Congratulations on your decision to breastfeed your baby! You are giving your baby the best start in life. Doing what you can to prepare during pregnancy can be a huge help.
One thing you can do ahead of time is learn as much as possible. Read reliable information and take a breastfeeding class if you can. Then, try to get your support system in place. Talk to other women – family, friends, co-workers – who have breastfed successfully. Find out if the hospital where you’re delivering has lactation consultants (LCs) or support groups. Or, see if there’s a La Leche League or other community network available.
Studies show that while a majority of women decide to breastfeed, many switch to formula sooner than intended. The most common reasons given are low milk supply, sore nipples and worry about returning to work. Knowing more about how to avoid these pitfalls can help.
“Am I making enough milk for my baby?” is a shared concern among new moms. The reality is, most women can make enough milk. More often than not, a new mom perceives milk supply is low when it’s actually fine. The key to remember is milk supply is stimulated by demand. Feed your baby often, every 2 to 3 hours. Nursing 8 to 10 times a day early on promotes milk production. Keep your baby with you in the hospital, even at night, so you can feed on demand.
With breastfeeding you don’t know exactly how much your baby is getting. All babies lose weight in the first days after birth. Know that a little weight loss is normal and find out where you can get weight checks if you want to keep track. Most babies gain about 5 to 7 ounces per week once back to their birth weight. Keep track of feedings, and wet and dirty diapers. Feeding and diaper logs are available to help you gauge whether your baby’s elimination patterns are normal.
Sore nipples can be another roadblock. Our nipples are sensitive and breastfeeding takes a little getting used to. Nipples can be a bit tender at first but this feeling should quickly ease up. Breastfeeding should not be painful. Learn what a good latch should look and feel like. If you can’t get a comfortable latch by yourself or with a little help, seek out a lactation consultant. An LC can watch your baby’s nursing pattern. Sometimes your baby’s sucking motion needs adjusting. Your nipple shape may also affect the latch. Certain techniques and positions can be used to help improve the latch and feeding so you become more comfortable.
Both you and your baby will benefit if you continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Find out about laws that support your ability in the work place. Talk to your employer before your leave about when and where you can pump. Having this discussion will help you plan and make returning less stressful. Learn more about finding the right pump, then once your baby is feeding well, establish a pumping routine. Pumping before you actually return to work will help you become familiar with your pump. And learning how to store breast milk is another way to feel more prepared.
Being committed, knowing what to expect and planning ahead will help you be successful. Surround yourself with supportive people and know where to find resources. Remember, you are providing a healthy beginning with many wonderful benefits for both you and your baby.
Check out Park Nicollet’s Caring for Mom & Baby page for additional resources and information.
Jill Lindquist is a board-certified lactation consultant and the author of Your Breastfeeding Coach: The Help You Need for Successful Breastfeeding. She has helped moms and babies with breastfeeding support for over 20 years in hospitals, clinics, homes and over the phone, including at Park Nicollet’s Breastfeeding Center for the past 4 years. Jill is also the Vice President of Breastmilk for Babies, a non-profit organization working to establish a milk bank in Minnesota so that more babies can receive the many natural benefits of breastmilk! She is the mother of three grown children, each of whom started their growing on breastmilk.