When it comes to breastfeeding, new parents frequently tell me that they didn’t expect it to be so hard. There are a few things that can prepare new moms and dads for the demands of the job, which often includes seemingly non-stop feeds, very disrupted sleep patterns, or a baby that really likes to be held. Not to mention the fact that breastfeeding is a bit mysterious. Is there really milk in there? Am I doing it right? How do I know if the baby is getting enough? Should breastfeeding be painful? It IS hard!
The good news is there are a few things (10 things in fact!) that you can do to help breastfeeding go easier, right from the start. This top 10 list, compiled by the lactation consultants (LCs) at ProMedica Toledo Hospital is a great starting point.
If you’re reading this before baby arrives, great! You will be one prepared family and hopefully breastfeeding will get off to a great start! (Wait- HOPEFULLY?! Well, let’s be honest, if every mom and dad followed all 10 steps, yes, it would be easier. But some moms and babies may need more time to figure it out, and that is why the lactation consultants are there to help).
If baby is already here, and you’re wondering why feeding is so much of a struggle, give your LCs a call at the Warmline at 419-291-4577. It is never too late to make changes to your routines so that feedings are easier for you and baby.
- Keep your baby skin-to-skin with you for one to two hours after birth, or until after the first breastfeeding. Moms that have c-sections can start skin-to-skin in the recovery room.
- Ask that your baby not be separated from you after delivery. If your baby is medically stable, the first bath can be done in your postpartum room. If you and your baby are separated for a medical reason, the nurses can show you to pump your breasts to stimulate your milk supply for baby. Sick babies especially need mom’s milk; it’s like medicine for them!
- Keep your baby skin-to-skin as much as possible during your hospital stay. Even though it can be hard to say “no” to excited friends and family members, the most important person to hold the baby is Mom. Dads can do skin-to-skin, too, and is great for bonding.
- Respond to your baby’s FIRST feeding cues. Crying is the last sign of hunger. As soon as your baby starts to wiggle or make faces in their sleep, even if it has only been a little while since the last feeding, put the baby to breast now. It is much more difficult to feed a baby who is upset.
- Offer your breast to your baby at least every three hours on the first day of life. If the baby doesn’t latch on to feed, that is ok. Put your baby skin-to-skin and try again in an hour ( or sooner). Babies sleep for long stretches on their first day to recover from birth- this is a good time for mom and dad to rest and recover, too.
- Most babies feed VERY frequently on days 2 and 3, at least 8 times during a 24-hour period. This is normal, and as long as the baby is latching well, it should NOT be painful! Some babies will eat 12-14 times per 24 hours, and this is still normal.
- Your baby does not need any food or drinks other than breast milk (colostrum), unless there is a medical reason. Your body makes exactly the right amount, even if you can’t see it. Your doctors and nurses, and LCs will help you decide if and when supplements are needed.
- Keep your baby in your room with you, even at night. It is very hard to respond to your baby’s feeding cues when he or she is not with you. Also, the nursery is a bright and noisy place. Start setting up a good sleep setting early.
- Do not give a pacifier for the first several weeks after birth. Your baby does not use you as a pacifier. A pacifier is a “substitute breast” and has no nutritional value. The longer you wait to feed the baby, the more upset he or she becomes, and the more difficult it is to latch.
- The nurses are available to help you with breastfeeding. Please ask for help! You and your baby have never done this before. No one expects you to be an expert. Asking for help can make a world of difference!
Angie Bauman has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Parent Instructor for ProMedica for the past 6 years. She enjoys teaching parents-to-be about labor and birth, and building confidence in a new mom’s ability to parent and feed her baby. She has also been a Labor and Delivery nurse at ProMedica Toledo Hospital for 13 years. Angie is Mom to 10 year old Lukas, 6 year old Noah and 3 year old Adele, who continually share their own wisdom on how parenting should be done. Angie’s blog, Let’s Spill the Milk! published on HealthConnect each month.