Updated: Nov 19
As a former labor nurse, and currently practicing as a certified lactation counselor and certified childbirth educator, I often find that my clients are eager to prepare themselves for what to come in the months post birth. If I had to answer what some of my most frequently asked questions are about, one topic that comes to mind immediately is how to get breastfeeding off to a solid start!
This topic in and of itself is something I devote an entire 2-hour long class to because there are so many ins and outs of “breastfeeding basics.” Though often touted as a “natural” and “easy” process, for many delivered moms and babies, successful breastfeeding takes a lot of hard work, dedication, education, and patience. So today, I would like to share with you a few tips for breastfeeding success that you can make a part of your birth plan and education BEFORE you deliver your little bundle of joy.
First, what are a few of the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby?
Portability and accessibility
Reduces maternal incidence of breast and ovarian cancers
Reduces type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk
Moms are more likely lose more baby weight at the 6-month mark postpartum, as compared with formula feeding moms
Financially an advantage, as formula can get pricey
Quick and easy access to mom
Fewer ear infections and colds
Less diarrhea and constipation
Reduction in incidence of SIDS
How can you support your breastfeeding experience BEFORE you give birth?
10 Tips for success
1. Seek out evidence based breastfeeding resources and education prior to your delivery.
Find out what classes and resources your prenatal provider, delivering hospital, or another trusted, qualified lactation professional can offer you. Many classes and resources are budget comprehensivefriendly and , such as Strong as a Mother’s Breastfeeding Basics offerings, which include online pre-recorded, live, or self-paced e-learning classes. These classes can be booked at www.strongasamother.net/bookclass.
Other trusted breastfeeding resources that I truly appreciate include La Leche League International (www.llli.org), Kelly Mom (www.kellymom.com), and Dr. Jane Morton’s website, First Droplets (www.firstdroplets.com).
2. Contact your insurance provider by the mid to late 2nd trimester to find out the answers to some key questions.
This includes asking which breast pumps may be partially or fully covered by your insurance plan, and/or if your plan covers any other lactation services, such as a postpartum home or virtual visit from a qualified lactation specialist, such as an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), or a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). They may even reimburse you the cost of a breastfeeding preparation class or count it as an FSA/HSA (Flexible Spending Account or Healthcare Spending Account) reimbursable expense!
3. Make immediate skin to skin contact a priority on your birth preferences list.
Immediate skin to skin contact with the healthy, full term newborn helps to:
Foster initiation of breastfeeding
Supports exclusive and extended breastfeeding
Improve baby’s temperature, breathing and blood sugar regulation
Increases maternal/newborn bonding
***OF NOTE – If immediate skin to skin care is not possible due to infant health condition or in instances of prematurity requiring heightened surveillance of your baby in NICU or Well Baby Nursery Care, request a hospital grade breast pump to get started with a double breast pumping routine every 2-3 hours or 8-12 times a day, until baby is able to return to the breast. This should ideally be started within two hours of birth!
4. Learn to Hand express.
These 4 simple steps can be used to help increase your supply in the early days, help to get baby interested in a feed, especially in those early, sleepy newborn weeks, and can help relieve engorgement.
Steps to Hand Expression
Massage your Breast
Place Your Fingers
Compress Towards Chest Wall
5. Find out what kind of help you can expect to receive in your delivery facility so you can get things off to a good start!
Speak to your OB-GYN or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) about it during office appointments, or contact your hospital’s Obstetrical Nurse Navigator or Labor and Delivery department nurses for a description of the in-hospital resources provided during your stay to help you and baby get off to a good start when you still have help on hand from staff.
6. Perfect your newborn’s latch.
Good latch mechanics include and are super helpful to prevent nipple soreness, engorgement and developing the proper milk supply to feed your little one! Things to look for include:
Mouth is open wide
Baby’s Lips are flared out
Large amount of breast is in baby’s mouth
When baby is sucking you see their ear and jaw moving
You hear audible sucks and swallows happening actively during the feed
You feel a tug to the nipples while infant is feeding, but it’s not a painful feeling
Breasts feel softer after the feed
***If baby’s latch is painful, or if you think your baby is not transferring milk well from the breast seek professional lactation support as soon as possible for correction and support as ignoring this can lead to a decreased milk supply for you, pain for your nipples, and frustration and weight loss in your baby.
7. Watch your baby's hunger cues, not only the clock!
Many providers will tell you that newborns eat every 2-3 hours, but many factors can influence the time between feeds. Hunger cues are the best way to know to bring your baby to breast, which is about 8-12 (or sometimes more) times a day for the average newborn. Hunger cues may include:
Baby sucking on hands or fingers
Making mouthing movements
Sticking out their tongue
Turning their head towards the side of cheek that is brushed upon (the rooting reflex)
***Of note, crying is actually a late hunger sign, so try to stay tuned in to baby’s earlier feeding cues.
8. Keep your baby in your room at night to sleep.
You will sleep better knowing baby is close by, it helps to reduce your baby’s incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and you get the advantage of knowing baby's earliest feeding cues to feedings aren't missed…which as an added bonus, can lead to a more ample milk supply for your growing baby.
9. Use pacifiers with caution.
Using a pacifier can sometimes impede you seeing baby's earliest feeding cues, which could impact your milk supply. Try to wait until breastfeeding is well established before introducing. Put it away for the first 2-4 weeks of baby’s life, if at all possible.
10. How can you be sure baby is getting enough breast milk?
What to look for:
Appropriate diaper output (after day 5 of life expect 6 wet and about 4 stools per day)
The number of baby’s feeds (8-12 per day, initially)
Periods of contentment and some alertness during the day
Audible sucking and swallowing during feeds
Breasts feel softer after feedings
Baby’s gaining enough weight after about the first 5 days of life. After losing between 7-10% of baby’s birth weight in the first few days of life, we would expect baby to be back to birth weight by day 10-14 of life, and then gain about 2/3 to 1 ounce per day for the next few months (or 5-7 ounces of weight gain per week).
Hopefully, this brief overview gives you some helpful pointers to help you and your baby get off to a great start with breastfeeding! Knowledge is power. Make sure you know where your information is coming from and that you are getting it from a trusted, evidence-based source. With the proper education and guidance, breastfeeding can be an incredibly wonderful experience for both you and your baby, with a multitude of great advantages for you both!
For more information on breastfeeding, baby care, and childbirth preparation visit www.strongasamother.net for comprehensive prenatal education classes taught by an experienced former labor and delivery nurse, certified childbirth educator, and certified lactation counselor at an affordable price! Save 10% at checkout using coupon code SAVE10.