Breastfeeding sounds self-explanatory. You have breasts. You have a hungry baby. Should be easy, right?
Um, no. In fact, most women struggle with breastfeeding at first, which often leads to frustration, extra pain, and “low milk production” — which can all contribute to people giving up on nursing altogether. While these struggles are normal, they’re not the mother’s fault and there are solutions available!
To make breastfeeding successful, women need simple, straightforward advice and support so that the process of feeding their babies becomes instinctive and natural as it’s intended to be.
Here are a few tips for expectant moms who want to do everything they can to have a positive breastfeeding experience. These tips will be most helpful when implemented in the first week of a baby’s life — so read through them before your baby arrives. This way, you’ll both be ready to go on the big day!
1. If your newborn is awake, she’’s hungry. If she’’s “rooting,” (looking around with her mouth open, sucking on her fist or fingers), she’’s really hungry. If she gets to the point of crying, she’s ravenous, and now burning precious calories via crying. Newborns don’’t really cry for any reason other than hunger. They don’’t cry to be burped or swaddled, and they don’’t really care if their diaper is dirty. If you feed your baby the moment she wakes up, you’ll save a lot of strife.
2. Breastfeed frequently in the first 2 days. Instead of paying attention to the clock, just breastfeed as much as possible. Before your milk comes in, your newborn only gets a tiny amount of food per feeding, so they need to eat all the time. Also, breastfeeding frequently in the first few days of life is what triggers your milk production. If you can’’t nurse for some reason, pump at least 10 times/day for 10 minutes so you don’’t lose your milk supply. (Yes, this is more nursing/pumping than any tired new mom would like, but the inconvenience is only very temporary – you’ll be on a more desirable schedule soon!).
3. Avoid swaddling for the first few days. This may go against what you learn in the hospital, but there’’s a lot of scientific evidence showing that babies do better with breastfeeding when they’’re not swaddled, since they won’t be as likely to get too hot and fall asleep when they should be eating.
4. Hold your baby on your chest as often as possible, even when you’’re not breastfeeding. This helps to increase your milk supply over the long-term.
5. Babies like to feed frequently for short periods of time. When your baby’ is a newborn, he’’ll nurse pretty much all the time, but once he’’s surpassed his birth weight, he’’ll probably eat for shorter periods of time more frequently. Again, not necessarily convenient for the mom, but it’s what your baby needs in order to grow – and it won’t last very long.
6. If your newborn falls asleep at the breast, and you lay him down and he wakes up shortly after that, feed him again. Some babies just get comfy and fall asleep before they’ve had their fill.
7. Keep your baby cool. Too many clothes, blankets, or a tight swaddle will make the baby more likely to fall asleep and not wake up when he’s hungry. And if your baby is too hot or sweating, he’ll burn calories unnecessarily, and this may cause his weight to drop.
8. Avoid using a pacifier or any artificial nipple until baby is well over birth weight. Pacifiers are another way for babies to burn calories — calories they can’’t afford to lose. Save those pacifiers they give you in the hospital for later – you’ll probably need them 🙂
9. Breastfeeding should be comfortable for both baby and mom. Don’’t hesitate to seek help from a lactation consultant if you have soreness, pain, frustration, questions, etc. If you don’’t have access to a lactation consultant, visit La Leche League — and they’’ll refer you to an expert in your neighborhood who can help. The American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is also a great source for reliable information.
Best wishes for a magical time with your newborn!
Amelia Winslow is a nutritionist, mom to 11-month old Lucy, and the daughter of a longtime lactation consultant. She’s also the founder of Eating Made Easy, your one-stop shop for all things food. There she shares with you practical tips to make healthy eating easier and answers all your burning questions about nutrition, food, and cooking.