Hey there mommas! Leading up to delivery, you might start hearing stories about people’s breastfeeding journey. Some will be positive, but others will be negative. Here are some breastfeeding tips to help you get through the steep learning curve once your baby is born!
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First, let me just say that I am a strong believer in “fed is best”, this is not a post to shame moms that cannot or choose not to breastfeed. This IS a post to help moms that have decided they want to give breastfeeding a shot.
Disclaimer: The following information is a combination of my own knowledge and experiences along with information I pulled from a few evidence-based websites (listed below in the ‘references’ section). This is not to be taken as medical advice. If you are experiencing difficulties, it is best to meet with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who can assess and give personalized advice along with more advanced breastfeeding tips.
There are some things you can do before delivery to help make your breastfeeding experience a little easier. Here is a list of the tasks you can do and the products I have used that have made a significant positive impact on my breastfeeding journey.
Create a breastfeeding station, or two!
Choose a spot in your house that you plan on spending most of your time after Baby arrives. For me, this was actually two locations – one upstairs and one downstairs. I chose the end spot on the couch because it has a recline option, a side table, and it has a prime spot in front of the tv. The other spot was my rocking chair in the nursery upstairs where I fed during nighttime feeds. I learned it was important to get up out of bed so I didn’t end up losing the association between bed and sleep, and sitting up in the chair helped keep me awake. You can read more about midnight feeding insomnia HERE.
These are some of the items I had in my basket:
- Water for you – Everyone has their favorite water bottle. Mine is the Contigo Autospout Stainless Steel bottle! I used this in labor and love it during breastfeeding because you can tip in to the side (great while reclined) and it doesn’t spill! My standard tumbler and straw kept spilling on Baby’s head when I tipped it; and the stainless steel kept my water nice and cold all day.
- Disposable/Reusable nursing pads – I started with the Bamboobies reusable pads but they didn’t absorb enough so the milk would just sit on my breast. This is the best way to end up with an infection, but are perfect for during the day when you don’t leak as much. I found that the Lansinoh disposable pads worked great for overnight!
- Burp Cloths for burping after feeding.
- Haakaa Silicone Pump – You can pop this on the opposite side and collect some extra milk! This is a great way to start a freezer stash before heading back to work or save up for a rainy day.
- A phone charger – There isn’t much to do while breastfeeding, so I spent a lot of time on my phone. This drains the battery so fast so it’s nice to have an extra phone cord, a wireless charger, or both!
- A Breastfeeding Pillow (I love my Boppy)
- Snacks – You burn about 500 calories a day breastfeeding, so it’s important to keep up on your water and calorie intake! Keep some high energy, healthy snacks on hand like trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, bananas, etc.
- Tissues – For leaks, small spit ups, to blow your own nose, etc. We go through so many tissues now with our son, I have a box in every room!
- Remotes (TV, ceiling fan, portable heater, etc.)
- Nipple Cream – I used the one by Bamboobies and it was great because it’s organic and you don’t have to wipe it off before feeding!
- Heating/Cooling Pads – I have the Medela Cooling Pads
- Receiving Blankets – Babe will fall asleep while eating so you can just cover them up and enjoy those sweet snuggles while they lay on your chest. I love these huge ones by Jia and Jumbo [Full review HERE].
- Hair ties – Babies love to aid in postpartum hair loss, so it’s great to have some hair ties on had to throw your hair up and out of reach.
- Nursing Cover – For when you have guests over, it’s nice to have an easy cover-up if you want one. I love THIS one and you can read my full review on it HERE!
Progression of Milk
Your body will start to produce colostrum during pregnancy. Some women start leaking, but don’t worry if you don’t! Colostrum is sticky, thick, and yellow and it contains everything your baby needs after birth. Their belly is only the size of a marble when they are born, so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like a lot of milk!
The act of giving birth triggers your body to start producing mature milk. About 2-5 days after birth, your milk becomes a “transitional milk” which is a mixture of colostrum and mature milk. It increases in volume as your baby’s belly gets bigger.
