Breastfeeding. Such a HUGE topic. I could easily write for 31 days on this topic alone. (Maybe I will next year!)
I think I’m going to break this topic into three posts. One: what to know about breastfeeding. Two: tips for overcoming breastfeeding struggles. Three: my experience with breastfeeding.
The first 24 hours:
Once your baby is born, keeping your baby skin to skin for the first hour (and delaying the newborn exam) will provide a great start for breastfeeding!!
- You can start to observe your baby’s cues for feeding: lip smacking, putting hands to mouth, licking lips, tongue thrusting, and moving head back and forth.
- Your baby’s temperature is maintained by you. Your baby is also more likely to have stable and normal heart rates, blood pressure and temperatures because of skin to skin contact.
- Your baby has a chance to latch on. Babies who are kept skin to skin for the first hour are likely to latch on, and likely to latch on well. If you have a doula (or even better, a lactation consultant!) – this is a great time for her to be around assisting you by checking the latch and helping your baby to practice latching correctly.
The first week:
– At birth, you baby’s stomach is the size of a marble. So, baby should be breastfeeding 10-12 times per day (24 hours). You CAN’T breastfeed too often, but you CAN breastfeed too little. Since my newborn was so tired, I had to wake him to breastfeed every 2 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night. Keep this routine up until they have gained their birth-weight back. (I’m sure your pediatrician will be more than happy to allow you to go in for a weight check for baby at the end of the week.)
– Breastfeed at the first signs of hunger! And breastfeed for an unlimited time at the breast when your baby is sucking actively.
– In the early days, your baby will typically have one wet and one dirty diaper for each day of life. (1 wet and 1 dirty on day one, 2 wet and 2 dirty on day 2, etc.) Once your milk comes in, expect 5-6 or more wet diapers and 3-4 dirty diapers every 24 hours.
Weeks two through eight:
– Baby will still nurse frequently, now anywhere from 8-12 times per day (24 hours). Again, you CAN’T breastfeed too often.
– Breastfeed at the first signs of hunger! Don’t wait until baby is crying. Once baby has gained their birth-weight back and they have established a good weight gain, you can stop waking them to breastfeed. Allow baby to wake when they are hungry and then breastfeed baby on baby’s cues alone.
– The number of wet and dirty diapers will be about the same as they were the end of the first week. Wet diapers will gradually increase in number and dirty diapers may gradually decrease in number (especially after 4-6 weeks). Stools may be as infrequent as one every 4-8 days. As long as baby is gaining well, this is normal (since baby can digest breastmilk well).
Latch is the KEY. If the latch is not right, Momma will end up with really sore and perhaps damaged nipples (more on how to deal with that in the next post). There are a ton of other great resources online, but basically a proper latch is about getting the lower part of the breast and areola into the baby’s mouth so that the nipple hits the roof of their mouth. This stimulates sucking. Also, baby’s lips will be turned out or splayed to create better suction.
Here are some great breastfeeding videos, especially if you are needing to see what a proper latch looks like.
In the beginning, the cross-cradle is the best position for newborns (especially so you can maneuver their heads). They need help in positioning their heads and also maintaining the right position throughout. The work required to breastfed and hold a newborn in place takes two hands (or more!). Another great position for this same reason is football hold.
For middle of the night breastfeeding, lying on your side is a wonderful position. Actually, I use it a lot during the day too!
- In positioning baby, align nipple with their nose, chin in upward position against breast and their tummy against your tummy.
- Rotating positions will help with sore nipples or clogged ducts (since baby’s latch will hit different part of the breast depending on the angle)
Props to help:
- My Brest Friend– This is my favorite nursing pillow. I love how it snaps on so it is hands-free. You can even nurse while standing up (supporting it then, of course)!
- The Boppy Pillow– Another popular nursing pillow.
- Lilypadz Reuseable Nursing Pads– These are great because they don’t show underneath a thin shirt. They are so streamline! (Warning – the seal won’t work if you are engorged though!) Otherwise, I love the Reusable Cotton Nursing Pads.
Did you know?….- Breastmilk changes to meet the needs of a growing baby – month by month, week by week, even hour by hour!! Nighttime milk helps to knock a baby out and morning milk helps to wake a baby up! (Source)
– Breastmilk is a daily vaccine against every virus you have come into contact with. As you are breastfeeding, your body will make antibodies and deposit them in your milk to protect your baby from getting sick, or help them to get better faster. This is why suspending nursing when you have a a cold or the flu is bad advice. (Source)
– As you eat, the different foods, oils and spices flavor your milk, introducing and exposing your baby to a variety of flavors before he/she every tastes solid food. This will help to make your child a better eater as a toddler. (Source)
– Breastmilk is easily digested. Breastfed babies have far less spit-up, tummy discomfort and constipation than formula-fed babies. (Source)
– Breastfed babies have less risk for upper respiratory infections, including ear infections.
– Breastfeeding for at least 6 months boosts children’s test scores, according to this study.
– Breastfeeding reduces the risk for childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.
– Check this post for the many more amazing benefits of breastmilk!
There are sever VERY cool things about breastfeeding at night:
- Studies have shown that breastfeeding moms get MORE sleep than their formula-feeding counterparts. They got about 40-45 minutes more sleep per night on average according to this study.
- In lactating women, the milk-making hormone prolactin is higher at night, especially in the wee hours of the morning. So, often babies want to nurse then, because there is more milk!
- Even though babies are born with no established circadian rhythm, your nighttime breastmilk is meletonin-rich (a sleep-inducing hormone)! So, your breastmilk is actually helping babies to develop their own circadian cycles! (Source)
- Breastfeeding at night is important for keeping a mom’s long-term milk production steady and strong! (There is a certain “magic number” of times a mom is supposed to empty her breast in order to maintain long-term milk production.
So, nurse on demand at night, especially in the early weeks (first 7-8 weeks) of breastfeeding when you are establishing your supply!! Yes, I may miss the extra sleep, but I know that this phase in my son’s life is short .
If you are experiencing pain, then get help early! Habits form fast and you don’t want to continue on the wrong foot. Talk to a Lactation Consultant. If after seeing one Lactation Consultant you are still having issues, then visit with another Lactation Consultant as well!
Attend a La Leche League meeting or two during pregnancy. This can be a great way to meet other breastfeeding moms who live hear you. You can get a chance to ask questions about the early weeks of breastfeeding and actually see breastfeeding in action. Also, the group leaders of LLL are willing to be a great resource for you once your baby is born.
- www.kellymom.com – This site was created by a lactation consultant and mother of three and provides evidence-based information on breastfeeding, sleep, and parenting. I highly recommend it!
- www.llli.org – The international La Leche League website, a phenomenal resource for breastfeeding families.
Other Great Reads on this topic:
Why Breastfeed? from Psychology Today