Breastfeeding can leave you fraught with worries and doubts…Can I do it? Do I have enough milk? Is my baby gaining enough weight?
Even I, as a 3rd time breastfeeding mom, have questions and doubts from time to time!
I worry most about maintaining my supply. When baby is extremely fussy, I panic and think he isn’t getting all the milk he needs. But as long as your baby is having a sufficient amount of wet diapers for his age (ask your pediatrician how many that is!), you know he is getting the milk he needs. Don’t start supplementing, keep on breastfeeding!
Get support right away! Before you even deliver, find a lactation consultant so you have support as soon as possible should issues arise. The hospital where I delivered my first two children had a resident lactation consultant on staff. I asked the lactation consultant to check my second baby’s latch, because my nipples hurt every time she fed. I’m so glad I did, because even a handful of breastfeeding sessions with improper latch left my nipples incredibly sore. NOT worth it! Fix the latch immediately, and pump if you need time to heal. I also spoke with a lactation consultant at my 3rd baby’s one week pediatrician appointment (it was required, or highly suggested!). As a veteran breastfeeding mom, I didn’t think this was necessary, but I learned SO much from that appointment!
Be proactive : Don’t wait until you have production issues. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, don’t skip meals or cut calories, and feed on demand. My doula says,
“Frequent and effective milk removal is the best way to increase supply.”
She also said try to hit 8-12 removals (emptying the breast) per 24 hour period to maintain your milk production.
Resist pacifiers : Hold off until 4 weeks if you can. The lactation consultant at my pediatric office said this can negatively affect your milk production. Baby has a 3 week growth spurt, and that’s also when your supply regulates itself. If you are pacifying baby instead of breastfeeding, your milk supply may suffer. Baby may pacify himself right to sleep with the pacifier, and forgo his necessary feeding entirely! 3 weeks is a crucial time for regulating your production, so just be cognizant of that! But if you’re past that 3 week time period and suffering from low supply; don’t lose heart. There’s still hope. 🙂
Cluster feed : Sometimes, especially during a growth spurt, your baby may want to cluster feed. As a breastfeeding mama, you will soon learn to recognize baby’s hunger cues. When you see those cues, don’t be afraid to offer the breast again even if you recently nursed. Baby is still learning how to discern when he is full!
Hunger Cues :
- Baby turning his head towards you, opening mouth
- “Eating” his hands
- Sucking on anything nearby
Note: Gassy cues can be similar and confusing…The difference I’ve noticed is baby will frantically grunt and chew at his hands. He will desperately latch at the nipple, then release and cry, only to re-latch immediately. Also, persistent kicking of the legs and redness of face signals an issue with the belly. Try burping instead of feeding to see if that’s the problem.
Finish feeding : You may need to wake baby to finish his feeding. Undress him, change his diaper, whatever you need to do. Its very important for baby to get a full feeding. At your initial letdown you make a thinner, lower calorie milk called foremilk. The foremilk gradually becomes fattier as the breast drains. It turns into hindmilk which eventually signals fullness to your baby. Both foremilk and hindmilk have their own benefits. Read more below!
Foremilk and Hindmilk :
Foremilk contains protein, carbohydrates (especially lactose), and vitamins. The high lactose level found in the foremilk is important for energy and brain development and also quenches the baby’s thirst. Then, after a few minutes of feeding, the hindmilk will begin to be expressed. This milk is more calorie-dense, as it contains more fat. The hindmilk is important for growth and will help the baby feel full. Taken from : http://www.breastmilk.com/foremilk-and-hindmilk.php
Also, a helpful article if you have concerns/questions: https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/article/worries-about-foremilk-and-hindmilk
Nurse one breast per feeding. This has to do with the fore milk and hindmilk and successfully emptying your breasts (there will always be a little leftover in there!) to avoid clogged ducts. It also helps establish a sufficient milk supply.
Clogged ducts feel like a scary lump in your breast. Massage the lump while breastfeeding – baby’s sucking coupled with the massage may help dislodge the blocked duct. Warm compresses or a warm shower while you massage also help. Avoid underwires and ill-fitting nursing bras.
Sore nipples can be very discouraging! Pump a bottle to give your nipples a break. Forget whatever rules or ideas you have about when to introduce the bottle. Don’t let yourself suffer! Rebekah, a doula and blogger from Surviving Toddlerhood says, “Coconut oil is good for sore, cracked nipples and for mommas struggling with thrush.”
Don’t let a newborn sleep too long : In the first few weeks, weight gain is especially important for your newborn. My lactation consultant recommended we let baby sleep no more than one 4 hour stretch every day. Other than that one stretch, you need to wake baby for a feed every 2 hours. We have basically followed this rule for baby’s first 3 weeks, but are somewhat lax with it – when baby is fussy and waking every 45 minutes, we are more apt to let him sleep for 3 hours even if he already had his long stretch of sleep that day. Because we need sleep too! And time to wash the dishes, do the laundry…
Prep food ahead of time! I love when I wake up in the morning and I have breakfast ready and waiting in my fridge. As a breastfeeding mama, it is so important to fuel yourself with good, high quality foods. This is not a time to worry about your remaining “baby fat”. Healthy fats like nuts and avocados are especially great while breastfeeding!
Don’t be afraid! Many moms are nervous about breastfeeding in public. They’re shy, even with a cover, or afraid of being judged and asked to nurse someplace else. It happens, but I’ve never encountered this. I’ve nursed while yard saling, during worship at church, grocery shopping, walking around the neighborhood…Breastfeeding is normal, natural, and something that has to be done. Don’t waste time worrying about who might be offended.
Take time for yourself! Being stressed and wearing yourself thin isn’t good for milk production or the breastfeeding relationship with your baby. You don’t have to “sleep while the baby sleeps”, but I do recommend sitting down to an episode of Fixer Upper on HGTV with a cup of coffee and a yummy snack after you get a few chores done. 😉
Have easy acess! If there’s one thing I HATE about breastfeeding, it’s trying to figure out my daily wardrobe. Having cute, easy access nursing clothes is key to breastfeeding with ease. Babies are NOT patient creatures, so you need to be able to latch them quickly. I love the gray swing tank from Bun Maternity pictured below – it’s soft and comfortable and doesn’t cling to your postpartum belly! When it’s chilly, you can throw a button down cardigan over a nursing tank or sleeveless top like this. You’ll still have quick easy access to feed your baby and be able to extend the useful life of your nursing wardrobe.
Splurge! I always splurge on a couple nice new nursing bras and clothes when I have a baby. I know it will be at least a year of breastfeeding and frequent rotation of the same clothes over and over, so it’s always nice to have something new! If you’re looking for good quality, modest nursing clothes, Bun Maternity makes their items in the US and can be worn for pregnancy as well as breastfeeding!
Breastfeeding is free, convenient, and the most natural way to feed your baby! You never have to mix a bottle in the middle of the night or worry about forgetting formula! The natural touch helps you bond with your baby, and you will save so much money (then you can spend more on nursing clothes! Haha!).
Remember even seasoned moms like me have questions and doubts, and it’s ok! Read, ask questions, maintain a healthy diet (but don’t cut calories!), and remember to relax! Good luck!
Disclosure: I was given Bun Maternity apparel as part of a product review. Although the items were a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.