There’s a lot of things that can sabotage your breastfeeding efforts early on. I highly recommend that you educate yourself during pregnancy or take a refresher course even if it’s your 2nd+ child.
There’s so many important things that other bloggers miss in their articles too. I’ve seen plenty of articles about pumping schedules, diets and supplements, the claim that it’s all supply and demand. They miss they fact that a healthy bond with your baby is an essential component for breastfeeding…
Milk production is stimulated by prolactin, but also by oxytocin (the love hormone). For this reason, bonding with your infant is vital to breastfeeding success.
You may notice that when your baby cries you start to leak milk – breastfeeding is not just a supply & demand equation as many people will claim. You need to look at, touch, hear and bond with your baby. This is also why many women will struggle to maintain their milk supply on return to work. Not because there is suddenly no demand (because they are still pumping, or attempting to) – but because they are not being around their baby.
Nutrition is also important. Many say that if you don’t eat well you will suffer more than the baby – not so. A poor diet will lead to poor milk production. Many food additives can also be transferred to your infant via milk. This can cause a lot of issues like allergies or food intolerances, crankiness and other problems.
Tips for breastfeeding success
The first 24 hours after your baby is born are important. Get as much skin to skin as possible in this time. Breastfeed your baby frequently and on demand. This time is vital for the success of your breastfeeding relationship. If you get a late start (perhaps due to recovering from a c section or other complications), begin doing these things as soon as soon as possible.
Do not supplement with formula. Particularly in the first days before your milk comes in. Your baby does not need anything other than colostrum. Their stomach is only the size of a marble. Frequent feedings will be sufficient to keep them full, as well as providing the physical closeness and stimulation needed to establish milk supply.
Babies can often latch themselves well if given the opportunity. Place the baby on your chest and they will begin to sniff and root for the nipple. They often can latch themselves just fine. If you hold them on their back, however, you need to know what you’re doing. Aim the nipple at their upper lip, and allow them to take as much of the breast in their mouth as possible. Remember, it’s breastfeeding not nipple feeding. Offering the nipple only will be painful and baby won’t get much milk.
Know the signs of a bad latch. Clicking sounds during feeding mean that the baby is losing suction and then latching again. This will cause pain and damage your nipples in a short time. Feeding should not be painful. It can be uncomfortable at first, but if you’re scrunching your face or curling your toes, something is wrong. There are congenital conditions that can sabotage breastfeeding – most commonly they are tongue and lip tie which can be fixed with a short procedure performed by your OB or family doctor. Bad latch can also be caused by the way you’re offering the breast, inverted nipples (a nipple shield will help for this) or a number of other causes such as having a premature baby, cleft palate or cleft lip, etc.
Keep taking your vitamins. Low nutrient levels will cause supply issues as well as making watery, less nutritious milk. Make sure you get sufficient vitamin d, calcium and magnesium. Find a high quality vitamin with bio-available nutrient forms.
Stay hydrated. Quickest way to trash your milk supply is via dehydration. Your body will hold onto that fluid rather than allowing it to go to milk production. Make sure you drink a lot of water. It should be well over the recommended 8 glasses a day.
Learn the best position to hold your baby. This will depend entirely upon your body shape and how big/long your baby is. It was impossible to feed my son in the cradle position for example. The ‘football hold’ or laying on my side was much more comfortable.
Spend time with your baby. This is something so important that many forget about. You will find that when your baby cries you will start leaking milk, or your breasts might get full and sore. Breastfeeding is not just supply and demand, it’s also about the emotional connection with your child. Hold your baby as much as possible. Cuddle them. Gaze at them. Lots of skin to skin.
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Don’t doubt your supply to the point of supplementing. Some days it will seem like your baby is hungry and not getting enough milk. This is perfectly normal and known as cluster feeding. It can go on for 1 to 3 days and will ramp up production for the baby’s increased needs. If you give in and supplement during this time, your supply wont pick up and you’ll be caught in a cycle of supplementing because you’re not producing enough, and your supply dropping even more because you’re breastfeeding less .
If you need to be away for long periods... For most this will be due to work. Take a picture of your baby, record a video on your phone, even record their cry. Look at them when pumping, it should help trigger a letdown.
Eat well. Avoid sugary, processed junk and focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, protein and healthy fats. Fats in particular are very important, as it is the most variable nutrient in your milk dependent on your diet. Having a good diet will also help with your energy levels and overall health.
Be wary of supplements. A commonly recommended breastfeeding supplement is fenugreek, however, some women report that this lowers their milk supply rather than increasing it. Herbal supplements aren’t always helpful. use at your own risk.
Build a stockpile early on. When your milk comes in you’ll overproduce at first – take advantage of this time to build up a supply of stored milk, especially if you will be returning to work. If your supply dips, you can still continue providing breast-milk for your baby for sometime if you take advantage of that initial overproduction.
Trust yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be defeated before you even start. Give breastfeeding a try, even if other’s stories or comments made it all seem too hard. Even if you feed only for a short time, that’s still better than not at all. Have some faith and confidence in your maternal instincts, and ask help from your midwife or a lactation consultant if you have trouble.
Know where to find support. Whether that is your midwife, lactation consultant, your OB, a breastfeeding association or a trusted family member, know where you can ask for help. This one thing can be the difference between success and giving up.
When my son was born, he latched himself easily. The only problem I ever had with feeding as a first time mum was finding a comfortable position to feed him in. So, just because others have struggled, doesn’t mean you will. Similarly, if you struggled the last time, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again.
Wishing you all success in your breastfeeding journey. Please share any feedback in the comments. Let me know how breastfeeding was for you.
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