by ANGELA GRANT BUECHNER, BA, BScN, RN, IBCLC
I am often asked what I wish every new mom could know BEFORE having their baby, to make sure breastfeeding goes well.
Well, we know that breastfeeding is the best for moms and babies, yeah yeah….we’ve heard it all before… but why do women stop so early, if it’s so great?
The first few weeks of a baby’s life (while mom and baby are learning how to breastfeed) can be stressful if she doesn’t have some tricks up her sleeve for when it’s not exactly going perfectly!
So, here are 5 tips that have been proven to help moms ‘hang in there’ when things are rough, or to ensure breastfeeding is not ‘wrecked’ when baby is having a bit of trouble!!
- Skin to Skin …Never under-estimate the power of your skin!
Babies transition to life ‘in the outside world’ better when they are allowed to be held naked-skin-to-naked-skin, as long as possible, right after they are born. Also, if your baby is too sleepy to feed, or is having any trouble, strip that baby down (keep the diaper on!) & breastfeed while skin to skin (you’re probably half-naked while learning to breastfeed anyway…)
- Squish & Shove
When you’re trying to get that ‘perfect latch’ we’ve all heard about, think about eating a sandwich. If you were putting a super-duper, triple decker club sandwich in your mouth, you wouldn’t try to put it in sideways! You would turn it in the right direction, squish it down as much as you could, and shove it in!
With breastfeeding, it’s the same. Look which way the baby’s mouth is going (depends how you’re holding baby) and hold on to your breast (that’s your BREAST, not your nipple!!) so you can squish it down and make it a bit ‘flatter’. When the baby opens her mouth, shove her on to the breast as FAR as you can! This is the ‘magic’ trick that keeps the nipple safe & sound (and prevents all that scary nipple pain, cracking etc.)!
- Hand Expression
If your baby is sleepy, grumpy, mucousy, stuffed up, separated from you for any reason, you are engorged, or it hurts you too much to feed – YOU have to take over! If you are ready with a ‘PLAN’ to hand express during these potentially stressful moments, then you will be able to keep breastfeeding going (and keep feeding your baby)!
Watch this video to learn about Hand Expression, from Jane Morton at Stanford University. This is different than using a breast pump!
Often, NOTHING comes out when you use a pump, and that DOESN’T mean you ‘have no milk’… Seriously, only VERY FEW DROPS of colostrum are needed in the first few days, so if the baby can’t get it out for some reason, YOU can express these drops, & feed it to the baby with a medicine cup or spoon, and try all over again at the next feed!
- Compressions & Cues
If baby is able to breastfeed ‘ok’…keep going! Try not to limit how often or much the baby sucks in the first few weeks (watch your baby’s ‘cues’, not the clock, since the baby’s feeding frequency is what tells your body how much milk to make!)… after all, the baby doesn’t know that you were trying to have a shower or eat dinner!
To keep the baby ‘drinking’ and not just sucking, try squeezing your breast while baby is sucking (for the count of 3), so more milk comes out. This is called ‘Breast Compression’ and is very good when baby is sleepy while feeding, or slowing down at the end of a feed.
- Stuff & Stories
Avoid soothers, nipples, bottles (try a cup or spoon if necessary) for the first MONTH! These things won’t help your baby learn to breastfeed, and may instead ‘mess with’ your milk supply. Also, be careful of other things that can interfere with normal breastfeeding (‘feeding’ apps, books trying to ‘make’ your baby do anything!, or having formula at home ‘just in case’…)
If ‘Supplements’ are recommended, use BREASTMILK! You can breastfeed (or try) every 2-3 hours, but if you express your own milk (or colostrum) after each feed, then you can use THAT to feed to baby! If you ‘miss’ a feeding for any reason, express so your breasts still get the stimulation they need to keep producing milk!
Also, try not to listen to the people who tell you that ‘your baby shouldn’t need to eat yet’, ‘you don’t have enough milk’, or that their baby ‘sleeps through the night’ at 2 weeks old. Find someone who will support your efforts instead, and can help you make a plan! If you need help, find a CERTIFIED Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) as soon as possible. Issues can often be ‘fixed’ easily in the first few days, but can pose more of a challenge after a few weeks.
Quote of the day: ‘Don’t quit on your worst day!”
Hang in there, and commit to making it through to the ‘other side’!!!