to sit in will be a godsend. If you can splurge, they are 100% worth it.
Nursing Pillow – Supports baby while nursing, giving your arms relief. I liked the boppy pillow and I used it to prop up Alexa for tummy time too.
Nursing Cover – If some privacy while nursing makes you feel more comfortable you may want to use a cover. This one is a nursing cover, scarf, and car seat cover all in one.
Breast Pump – If you will be away from your baby you will need to express your breastmilk with a pump as often as your baby would eat in order to keep up your milk supply.
I highly recommend an electric breast pump like this one if you will be pumping a lot. A lot of insurance companies will give you a free breast pump so definitely check with them first.
Bottles – To feed baby expressed milk. We got a few different brands of bottles and found that these worked the best for us.
Storage Bags – For freezing breastmilk for storage
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Understanding Your Milk Supply
For the first 3-4 days your breasts are producing a super nutrient rich fluid called colostrum. It’s isnt until after those first few days that your breast start to feel firmer and change to producing breastmilk.
Your babies feeding habits will determine your milk supply. If baby is feeding more, your body will make more milk. If baby is eating less, your body will make less milk.
Your milk is produced in your glandular tissue, not the fatty tissue so your milk supply has nothing to do with the size of your breast but the amount of glandular tissue you have.
Some women have more granular tissue than others but it is very rare to not have enough to feed your baby.
If you want to increase your milk supply to stock up on expressed breastmilk before returning to work you can pump in between feedings.
It is very important to stay hydrated by drinking water and to fuel your body with healthy foods to keep up a good milk supply.
Is Baby Getting Enough?
This is a question a lot of breastfeeding mothers ask because, unlike with bottle feeding, you have no way of knowing exactly how much milk baby is getting. Here is a list of ways to know if baby is getting enough.
- Breastfeeding should be comfortable and pain free. This means baby is properly latched and feeding efficiently.
- Baby is calm while feeding because they are getting milk
- You can hear baby swallowing while they are nursing
- Your breast feel less full and less firm after a feed
- Baby should have one or two wet diapers within the first 48 hours
- Baby should have five to six wet diapers a day after they are a week old
- Once your milk comes in baby should have at least two dirty diapers every 24 hours. After a few weeks it is common for them to go a few days without a dirty diaper, but should still have plenty of wet diapers.
- Baby should return to birth weight by two weeks and then start gaining one ounce a day for the first month, and one to two pounds after that up to six months.
- If you are really concerned you might consider getting a smart changing pad that can weigh baby before and after a feed and record how much baby is getting to give you peace of mind
Breastfeeding In Public
When you are out an about with your baby they will still need to eat and I am happy to share with you the news that as of this year (2018) it is now legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 of the United States.
I actually couldn’t believe it when I looked it up that it just happened this year. There were just two states left and they just passed breastfeeding laws that protect mothers from indecent exposure charges.
But I just think it’s crazy that it took them this long. We still have ways to go, but we are making progress ladies.
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Below are some breastfeeding challenges you may face and how to overcome them.
Baby won’t latch
- Baby might have a tongue tie restricting his tongues range of motion. This is something you will need to discuss with your doctor and your baby may require a small procedure to fix the problem.
- It might be difficult for baby to latch if your breast is too full and you may need to express some milk first and try again
- It is normal to have dry cracked sore nipples while you are getting use to breastfeeding. This should go away in a few weeks.
- Baby may be sucking on your nipple and not have enough areola. Gently unlatch by sticking your finger in baby’s mouth and try again. You want almost all of your areola in baby’s mouth.
Low milk supply
- A low milk supply is very rare, and you should seek out a lactation consultant if you think you do. She will likely find a different problem that is making you think you have a low milk supply.
- Drinking plenty of water, fueling your body with healthy food, trying to get as much sleep as possible, and pumping after each nursing session can help increase your milk supply.
- Some women experience a strong let-down, where their milk comes out so forcefully, baby may pull away.
- Holding a burp cloth over your breast until the milk flow slows can help
- Nursing while leaning back can put gravity on your side and slow your let-down
- Try very hard not to give baby a reaction when they bite. They will enjoy it and try to do it again.
- It sounds mean but gently pinch babies nose and they will release to breath
- If you experience pain after nursing and/or baby has white patches on their tongue and mouth then you may have thrush
- You will both need to be treated by your doctor
- Thrush can be avoided by staying clean. Wash your hands often, and change out your breast pads and nursing bra when they get wet.
- Symptoms include breast pain, swelling, warmth, fever, and chills.
- You will need to be treated by your doctor
- Mastitis is rare and usually only occurs in women with weakened immune systems.