Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Having the best start to breastfeeding will help you avoid breastfeeding challenges. Even still, challenges will come up for most breastfeeding adults. Here's some simple advice to help you have a successful breastfeeding experience and overcome the inevitable obstacles that come with lactation! These tips don't replace a health care provider's advice, and persistent breastfeeding problems should be referred to a breastfeeding professional, such as a lactation consultant.
Don't overthink it!
Breastfeeding has been over complicated for us Westerners. The perfect latch, perfect position, length that baby should be feeding, etc. Unfortunately, not all of us have had the privilege to see someone breastfeeding milk throughout our lives or even know someone who has breastfed, and therefore some support is lacking. My most important advice to you would be to follow your baby's lead, even right after labor. Some babies will want to eat right away, and some babies will wait, so follow the baby's cues. Babies typically like to eat within the hour. Learn more about the breast crawl here. She will know when she's hungry, and she has built-in instincts to breastfeed; you only need to guide her. That being said, these tips are given as a reference and to keep you motivated. You got this, momma!
Skin to Skin is Important.
Your chest is a baby's home. They are familiar with your heartbeat and voice in the crazy new world they have just been introduced to. In addition to skin-to-skin providing comfort, it also increases oxytocin to assist with bonding and increasing prolactin which helps with milk production. A Laidback position is one of the best breastfeeding positions to start out with early on in the process.
Avoid bottles and pacifiers.
Be aware of other alternatives. Using a bottle before the baby gets the hang of nursing from the breast can start a snowball effect. Nipple confusion can cause poor or non-latching babies, nipple pain, and an overall fussy baby at the breast. If the baby needs to use a bottle, later on, introduce a bottle at 6-8 weeks or after having 2-3 weeks of good latching.
The breastfeeding position is important, but...
As long as the baby is well supported, you don't need a perfect breastfeeding position. In fact, a laid-back position in the first couple weeks of breastfeeding will be acceptable to use and may be helpful as well as simple. Make sure the baby is well supported in her head and back, and hips are supported. If you notice your baby twisting, batting away or pushing away it may be a sign that baby is not well supported.
Frequent feeding means the baby is growing... It's not you, it's them.
"I don't think my baby is getting enough."
"He's always eating."
"He's been on my breast for like an hour."
Sound familiar? The frequent woes of a mom whose baby is going through a cluster feeding stage. It's ok. It's not usually your milk supply, but babies do cluster feed during growth spurts and for comfort during growth development. If the baby is:
Having frequent bowel movements
Doesn't seem to be in any pain
Seems well hydrated
Active, not showing any signs of being more tired than usual
Having lots of wet diapers
Your baby is probably just going through a growth spurt. Growth spurts typically happen between 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 5-6 weeks, and every two months (during growth spurts, I would avoid pumping to store milk). This is typical but doesn't mean it only happens during these times. Feeding every 45 mins to an hour is normal feeding behavior. Babies may need to feed every 45 mins or every 4 hours. It varies from baby to baby, but this is normal feeding behavior! Every 2 -3 hours is not the a hard set time, feeding times vary!
It may happen before or later than these times, but this is just a general timeline. My fourth baby cluster fed almost immediately after delivery. If you see the number of diapers drop significantly, the baby seems lethargic or shows signs of dehydration, then seek out help from a Lactation Consultant. I recommend reading The Wonder Weeks to get a good understanding of the baby's fussy periods during growth and development. You can also download the Wonder Weeks app, and they will alert you about incoming fussy periods!
Really try to avoid supplementation.
Supplementing (giving baby juice, water, formula, cereal, food) WILL DECREASE YOUR MILK SUPPLY. I am not bashing mothers who choose to use formula, but that being said, if you're hoping to breastfeed exclusively, it's best to try and avoid it. The formula that advertises breastfeeding supplementation has the same ingredients as the regular formula with a little more probiotics. It's marketing. It's also more expensive than the typical formula.
Seek the right professional.
If your struggling, get your questions answered by the right professionals or even another breastfeeding mom. I can't tell you how many times I've seen and heard the wrong information given to a breastfeeding mom from her doctor, her OB-GYN, or pediatrician. Not to put them down, but it's not always their specialty. It's best left to an IBCLC or a CLC to avoid misinformation or finding a pediatrician trained to support breastfeeding.
Postpartum Anxiety & Depression is a real thing, and these mental illnesses can affect breastfeeding. Many times, a low milk supply is misinterpreted since you're worried about whether or not your baby is getting enough, even if the baby is growing well. If you feel overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, have trouble with taking care of yourself, feel constantly worried or anxious, afraid you're going to hurt your baby accidentally, have disturbing thoughts, this is when you need to reach out to get support. You're not alone, and this happens to many mothers. Support is what you need to get better. Find a mental health professional or support group through Postpartum Support International! Follow up with a lactation professional to be evaluated and help put some of your fears to rest!
Key things to take away:
Persistence is key. After the first two weeks, things get better.
Get help right away. I'd suggest making an appointment with an IBCLC or CLC within a week after birth, even if breastfeeding seems to be going well. Getting help sooner than later will prevent the snowball effects of breastfeeding problems.
Get support! Find a support group as a part of your preparation for the baby. A breastfeeding support group will give you the relief and support you need to know that you're not alone.
Find a pediatrician that is trained in breastfeeding specialty or breastfeeding support.
Patience is a virtue. Be patient with yourself and your baby.
Need Breastfeeding Help? Get the support you need in-person or virtually with our breastfeeding services!