Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby. Understanding how breastfeeding works and having the proper support can help you have a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
Where do I start?
Ideally, baby will have the opportunity to latch on to the nipple and begin sucking shortly after birth. Baby will have an easier time smelling, seeing, and finding the breast while doing skin-to-skin with the mother during the first hour after birth. Having a cesarean does not make it necessary to delay breastfeeding. It is important to learn baby’s hunger cues. Waiting until baby is crying to offer the breast may make latching more difficult.
Am I making enough milk?
At first, your body will produce colostrum – a fatty, high calorie liquid that will sustain baby for the first couple of days. Usually, milk comes in 3-5 days after giving birth (but can take up to 10 days). Your breasts may feel engorged until your body learns how much milk your baby needs. It is optimal to feed your baby on demand – whenever they want, for as long as they want. This will support a plentiful supply and give your baby the right amount of nutrients and comfort. Newborns typically nurse 8-12 times in 24 hours. Allow baby to nurse on each breast until satisfied. If baby is still hungry, you can offer the other breast. Alternate which breast baby feeds from first at each nursing session. Allowing baby to nurse for as long as they want will ensure they get adequate amounts of foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is the milk that comes out when baby first starts to suck. This milk is watery, and help satisfy baby’s thirst. Hindmilk comes later in the feeding and is high in fat and calories. This is the milk that will help baby grow and gain weight.
How do I relieve engorgement without making it worse?
Engorgement is normal for the first few weeks, but it is important to empty your breasts without stimulating over production.
It is important to understand that milk production works on a supply/demand basis. This means that the more your baby sucks at the breast, the more milk your body will produce. If you start pumping after every feeding in an attempt to fully drain your breasts, your body will interpret that is a higher demand and produce more milk, thus possibly adding to the problem. There are a few tools and techniques that work nicely to relieve engorgement:
Massage the breast during the feeding to help the milk drain and avoid clogged ducts
Use heat (a microwaved sock filled with rice works nicely and forms to the breast) to encourage milk letdown
Hand express milk into a cup or towel after baby eats. This is easier to do after you’ve had a letdown and doesn’t stimulate the nipple the same way nursing does. For a detailed look at hand expressing, check out this link from Le Leche League International https://www.llli.org/docs/0000000000000001WAB/WAB_Tear_sheet_Toolkit/06_hand_expression.pdf
If nursing is painful, baby is having trouble latching, or not having sufficient wet and dirty diapers, seek out an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. They will be able to assess baby’s latch and look for any physical issues that may need to be corrected. The sooner the better when it comes to getting help with breastfeeding issues. Remember, breastfeeding can be difficult at first, but once you and your baby learn how to do it, it can be a beautiful and rewarding bonding experience. Here are some resources that can offer support and guidance on your breastfeeding journey.
Gina Gerard is a doula in Southern California. She is the loving mother of a two year old daughter and she and her husband are expecting their second child in the spring of 2018. Gina is not currently taking clients and plans to resume her doula business when her children are older. Her current focus is caring for her family.
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