Congratulations on getting ready to bring your baby into the world and becoming a new mother! Whether you’re just getting started on deciding the details of your birthing plan or in the home stretch for your delivery date, deciding whether to breastfeed or not is a personal choice that many women consider before welcoming their new arrival. The Children’s Wellness Center providers understand that breastfeeding can be a challenge, so we wanted to share some of our top breastfeeding tips for all of you expecting moms out there!
The first few weeks of your baby’s life, parents can expect their child to feed around the clock, typically every two to three hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highly recommends moms breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of your child’s development but statistics by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that even though 79% of mothers breastfeed shortly after giving birth, only 49% reported still nursing at the six-month mark. We recommend you:
…..do your pre-baby prep work. Sure, reading tons of “what to expect when you’re expecting” articles and watching YouTube videos on all topics relating to breastfeeding can be helpful to mentally prepare expecting mothers, but nothing beats actual practice. Since this obviously can’t be done until your baby is here, network with other moms that you may know, or attend breastfeeding support groups, to get a first-hand account of what it’s like. Ask questions and get a wide-variety of experiences from different women because each mom’s breastfeeding story is different, and some women simply are simply unable to breastfeed (but don’t feel bad if you fall into this category). If you have a family member or friend who is breastfeeding and is willing to share this part of the experience with you, physically watch them nurse to see what it’s like.
…..do yourself a favor and invest in good supplies. Just as you deck out your baby’s nursery with essential items, keep in mind some of the supplies that can be helpful during the duration of your time breastfeeding. Invest in a high-quality electric breast pump and properly fitted pump flanges. Not every mother’s breasts are the same fit, so getting the right fit will help pump the right amount of milk and reduce any damage from improper pumping (it’s important to note that electric pumps have a limited number of motor-life hours before the suction starts to diminish, so we highly recommend you DO NOT buy used pumps). Nursing pillows are great ways to help with positioning your baby during breastfeeding and can also reduce stress and tension from your back/neck/shoulders. For women that experience latch concerns and are experiencing sore, dry, or cracked nipples, keeping purified lanolin handy can help soothe discomfort and increase the nipple’s moisture.
…..do try to focus on quality, not quantity. Contrary to formula measurements, babies need the same amount of milk when they’re 6 months old as they do when they’re 1 month old. It’s around the 1 month mark that your baby’s appetite is established, which can also make it extremely helpful to know the right amount of breast milk you need to pump to sufficiently supply your baby should you go back to work. As long as your baby’s pediatrician checkups indicate they are healthy and getting the nutrition they need (see our infant feeding chart for reference) as they should at their age, there’s no need to worry yourself with how much your baby is feeding versus other moms. Keep a tracking app on your phone, if available for your device, to help keep track of your baby’s feeding times and diaper counts in between doctor visits as well.
…..don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Many of us have that “I can do it” mentality and the pressures that can be added to get it “right or perfect” can cause stress on you and the baby. Keep in mind that it’s 100% okay (and strongly encouraged) to ask for help from those around you as well as professionals. When meeting with a lactation consultant, regardless if it’s in the hospital or after, have your partner attend each meeting to learn how they can help assist in positioning your baby while they attempt latching and making it as comfortable as possible for you and the baby. Breastfeeding can take a little time to get used to the sensations, but in the long-term it shouldn’t be painful. If discomfort persists while you’re latching, reach out to a lactation expert (breastfeeding resources such as the Northside Lactation Program at Northside Hospital offer breastfeeding education and lactation support for expectant mothers and their partners). If you’re concerned with your infant’s nutrition and growth, feel you’ve injured your nipples, or sense something is off – the best thing you can do is speak up.
…..don’t overdo it. In the beginning it can feel like you’re hardly producing enough milk (a few drops of colostrum here and there) but your few day old baby’s stomach is extremely small so not as much is needed. This time can be vital in getting your baby acclimated with the action of breastfeeding and it’s encouraged that you start trying to nurse within the first few hours of giving birth. The more you breastfeed, the more milk your breasts will produce but this doesn’t mean you should pump every minute of your off time in an attempt to stock-pile breast milk in your freezer. Over-pumping can lead to clogged ducts from too much pressure put on the breasts, so do yourself a favor and just reserve a small amount.
…..don’t give up. You can do it (but even if you choose not to, that’s okay too)!
Breastfeeding can have some great benefits for both you and your baby. It has been proven that breast milk contains powerful nutrients and antibodies that can boost their immune system and increase the ability to fight against ear infections, viruses, asthma, flu, diabetes, and more. Mothers are given a unique opportunity to further bond with their baby as they nurse and breastfeeding can even help new mothers lose weight post-pregnancy. Sure, breastfeeding can be difficult and stressful during the beginning transitional period for new parents, but trust us when we say, it can get easier! If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding or your newborn’s early development, don’t hesitate to contact Children’s Wellness Center at 404-303-1314. Be sure to stay connected with our Children’s Wellness Center team on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ for more pediatric tips and news topics.