Shortly after that you will most likely wake up engorged with painful breasts. This is when your mature milk has come in. This feeling of engorgement should only last a few days and then your boobs will start to feel normal again. Don’t worry when they start to feel soft again, this doesn’t mean your milk supply went down, it just means that your body is adjusting to this new normal. During this phase of engorgement, you can use a hot compress or hand express in the shower to help relieve some of the discomfort.
Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
The term “Lactation Consultant” is not an official title, and therefore does not necessarily mean that all “Lactation Consultants” have the required training and certifications. I’m sure there are some really great Lactation Consultants out there, but you will be better off finding an IBCLC. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (or IBCLC) has to take college level courses, take lactation-specific courses, pass a test, and complete hundreds (sometimes 1,000+) of hours of supervised training. This is no small task, but it does guarantee that your IBCLC is properly trained and equipped to help you in all of your breastfeeding needs.
So what does an IBCLC do?
Well, the better question is what DON’T they do. They are trained to handle any difficulty you might experience throughout your breastfeeding journey. They help determine difficulties with Baby such as lip or tongue ties, help mom with perfecting a latch, demonstrate different ways to hold the baby while feeding, monitor and track weight gain, and be there to support you through any other difficulties.
My son was born 3 weeks early and we had some difficulties with latching in the beginning. He had “uncoordinated sucking” and wasn’t taking enough milk in the beginning. We supplemented with donor milk at the hospital while we tried over and over again to correct our latch. Although nurses and other hospital personnel are so amazing and have had training in breastfeeding, they just can’t match the experience and expertise held by an IBCLC. We were able to latch on our first try with an IBCLC after many failed attempts, and this is when I realized just HOW important they are when you are just starting out.
My advice to moms is to find an IBCLC or ask for one in the hospital (if your hospital has them on staff). You may not need one, and that’s great; but having one selected with a phone number on hand can really relieve the stress if things aren’t going as planned. You can call your insurance and find out what they cover in terms of breastfeeding support – my insurance fully covered 9 one-on-one appointments.
Find a Group
I also recommend finding a breastfeeding support group whether breastfeeding is going well or not! You can ask your pediatrician, search on google, talk to the hospital, or even reach out to your local La Leche League (LLL) to find free support groups near you. This will not only help with concerns that come up anytime throughout your journey, but it will also help you connect with other moms and is a great time to get out of the house.
There were times that our feeding schedule would change and my son was still within his dirty diaper “OK” range. Once, I showed up to our weekly group to find out that my son had LOST weight during that time. He went from gaining 16 oz per week to losing 6, which was a huge swing! I couldn’t imagine having to wait until our next pediatrician well-check to find this out. By then, my supply would have been trashed and it would have been much harder to put the weight back on. Knowledge is power, and keeping track of how a change in your life affects your baby is so important!
A breastfed baby has to eat between 8 and 12 times per day in the beginning. I found that feeding on demand was the best for not only weight gain, but for our bonding as well. Plan to spend countless hours sitting on the couch and feeding your baby. You will feel like your baby is CONSTANTLY eating, and that is totally normal. We fed every two hours from start to start. Even now, my son is almost 8 months old, and he still eats every two hours, but takes longer stretches during the night. Babies need so many calories within a 24 hour period, so the more they eat during the day, the less they need during the night (theoretically).
Keep an eye out for hunger cues to know when your baby is hungry. Crying is a late feeding cue and can usually make it harder for them to latch when they are so upset.
- Rooting: this is when your baby will turn their head towards anything that touches their cheek, mouth, or face. You might also notice when you are holding them, they try to latch onto your shoulder or skin.
- Sucking: either making the movement or sound can be a cue.
- Putting things near their mouth: at the beginning, this is usually their hand or arm.
