Out of all of the challenges motherhood brings, breastfeeding is definitely one of the harder ones. But the more research you do, the better prepared you’ll be. And the more prepared you are, the easier it will be on you and your new baby!
In this guide you’ll find:
- the benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby
- helpful tips for breastfeeding
- must have breastfeeding products
- answers to breastfeeding FAQ’s
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Benefits of breastfeeding for mom:
- burns an average of 500 calories per day- faster weight loss
- you save money by not buying formula
- it releases a hormone that helps to return the uterus back to size
- you can feed on demand, no having to wash, sterilize, or heat up a bottle first
Benefits of breastfeeding for baby
- contains antibodies to help fight off viruses
- less likely to have digestive issues
- breastmilk changes to best feed your baby what they need,
- lowers the risk of developing asthma or allergies
- less likely to become overweight
- helps lower the risk of SIDS
Nurse as soon as possible
Try to nurse your baby right after birth if possible! Studies have shown that babies who are placed on their mother’s chest immediately after birth, before doing any sort of procedures, they will instinctually search for their mother’s breast. Breastfeeding within the first hour has a lot of benefits, including:
- boosting baby’s immune system
- helps your milk to come in faster
- increases the likelihood of successful long-term breastfeeding
Don’t be afraid to speak up
Make sure the hospital is aware that you want to breastfeed, and ask them not to give the baby formula (unless absolutely necessary.) Include this in your birthing plan, along with any other expectation you have.
Ensure your baby has a proper latch
The key to successful and painless breastfeeding is a proper latch. Your baby should have a wide-open mouth as they latch on. When your breast begins to touch their lips, they should open wide, and then you can place your breast into their mouth.
If the baby is sucking on just your nipple, and their mouth isn’t covering the areola, breastfeeding can be very painful. When the baby is latched on incorrectly, you can break the latch and try again.
If you need to break their latch, do it correctly
You never want to just pull the baby off your nipple, as this can damage your skin and lead to pain while breastfeeding. The proper way of releasing a baby’s latch is to stick your finger into the corner of your babies mouth and place the finger in between the top and bottom gums, and then press down on your breast. This will gently break the latch, and you can remove your breast.
Try different feeding positions
There are quite a few different positions you can nurse your baby in. Trying out multiple positions will be good for you and baby to figure out which works best for you both. Check out this article for 11 different feeding positions to try out.
Avoid pacifiers and bottles
At first, try avoiding bottles and pacifiers if possible. It is suggested to wait at least one month before introducing a bottle or pacifier if you want to essentially breastfeed. This will allow the baby to really get the hang of nursing, and help to avoid nipple confusion- as this poses the risk that baby might prefer the bottle and stop wanting to breastfeed.
Feed on demand
Feed your baby whenever they want, and for however long they want. Babies feeding patterns are always changing. If they’re showing any signs of hunger, always offer the breast.
Cluster feeding is normal in newborn babies, as their little bodies are just trying to stock up on calories and nutrients in the later part of the day, to help get them through the night.
Drink A LOT of water
Drinking a lot of water while nursing will help keep you hydrated, and water is also great for milk supply! It takes a lot of work for your body to produce milk. The more water you drink the better it will be for your milk production.
Take care of your nipples
It is likely that you will experience some mild pain at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, as the skin on your nipples builds up a tolerance. To help with this pain, you can use a lanolin cream or pure coconut oil.
Try to avoid engorgement
When you become engorged, it can lead to a clogged milk duct which can be painful. To avoid engorgement you can:
- use a breast pump
- express milk by hand
- take a hot shower and massage the breast to help express milk
- feed often, and offer both breasts at each feeding
- don’t skip feedings, and if you need to skip you should still pump
Reach out to a lactation consultant
A lactation consultant is someone who can help you learn to breastfeed correctly and give you advice on nursing your baby. Often times, a lactation consultant will come to assist you in the hospital after you have your baby. Don’t be scared to ask as many questions as possible, and take their advice.
There are a lot of free resources to help you along your breastfeeding journey. One really great resource for all your breastfeeding need is the Le Leche League.
