It is officially November and today the kids are coming down from the sugar and excitement high we call Halloween. We had a fun evening connecting with neighbors and navigating our streets filled with little super heros, princesses and dinosaurs.
So as I sat down this morning to write, I thought the beginning of a new month was the perfect time to discuss how to prepare for breastfeeding. I don't know if you have noticed that during pregnancy, there is ton of focus on birth. Labor and delivery prep classes can be multiple sessions and last for hours, but the topic of breastfeeding usually just gets a quick 2-3 hours time slot. This seems crazy because there is so much important information to know! However, being a IBCLC I may be a little biased. ha ha.
Ok, back to beginnings. The first few days of breastfeeding are super important and can play a big role in how much and how long women will breastfeed. So I'm going to help everyone out by sharing my top a 5 tips for successful breastfeeding that you need to know before you start!
Ready, set, go!!
Get to know your girls.
I'm not referring to your closest friends or a new breastfeeding support group. I am referring to your breasts, boobies, rack, your cha chas!!
Many of us often only know our breasts from the quick glance we get after the shower in the morning or while trying to find a new bra. We often don't look closely at them. I confess, I was that person. Before I delivered my first baby I really didn't pay that much attention to the details of my boobs (sorry this is getting personal). When the nurse placed my sweet baby girl on my chest and we tried to nurse, it was super awkward logistically and emotionally. I couldn't quite get her in the correct position and I felt a little weird looking at my nipples so closely. It was like I was meeting both my baby and my breasts for the first time. Eventually we got it figured out and within a few days, and soon I felt as comfortable looking at my breasts as I did my own face.
So let's talk about your breasts. First, they are actually super cool. These mammary glands (aka your boobs) are designed to continue the journey of growing a human life after it exits the womb. Take a moment and look down and check out all the awesome features of these ladies.
Let's start with color. Have ya noticed your nipple and areola are darker than the rest of your skin and in the shape of a target? Oh there is a reason for that! A newborn's vision is kinda horrible when they are born. Everything is EXTREMELY blurry, so the the contrast in skin colors helps to find their way. We also have small bumps that appear on the areola, which are called Montgomery or areolar glands. These small yet mighty bumps secrete a fluid that babies can smell and will seek out.
Result: baby will more easily find its way to the breast and nurse. I always compare newborns to little search dogs on the hunt!!
Another way to be become familiar with your breasts is hand expression. Stanford medical school has a great video that teaches the basics. Visually its a little older, but the information is awesome! If you want to practice hand expression prior to having your baby (starting at 37 weeks gestation) talk with your doctor or midwife.
Build your breastfeeding support squad
Breastfeeding can be such a fantastic experience and it has countless benefits, but there are times when it can be tough. The saying "it takes a village" doesn't just apply to raising a child, it also applies to breastfeeding. A study from the journal of Pediatrics reported that the most common reasons parents stopped breastfeeding was due to concerns about pain, latch, and milk supply. However, all these concerns are part of the normal breastfeeding experience and the key to over coming them is support. It is critical to have a list of breastfeeding pros including doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and educators, plus experienced friends or family in your back pocket to dial up the minute you start to get nervous or uncomfortable.
I always tell my mamas, call me before there is extreme pain or blisters! I know this sounds dramatic, but moms tend to wait and not ask for help. Don't "tough" it out. Sometimes it is just a small change in your breastfeeding position or trying a nipple shield that makes the difference. I saw multiple lactation consultants after we had out first baby and I insisted on seeing them in the hospital just for a second opinion even after my third baby. Remember support = a better breastfeeding experience.
Have patience and trust
Oh patience. The term have patience just rolls off the tongue so easily especially from someone who hasn't just delivered a baby and now has to help that little one adjust to life outside the womb. But, trust me I have been there. It is tough. And it is even trickier when you and baby are both learning this whole breastfeeding latch thing and waiting for the elusive milk truck to arrive.
The good news is that biology has you covered. Trust that your body can do this. Your job is to keep baby close, do lots of skin to skin, and offer the breast a TON!!! And then just wait. Time, natural changes in your hormones, and plenty of breastfeeding and/or attempts will place the call to the milk truck and it will eventually show up. Delivery time ranges from 2-5 days.
Remember that even after your mature milk arrives (colostrum is your first round of milk), patience and trust need to remain in your recipe for success. During my career working as an RN and IBCLC, I have seen a distinct trend that most moms finally feel like they are getting the hang of nursing around 2 weeks postpartum! You got this!
I confess this is not as critical as patience, but having a few supplies on hand is a good idea. Simple things such are nipple ointment and nursing pads can make a big difference. Bamboobies makes a great nipple balm that is lanolin free. Or another alternative is just expressing colostrum or breast milk and rubbing it on your nipple. Studies have shown that it is more effective in healing than lanolin (biology for the win again!!). Oh nursing pads are a major shirt saver. Bamboobies makes adorable reusable nursing pads or there are multiple disposable options available at any store!
I also encourage moms to have a breast pump if possible before they welcome their little one. It is great to have it on hand and ready to go if you end of facing serious engorgement or breastfeeding problems. Also plan on stocking up on breast milk bags and extra bottles.
Lastly, have some over the counter pain medications and gel ice packs available. Even if breastfeeding is going well our bodies tend to be a little sore after birth and the more comfortable you are the more milk you will make.
I'm sure you have heard the saying "sleep when the baby sleeps" and I'm going to tell you, do it. It's not easy. Especially the first few days when you are in the midst of the new baby excitement adrenaline rush. Sleep is critical for our physical and emotional health.
So enlist the help of every person who offered to help you throughout the course of your pregnancy. Schedule people to come over to be on baby watch while you take a nap. Trust me you will be happier and probably produce more milk! Yes, keeping those fatigued induced stress hormones under control will help you keep up an awesome breast milk supply.
Well that's all I have for now! If you have any tips to share please comment!
Love and hugs,