In the beginning, baby might eat less often during the morning and during the day, but will likely want to eat multiple times in a short period at night. This is called cluster feeding, and it is totally normal. They are ‘stocking up’ on milk during this time, and it usually helps them sleep for a longer period of time. Babies will also take multiple growth spurts and will cluster feed so your body knows that it needs to produce more milk.
Common times for a growth spurt is within the first few days, between 1-1.5 weeks, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, and again at 3, 4, 6, and 9 months. Milk is based on a supply and demand basis, so the more you remove, the more it will make. And typically more stimulations per day is much more effective than less feedings for a longer time. You can read more about cluster feeding HERE at kellymom.com.
Milk Pumping and Storage
Check with your IBCLC before pumping within the first couple of weeks. This is when your milk is being established, and demanding the extra milk can cause an oversupply. An oversupply sounds great, but it can be a lot of work having to constantly drain the milk to avoid painful clogged ducts or mastitis (a breast infection).
I am a HUGE supporter of the Haakaa silicone breast pump (read my full review HERE). This pump goes on the opposite side you are feeding baby on and it collects letdown plus a little extra. It is a great way to get a small freezer stash started and doesn’t take any extra time. Fold the top flap down, put up to your breast with your nipple centered in the middle, squeeze the bottom slightly, and fold the top flap back over onto your boob to create a strong connection.
According to the CDC, milk is good at room temperature (77°F or colder) for up to 4 hours, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, and in the freezer for 6-12 months. Now. this is more conservative than the time limits I was given from my IBCLC. However, I will let your specific consultant help give you more precise time limits, as I am not an expert. You can read more about storage guidelines HERE through the CD
Things I wish I knew before-hand:
- The fats in your breastmilk will separate, which is totally fine! Just swirl it around while heating back up for baby and it will mix right back together.
- Don’t heat up the milk in the microwave. This can create hot spots in the milk and babies have ended up with 3rd degree burns. The best way to heat up is either using a bottle warmer or running it under hot tap water in your sink. I have always just used the tap and it works great!
- Sometimes milk will vary in color. Breastmilk is amazing and is constantly changing to meet your baby’s needs. My milk has changed from yellow-ish to blue-ish even just overnight!
- Your nipples might bleed. Hopefully they will not, and with the correct support and a solid latch your chances are good. Express breastmilk after each feeding session and rub on your nipples to help them heal and to remove the saliva. If they do bleed you might notice some in your milk – but this is okay and will not affect your baby or milk.
- When people talk about how often their baby is eating, they are timing it from start to start. If they eat every 2 hours, this means they would nurse at 12, 2, 4, 6, etc.
- A great tip I learned from my lactation consultant is to imagine your boob is a huge hamburger. You wouldn’t try to just shove it in your mouth. You would put the bottom of the burger into your mouth and then squish and roll the rest in. Same with your boob.
- In the beginning, your nipples will feel sore and uncomfortable. With a good latch, it shouldn’t hurt, but it still isn’t pleasant. Your body will adjust and breastfeeding will help you and baby create an amazing bond.
- Take it one day at a time and try not to overwhelm yourself with large expectations. Breastfeeding can be very hard at the beginning – both mentally and physically. It gets so much easier after a few weeks and I actually really enjoy it now!
- Your letdown can almost feel painful at times or it can just feel tingly. For me, it feels like when your foot falls asleep for just a few seconds and then I am soaked. Also, your milk can literally spray across the room at times – and that is totally normal.
And finally, try to attend a breastfeeding class. Most hospitals will have one for very little money and they are so informative. They have visuals, demonstrations, and are usually taught by an IBCLC. It’s also great to be able to ask personalized questions.
I’m sure there is so much more information out there to be shared with new moms! If you have any tips, tricks, or general advice, please leave a comment!
- Kellymom is an IBCLC and has an amazing website that covers all aspects of breastfeeding. She does a great job at providing evidence-based information, so you can make your own informed decisions. Check it out here: www.kellymom.com
- March of Dimes has a great article that covers a lot of basics on breastfeeding. You can check it out HERE.
- CDC Breastmilk Storage Guidelines
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