Breastfeeding can be challenging at the beginning, when both you and your baby are learning. After more than 20 years of working with families, we have seen that women who prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy feel much more confident and relaxed as they get started. Here are 10 important breastfeeding tips we’d like every pregnant woman to know.
1.Breastfeeding WILL get easier.
Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed a baby but that doesn’t mean it will always be easy. Breastfeeding takes time for both moms and babies to learn.
In a recent research study, 92% of women with a 3 day old baby said they were having at least one breastfeeding problem. The good news is that most early breastfeeding problems have an easy fix. Some of them, in fact, are preventable. Know some basics about breastfeeding and newborn behaviour, before baby arrives, can help to avoid many of the common problems.
Although the first few weeks of breastfeeding can be challenging, the investment of your time will pay off. By 6 weeks, most babies will latch easily. Your breast milk will always be with you, ready to serve, at just the right temperature. Bottle feeding may seem easier in the early days but the work of sterilizing, measuring, reheating and cleaning will remain constant through baby’s first few months.
2. Your baby needs a 4th trimester
Your baby will be born completely dependent upon you. Skin to skin snuggling helps your baby adjust to the sights, sounds and feel of life outside your body. Hearing your heartbeat, feeling your warmth and breathing in your familiar smell will be comforting in this time of great change.
Skin to skin contact immediately after birth also helps your baby learn to breastfeed. A study divided new moms into two groups. One group had skin to skin contact with their babies immediately after birth. Babies in the other group were examined by the doctors, then bundled and brought back to the mother in blankets. The babies in the first group learned to breastfeed more quickly.
In order to have the time your baby needs, you are going to need support! Recruit as much help as possible with your other responsibilities. Freeing yourself from company and other tasks will allow you to attend to the needs of your baby and focus on breastfeeding.
3. The best position is a comfortable position.
You will spend at least 8 to 10 hours a day breastfeeding. You will need to be comfortable! The best position for breastfeeding is the one that is most comfortable for both you and your baby.
You can see photos and descriptions of four different breastfeeding positions in this post. Try all of them to discover which one is best for you. If you prefer to learn through video, check out our online class, Simply Breastfeeding From Day One.
4. Latch deeply to avoid sore nipples.
“Latch” refers to the position of your baby’s mouth on the breast. If your baby latches only on the nipple, it will be painful and your baby will not be able to get enough milk. With a deep latch, your baby’s mouth will be on the areola (the brown around your nipple) with as much breast tissue in his mouth as possible. Learn more about latching your baby deeply and comfortably in this post.
5. To make more milk, breastfeed more often.
This breastfeeding tip may be the most important of all. The most common reason women stop breastfeeding before they had planned is the belief they don’t have enough milk.
It may seem logical to wait a bit longer between feeds to give your breasts time to fill. But this is not the way milk supply works. Instead, it works on a supply and demand principle. Emptying your breast signals your body to produce more milk. The more often your baby removes milk, the more milk you will make.
The best way to have an excellent milk supply is to breastfeed often, whenever baby seems hungry. It is not unusual for a newborn to feed 10, 12, 14 times or more each day!
Research has shown that mothers who breastfed 13 – 16 times a day when their baby was only 2 days old had a greater milk supply at 6 weeks than mothers who breastfed 10 – 12 times (and even more milk than those who fed 8 – 10 times)!
6. Your partner CAN help with breastfeeding.
While partners cannot breastfeed for you, they can make your job easier. In fact, research shows that your partner’s support is critical for breastfeeding success. Simple things such as taking charge of diapering and burping can save you 2 or 3 precious hours every day. Read more about ways your partner can help in this post.
7. It’s not too early to prepare.
If you are pregnant, there are things you can do now to make breastfeeding easier. Surround yourself with a team that believes in breastfeeding. If you don’t have supportive friends or family, you may want to consider joining a local group such a La Leche League or a Facebook group such as Simply Breastfeeding Moms.
Women who wait until their baby is born to learn how to breastfeed find it difficult to learn what they need to know when they are sleep deprived and recovering from birth.You can get a head start by registering now for our Simply Breastfeeding from Day One online class.
8. Trust your baby and your body.
The happiest babies are fed responsively, not according to a schedule or a feed-play-sleep routine. Trust your baby to tell you when he is hungry and trust your body to make the right amount of milk. (Note: Brand new babies may need reminders to feed for a few days but once your baby is breastfeeding well and has regained his birth weight, let your baby take the lead.)
Many women worry they have lost their milk about 10 – 14 days after birth because their breasts feel emptier. Softer breasts at this time are natural as they will have adjusted to baby’s needs. If you are concerned, watch your baby. Is your baby satisfied? Is your baby having the right number of pees and poops?
9. Getting help for breastfeeding difficulties can help to avoid postpartum depression.
Women who want to breastfeed but do not meet their goals are more at risk for postpartum depression. If you encounter difficulties, please reach out for help. Most breastfeeding problems can be resolved. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your baby’s position or latch. Look for someone skilled in helping with breastfeeding.
Health care professionals with the title International Board Certified Lactation Consultant have extensive experience and education helping breastfeeding women. Many areas also have La Leche groups (mom-to-mom support) available for breastfeeding support.
10. You are the expert for your own baby.
While partners cannot breastfeed for you, they can make your job easier. In fact, research shows that your partner’s support is critical for breastfeeding success.
At first you may feel like a rookie and have lots of questions about how to care for your newborn. You will soon learn that you are the real expert on what is best for your baby.
You spend more time with your newborn than anyone else. You will be the one to know how your baby likes to be held, bounced or rocked. You will be able to sense when your baby is hungry before anyone else has noticed. Trust your instincts.
**Updated June 6, 2020
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