Breastfeeding and pumping can be overwhelming to think of even before you deliver. The most common question I get asked by expecting mothers is, “What do I need to know about breastfeeding before the baby arrives?” Here are five tips to get breastfeeding off to a great start:
1. TAKE A PRENATAL BREASTFEEDING CLASS
It is important to learn about what to expect before your baby is born. Learning the basics about breastfeeding and all the different breastfeeding positions can be helpful. You want to be prepared and to know what to expect and what to look for. You will also learn relative terminology like colostrum, hand expression, breast compressions, meconium, and jaundice. During your class, you will realize that some of the common myths you were told about breastfeeding are false. For example, have you heard that “Breastfeeding is painful”? Actually, breastfeeding should not be painful! If you are curling your toes in pain, that is a red flag and you should consider seeing an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
When your baby arrives, it is so important to do hours of Skin-to-Skin per day. This helps to regulate body temperature, blood glucose levels, to help calm the baby down, and also helps with your milk production. Skin-to-Skin also keeps babies close to you. This can help catch early feeding cues. I encourage lots of Skin-to-Skin for the first couple of months at minimum.
3. HAND EXPRESSION
Getting your hands on your breast and practicing hand expressing is key. It is important to get comfortable with your breast before the baby arrives. Hand expression is a vital tool to increase stimulation to your breast, bringing in your fatty milk faster. Learning to hand express before the baby arrives is helpful (even doing some prenatal hand expression if your OB gives you the okay after 38 weeks). Hand expressing for about a minute before breastfeeding can help initiate getting the baby interested and latched on. It can take a couple of minutes of massaging your breast and hand expressing to see some colostrum. Remember colostrum is thick like honey.
4. FEED BABIES ON DEMAND AND FREQUENTLY
If you are breastfeeding or exclusively pumping, you should be feeding at least every 2-3 hours (which is 8-12x per day). I have so many moms that ask me, “Why? If the baby sleeps 5-6 hours, do I really have to wake the baby up?” The answer is YES. Especially if the baby is a newborn within the first two weeks of life and is not back to his or her birth weight yet. Not only is this important for babies, but for your milk supply as well. Moms that go 6+ hours without any breast stimulation usually start seeing a dip in supply and/or can become very engorged and in pain. It is important to not go longer than 4 hours without offering milk to your little one.
5. FINDING A LOCAL SUPPORT GROUP/IBCLC
Having a strong support system can make what might be a difficult time much easier. It is important to have a reliable source/person/group to address questions and concerns with. I recommend seeing an IBCLC during your first week home. Many IBCLCs do home visits so you never have to leave the comfort of your house. IBCLCs can help make sure the baby has a deep latch, is transferring enough milk, and ensure that you are not in any pain. IBCLCs will provide you with a step-by-step care plan to set you up for long term success. Lastly, IBCLCs continue to check in with you throughout your journey and offer great support!
Leana Thompson (RN, BSN, IBCLC) dreamed of becoming a nurse ever since she was a young girl. She has worked in several different areas of the hospital before landing on the antepartum/postpartum unit (commonly known as Mother-Baby Unit). She worked as a Mother-Baby RN for 8 years in hospitals all across the country. As her passions evolved, she decided to solely focus on breastfeeding. Since every mother and baby has a different breastfeeding and pumping journey, it has been Leana’s mission to support each mom and her unique goals and visions for herself, her baby, and her family. She has been working as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) at a local hospital in Gilbert, AZ. Many of her patients would ask her, “Can I bring you home with me?” which inspired Leana to figure out a way that they can! Leana founded The Milk Makers. The Milk Makers goal is to provide services that give you + your partner the ultimate mother-baby experience before and after you leave the hospital. To learn more about Leana’s services, virtual consultations, and feeding tips, you can check out her Instagram – @TheMilkMakers.