Nature designed us to be able to grow, birth, and feed our little bundles of joy. Just as you were able to create this little person, trust that you will be able to breastfeed. Does that mean it will be easy? Maybe, maybe not. The most important key to successful breastfeeding is to have resources in place if things aren’t going well and you need help. The following tips will guide you through creating a plan of action.
Learn as much as you can before your baby arrives. This will help you to identify if you have any risk factors that may impede either your milk supply or your breastfeeding experience. You want to come up with a plan for when baby arrives. Prenatal consultations are helpful if you have any concerns regarding your health, you’re expecting multiples, or you’ve had any surgery on your breasts or chest. You will want to investigate options if you will be returning to work.
Investigate how your birth choices impact your breastfeeding. Having a surgical birth, induction, or intravenous (IV) fluids can affect your breastfeeding experience. Having a doula can help you navigate your childbirth experience and avoid a cascade of unwanted interventions. If your birth experience is not what you had planned, does it mean you will have a terrible time breastfeeding? No! It means that you want to bring an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) on board to help you identify strategies to have a successful breastfeeding relationship.
Watch your baby. Your little one will tell you when he or she is hungry. The ability to identify feeding cues will help you build and maintain an abundant milk supply. Feed your baby often; you can’t offer the breast too much, but you can offer too little. Your baby’s hunger cues look like stirring, mouth opening, turning head or rooting, lip smacking, stretching, and bringing hand to mouth. Check out this link for some great photos: http://www.breastfeedinginsheffield.co.uk/mum-and-baby/baby-feeding-cues/ Or http://wnhs.health.wa.gov.au/services/breastfeeding/feeding-cues.htm
Keep your baby close. Practice skin to skin and rooming in. Keeping your baby skin to skin with you as much as possible, will allow you to learn baby’s hunger cues quickly and be able to meet their needs. When baby is close and snuggled with mom, you are able to recognize early feeding cues and feed baby when s/he is hungry. Skin to skin helps keep baby warm, and helps with the transition into the world outside of mom.
You will want a provider that is supportive and helps you through your obstacles instead of changing course.If you are going to work after you have your baby, then you will want to have your manager on board and supportive of you pumping while at work. If your child will be going to daycare, you will want to ensure that you have baby in a place that is educated on how to handle your breastmilk and the needs of a breastfed baby.
Ask for help. Please don’t wait if you think you need help. Most breastfeeding challenges are overcome quickly with help in the early days. There are many reasons to seek help: If your breasts are sore, or feeding is painful; if baby is not feeding often or feeding all the time; if baby is fussy or sleepy; if baby is not gaining weight; if baby has any physical challenges that impair breastfeeding; if you are experiencing any stress about breastfeeding; or you feel that breastfeeding is not going well. Breastfeeding should be pleasant for you and your baby! If either one of you is not having a good time, something is not right. Give yourself permission to get help and support.
Offer only mother’s milk. All your baby needs is you. If you are told your baby needs something else, know that you have options. Ask for donor milk. Human milk from another mother is the first choice before giving formula. You have choices on how your baby is given any supplementation; it does not have to come from a bottle. Early bottles can affect baby’s breastfeeding.
Limit pacifiers and swaddling. Pacifiers should be offered after breastfeeding has been well established. Babies learn to breastfeed by feeding at the breast. Does this mean you shouldn’t swaddle? No, it means only swaddle for a short period of time. Swaddling and using pacifiers can prevent parents from recognizing baby’s feeding cues.
Ensure a good latch. This will help baby gain well and build and maintain your supply, as well as keep mom feeling more comfortable. A good latch is important, it allows baby to drink a larger amount of milk, which will allow you to make more milk. The more milk that is removed from the breast, the more milk mom’s body will make for baby.
Remember that while it is important to prepare for your birth, your breastfeeding relationship will likely last much longer. Spend some time preparing for the wonderful opportunity to bond with your baby. Set yourself up for breastfeeding success and contact a lactation consultant today.
This was originally published in WNC Parent August 1, 2015.