August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month! A great time to brush up on the age-old practice that has many first-time mothers a little nervous. I’m here to help! So, take a deep breath and let’s go over a few things so you can breastfeed with ease.
Breastfeeding can be difficult, especially in your first week and if it’s your first baby. With the first baby, neither one of you knows what to do! If you can make it through the first seven to ten days, breastfeeding becomes a lot easier. The process becomes even more natural once you have a little practice. Educate yourself before the baby comes. Watch videos, read from credible sources and meet with our prenatal educators. This process has been shown to reduce anxiety in expecting mothers.
The challenges of breastfeeding
First off, I have mothers who put baby to breast and when they don’t immediately latch on, they say, “Oh, I guess he’s not hungry.” Babies need a little stimulation to get them to latch on. Sometimes we need to let the baby wake up a bit first. Even then, they may not latch right away, and if they do, they might not stay latched for long. Most first-time mothers think they are doing something wrong when the baby latches and unlatches multiple times. This is totally normal!
Second, new mothers think that they aren’t making enough milk or that the baby is starving. With colostrum, the amount is very small, sometimes only a few drops per feeding. When the baby is at the breast, you cannot see how much milk the baby is getting. If the mother is pumping, they often become discouraged with only a few drops after a lot of work. Again, this is normal. I try to make sure moms’ expectations are realistic to start. When they begin pumping, I explain they will likely only get a few drops or a teaspoonful. If we get more than that, it is a gift. TCHC now offers donor breastmilk if the mother truly doesn’t think she has enough milk and chooses to supplement her baby.
You can do it!
So many mothers think that they can’t make milk at all. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I’d be a rich woman. The female body is made to produce milk. That is the sole biological purpose of your breasts! You CAN do it! A good sign that your body is getting ready to make milk is if your breasts change during pregnancy. You might see them get fuller, bigger, heavier, and more sensitive and translucent (you can see the veins better).
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastmilk has antibodies that help protect your baby from bacteria and viruses. They are healthier babies if you breastfeed. Mothers who breastfeed have lower rates of breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure later in life. Breastfeeding burns calories, so it becomes a nice workout for the mother to get back to their goal weight faster.
What are some of your tips for better breastfeeding?
If you know someone who has breastfed in the past, please utilize them when you feel low about your success. Tri-County Health Care has a Certified Lactation Counselor and an Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant here to assist you as well. Enlist your partner for additional support! Write down your reasons for wanting to breastfeed your baby, and if the going gets rough, reread your reasons.
The sooner you put the baby to breast, the better, ideally, within the first hour of life. We put the baby to breast any time they are showing hunger cues. If they are crying to be fed, we missed a lot of cues along the way. Usually, babies start mouthing or smacking their lips. After that, they bring their hands to their mouth. Crying is a very late cue.
When your nipples have stimulation, it causes a surge of a hormone in your body called prolactin. If you have more prolactin surges in the early days of breastfeeding, you will have a better milk supply weeks out. More breastfeeding equals more milk!
Small breasts do not mean you will have difficulty feeding your baby; that is a myth! Smaller breasts do not have as much capacity as large breasts, so you might need to feed your baby a little more often.
Keeping your baby close can really help on your breastfeeding journey. When a baby is skin-to-skin with a mom, it stimulates them and wakes them up more. I call this “putting baby in the BREAST-aurant.” This will help them wake up and put an order in. Being on mom’s chest is the closest they can get to where they came from. This is soothing to them.
We’re here to help!
About the author: Sarah Riedel
Sarah has been working with Tri-County Health Care for almost three decades. She has personally facilitated hundreds of births and is passionate about helping parents through the birthing process. Helping mothers breastfeed is a special point of interest for her. She also works with Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies and assists with milk donations.