Invest in good supplies
While it’s possible to nurse without buying any sort of supplies, it can definitely make your breastfeeding experience easier by having the right tools! The very basic breastfeeding essentials that you’ll need are:
- Nipple butter
- Nursing pads
- A breast pump or milk catcher
- Storage bags
- Burp rags (for burping baby and for saving your keeping your clothes dry while nursing)
Check out our detailed list of breastfeeding essentials you won’t want to go without!
Things to be prepared for:
The first milk your body will produce for your baby is called colostrum. It’s yellow in color, and thicker than regular breastmilk. You often start producing colostrum halfway or so into your pregnancy, and for the first few days after delivering your baby. It’s very high in protein and rich in antioxidants. It is SO great for baby, as it provides baby with so many nutrients that help with their immunity. To learn all about the amazing things colostrum does for your baby, check out this article.
When your milk comes in
A few days after giving birth, your milk will officially come in. Meaning your breastmilk is switching from colostrum to breastmilk, and it’s going to come in a much larger quantity. Frequently, your breasts will become engorged, and feel very full when your milk comes in. While some women never pump, other women who produce a lot of breastmilk find pumping to really help with the engorgement, as becoming too engorged can lead to a clogged milk duct which is often times painful.
It’s nice to have a pump on hand before having your baby so that when your milk comes in, you will be able to pump and relieve some pressure. Your baby eats so little those first few days, that they often don’t eat enough to relieve the engorgement.
Your health insurance company will often provide a breast pump for free, so be sure to check that out before purchasing one.
Often times, the letdown reflex will take place after your baby has been sucking for a little bit. However, sometimes a letdown will occur if you start thinking about your baby, or hear a baby cry. You will likely not feel this letdown reflex until a few weeks into breastfeeding.
When you do experience letdown, it’s often described as a tingly feeling as the milk is coming down to the nipple, and it occurs simultaneously in both breasts. A lot of moms will often pump on one side, or put a milk catcher onto the breast the baby is not drinking from, to catch that milk and save it.
Beware of an overactive letdown. Most people would say someone is lucky to produce too much milk. And while that is true, it can also be dangerous for the baby. If you have an overactive letdown, your breastmilk can be forced into the baby’s mouth too quickly, and cause them to choke, or feel a lot of discomfort. To learn more about an overactive letdown and how to cope with it, check out this article.
Breastfeeding often involves a lot of leaking. Especially after you start having letdowns. You can be in the grocery store and hear a baby cry and start to leak through. The best thing to help with this is to wear breast pads inside your bra. They make reusable and disposable types.
In most cases, your diet doesn’t need to be restrictive while breastfeeding, other than ensuring you’re not taking any drugs/alcohol that are dangerous for your baby.
However, there are a list of foods that are good for increasing milk supply. Check out our article on Best Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding To Up Your Milk Supply and Lose the Baby Weight!
If your baby does seem to be having health issues, it’s possible it could be from your diet. Talk to your doctor about which foods you can eliminate and try to find out if your baby has a sensitivity to any of the foods you are eating.
Breastfeeding and Alcohol
When you consume alcohol, small amounts will enter into your breastmilk. It is best practice not to drink while breastfeeding and to wait until the alcohol has left your bloodstream/breastmilk before breastfeeding.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, expressing your breastmilk and throwing it away (often called ‘pumping and dumping’) does not help the alcohol to leave your system any faster. The only thing that will help the alcohol to leave your system is time.
There can be multiple reasons you are experiencing pain with breastfeeding. When you first begin nursing, it is likely you will experience discomfort because the skin on your nipples often chaps and becomes raw. Your nipples will build up a tolerance after a little while. To help with this pain, try using a lanolin nipple cream!
Another common reason for pain while breastfeeding is an improper latch.
If your latch looks good and you’re still having a lot of pain, it’s also possible our baby could have a tongue tie.
If you’re experiencing pain inside your breast, rather than on your nipples, you could have a clogged milk duct, mastitis.
With any sort of breastfeeding pain, reach out to your doctor or a lactation consultant for advice and guidance.
Taking Medication While Breastfeeding
Anything that enters your bloodstream will almost always enter into your breastmilk as well, so it’s important to know what medications are safe and not safe for breastfeeding. For an in-depth article on safe medications to take while breastfeeding, click here!
We hope this article was helpful for you! Comment below with what part of your breastfeeding journey you’re on, whether you’re pregnant and planning to breastfeed, in the beginning stages, or you’re a well established breastfeeding pro!
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