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Breastfeeding 101

This one is for the ladies!
As a Breastfeeding Support Counselor and in the process of getting my CLS (Certified Lactation Specialist) license, I’ve worked with hundreds of nursing mothers and curious pregnant women on breastfeeding. I’ve gotten every question under the sun from what to expect with the first breastfeeding session in the hospital to how to keep your milk supply up months into breastfeeding.
So, let’s start at square one. You’re pregnant and considering breastfeeding. Does it hurt? How do you prepare yourself before the baby comes? What are the differences between breast milk and formula? Well mommy-to-be, good news! You don’t need to do a single thing to prepare your body. However, I would recommend informing you doctor and nursing staff of your plans to breastfeed so that we can get everyone on the same page. Every hospital should have a certified lactation consultant on hand. Try to get in touch with them prior to your delivery date to help establish a relationship and ask any questions. A CLC will be able to be in the room with you post-delivery to work hands-on with the first breastfeeding and help you two to get the best latch-on and positioning.
There are countless differences between breastfeeding and formula. Unless medically limited, I encourage all of my clients to breastfeeding at least the first feeding, even if they choose to supplement feed. Breast milk is considered the baby’s “first immunization” because every single time that you have gotten sick in your entire life, you have formed what’s called an antibody, which protects you against that form of the virus. So every cold, flu, allergy that you have built up immunity to, you pass along to your baby in the very first breastfeeding session to protect baby for the rest of his life. Formula does not contain any antibodies. This is why breastfed babies get sick less often and form less allergies. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, which means baby will likely be less gassy and fussy and those diapers won’t smell as bad (AS bad I said). Also, baby will be feeding more often if exclusively breastfeeding since they are digesting it so quickly. Breast milk has been shown to enhance brain development more than formula. For mom, breastfeeding is FREE, always available, always the right temperature, and instant. So, you don’t have to worry about preparing a bottle every hour and a half in the middle of the night. Badda bing badda boom…instant meal! Exclusively breastfeeding mom’s burn an extra 500 calories a day, so it’ll help you get to your pre-pregnancy weight much quicker. The act of breastfeeding contracts the uterus to also help to get to pre-pregnancy size much quicker and breastfeeding helps stabilize mom’s hormones. This also will help decrease postpartum bleeding and postpartum depression. For example, oxytocin (the happiness hormone) is released when physical contact is made.
Okay, fast forward to delivery. The stork has literally just arrived. Now what? Bring baby STRAIGHT to your chest umbilical cord still attached. It may take a few minutes for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating and we want to make sure baby is getting all of those nutrients. Once the cord stops pulsating, we can go ahead and cut it. Baby will be covered in amniotic fluid. She is not dirty, so regardless of what the nurse may want, she does not need a bath. Keep in mind that the hospital staff is on a schedule. I mean no disrespect to nurses or doctors, but baby just spent roughly 10 months in your womb where it’s quiet, warm, soft, and stress free. All of a sudden, she is pulled out of her home and has all kinds of stimulation, bright lights, loud noises, cold air. Don’t feel rushed by anyone. This is your time to get to know eachother more closely. Hold off on visitors for a little bit, this will only disturb the breastfeeding process. That first hour is so important. You don’t need to pop baby right to breast immediately, but try to breastfeed within the first hour. Now, back to baby being wet and sticky…the only thing, unless medically noted, that the nurse cannot do for baby while on your chest is weighing her. I assure you, she will not gain three pounds in an hour. By taking her away to wash her and do tests, baby’s body temperature drops, she needs to be put in a heating bed, and before you know it- that breastfeeding process is disrupted and formula may need to be introduced. Amniotic fluid still being on baby’s hands will actually help baby know exactly where to go to breastfeed since the same scent is being excreted through your breasts. This is called baby led breastfeeding and is so very awesome to see. Whether you put baby on your stomach or up to your neck, he’ll wiggle himself up to where he needs to be and latch himself on. Sometimes he can use a little help from mom, but overall, he will instinctively know what to do. I encourage you to not bundle baby up like a little mummy after delivery. Take your hospital gown down enough so that your chest can completely cover baby’s chest. This skin to skin action helps both mom’s and baby’s vitals get back to normal. Where dad holding baby skin to skin can actually overheat baby if done too long, mom’s body is so in tune with baby’s that it is impossible for mom to overheat baby with her body temperature. But this skin to skin is SO very important for baby, that I encourage everyone to do this for baby. Just be sure to keep aware of baby’s body temperature when it’s not mom he’s with.
There is no perfect position to breastfeed. Whatever is most comfortable for you and baby is the perfect position. Most of my client’s find that being slightly reclined with a pillow behind you and baby breastfeeding parallel to you, belly to belly seems to work. The side football hold works well after a cesarean section. But whatever is comfortable for you and baby, no matter how goofy it may look, is perfectly fine.
Breastfeeding should not hurt. The first few times, it may be just a little odd or uncomfortable with feeling a little tug, but if there is any pain, this is a good indication baby is not latching on correctly. Make sure baby is calm first before breastfeeding. If she is crying and fussy, it’ll be nearly impossible to breastfeed correctly, if at all. Baby’s mouth should be open as wide as she can possibly get it. The best technique to get baby to latch on as best he can is to kind of tickle baby’s mouth with your nipple. He’ll open his mouth wider and wider. Continue to tease him until his mouth is as wide as it can be, cup his head, and gently bring him to breast so that he is not latching on to the nipple, but rather most, if not all, of the areola. This will help to stimulate more milk ducts.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from my newbie mom’s is that they fear the baby isn’t getting enough milk considering you can’t visually see how much baby is getting from your breasts. This is especially a concern with mom’s who are pumping since the first few days, you are only producing colostrum instead of mature milk. This is so concentrated with nutrients and baby’s tummy is only the size of a marble that, yes, one little ounce is plenty for your little one until the next feeding.
The only way to increase or keep up your milk supply is to increase breastfeeding. Your body works in a supply/demand way. The more you breastfeed, the more you’ll produce. The more you supplement, the less you’ll produce. This is why I encourage moms who do both to start each feeding at the breast, go back and forth a couple times since you’ll start producing again as soon as you stop, then go to formula if you choose. There are several other things you can do as well to increase supply, from breast compressions to eating certain foods.
This is the basics of what I tell my clients. If you have any questions, please send them my way!

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