There are a lot of changes that come along with pregnancy, and, just as an expectant mom gets use to them, everything changes again once the delivery occurs and baby arrives. While most assume that breastfeeding should come naturally to new moms, getting the hang of things can be a bit trying in the beginning. The following are a few tips to make breastfeeding easier on both mom and baby.
Be Prepared to Nurse before Delivery
A common mistake that many expectant moms make is that they fail to prepare for breastfeeding challenges before birth occurs. To improve the chances that you will be able to successfully breastfeed your baby, use the months before the arrival to prepare for breastfeeding. Attend breastfeeding classes, conduct online searches, watch online videos about breastfeeding, and read all that you can about the common pitfalls and mistakes that new breastfeeding moms can make and how to avoid them.
While the hospital may or may not offer a lactation expert to help you during your stay, it’s easy to forget all of the details once you get home. That’s why it’s a good idea to be ready to ask for support if and when it’s needed. Locating the contact information for a local lactation consultant before you give birth can help you to be prepared should you experience any difficulties.
There are a number of ways to find a local lactation consultant, one easy way is to use the search function on the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) website. La Leche League International (LLLI) also has a search feature to help breastfeeding moms find a leader or group that supports breastfeeding moms in their local area.
Don’t forget to round up extra help around the house before baby arrives. It’s easier to be successful at breastfeeding when you feel relaxed and aren’t under a lot of stress. Accepting offers of help with daily activities like cooking and cleaning during the first few days and weeks of your newborn’s arrival an help you have more energy and time for breastfeeding.
Don’t Wait to Breastfeed
Giving birth to a baby is a physically demanding ordeal. It’s tempting to want to take a nap and rest, but don’t put off feeding baby. To help you bond with your child and establish your milk supply, use skin to skin contact and try to breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after giving birth.
Ensure that Baby has a Proper Latch
Make certain that your baby has a good latch on your breast when nursing. To obtain a good latch, make certain that baby’s mouth is opened wide, and that their tongue is down before you offer your breast. If the latch is successful, the bottom portion of the areola will be in their mouth, rather than just their lips holding on to the nipple.
If the latch isn’t successful, gently take your finger and slide it between their lips and your breast to break the seal so that you can reposition your breast without excessive pulling.
When baby is properly latched on, they are more able to control the flow of milk from the breast, and swallow less air. This will also allow them to get a better balance of both fore and hind milk when nursing, and help to better regulate the body’s production of milk. A good latch helps to reduce breast soreness and tenderness making it less tempting to turn to formula to feed baby.
Pain is Not Normal
Many new moms mistakenly believe that pain and breastfeeding go hand and hand. If baby has a good latch, and you are experiencing pain, try experimenting with different positions until you find one that baby enjoys that does not cause you pain in the neck, back, shoulders or elsewhere.
Sometimes, pain is caused by breasts that are too full of milk. Engorgement is not that uncommon during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. If you have an oversupply of milk, or, a blocked duct, try applying a warm compress or quick shower and expressing a little bit of your milk before allowing baby to latch on.
This will relieve some of the pressure and make it easier for baby to feed. The body will naturally adjust its production of milk over the next few days so that the breasts will naturally feel less full after baby nurses.
Feed on Demand
Some moms that breastfeed mistakenly believe that it’s okay to try to establish a schedule or routine when they feed their babies. Sticking to a rigid schedule can actually lower the healthy fat content of the breast milk that is produced, and threaten milk supply.
It’s best to allow baby to breastfeed whenever hungry, especially during the first several weeks of life.
Offering Bottles and Pacifiers too Early
Even if you only feed baby your own breastmilk from the bottle, allowing them to nurse from the bottle too early sets up both of you for difficulties down the road. It’s far easier for baby to remove milk from the nipple of the bottle than your breast, babies that notice the difference are fussier once they return to nursing.
Babies not only turn to the breast to feed, but for comfort as well. The feel and texture of the nipple of the bottle or a pacifier is different than that of the breast, which can cause confusion and additional frustration for baby.
Babies can become so frustrated at these changes that they begin to refuse breastfeeding altogether, which can threaten milk supply. It’s best to wait until the milk supply is firmly established before offering bottles of expressed breast milk or a pacifier for comfort.
Supplementing with Formula
Most moms that are new to breastfeeding worry that their newborns are not getting enough milk just from nursing at the breast. This is especially true if they mistakenly believe that their baby is only getting the amount of milk that they are able to hand express, or produce using a breast milk pump.
New mothers need to know that babies are able to remove more milk from the breast than what is removed by expression or pumping. The body is almost always capable of producing more than enough milk for baby.
Since the body automatically adjusts the production of breast milk to match the demand created by baby, supplementing with formula will only decrease production and threaten the supply of milk.
A baby should normally feed at least 6 to 8 times each day, and produce 4 to 6 wet diapers by four days after birth. If your baby is nursing normally, is happy, growing and gaining weight, and seems content after nursing they are more than likely getting enough milk and all of the nutrition that they need, so supplementation with formula is not necessary.