Not everyone plans to breastfeed, and that’s okay! Arming yourself with knowledge about how it all works will help you make the best decision for you and your growing family. Ready to learn more? Breastmilk is the recommended food choice of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, providing numerous benefits to mothers and newborns.
But it's not all rainbows and unicorns; breastfeeding takes patience and practice. Boppy is here to help! We asked Kim Carson, a certified lactation consultant, and maternal-newborn nurse, for her tips and tricks for creating a smooth breastfeeding experience. Here is what she had to say.
Know Your Why
Knowing why you want to give breastmilk to your baby motivates you along the journey. Before we get into the “hows” of breastfeeding, learn the benefits for your family.
Benefits for Baby: Breastmilk changes depending on your baby’s age and nutritional needs. Breastfed babies are at less risk of asthma, obesity, diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. Moreover, when momma gets sick (think of a cold or COVID), your body creates substances called antibodies to go out and fight against the virus. Those antibodies move through breastmilk, and babies drink them in, helping keep them healthy. Pretty amazing!
Benefits for Moms: According to the CDC, women who breastfeed (or pump) have less chance of breast or ovarian cancers, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure problems later in life. The hormones used in making breastmilk speed up postpartum recovery and strengthen bonding. In addition, breastmilk is free and helps the environment by creating less trash.
The Down and Dirty; 8 Breastfeeding Tips For Success
Start before birth. Start learning before you give birth. Take a breastfeeding class or attend a lactation support group such as La Leche League ahead of time. You can find a list of in-person or online support groups here.
Set realistic expectations. Breastfeeding is indeed natural and can be an incredible experience. Still, learning to breastfeed takes time and might be awkward at first. Your newborn has never done this before, so be patient with yourself and your little one while you figure it out.
Take advantage of the golden hour. During the first hour of life, your baby adapts to its new environment outside the womb. This crucial time is known as the golden hour. Holding your baby skin-to-skin regulates their temperature, breathing, and heart rate. Uninterrupted contact during the golden hour provides your newborn time to touch, smell, and find your breasts and nipples. Babies can even move toward the nipple and latch on without much assistance!
However, this can’t happen if you pass your new cutie around with other family members or well-meaning medical providers disrupt continuous skin-to-skin contact. So let family and staff know that you plan to hold, bond with, and feed your baby during this time (as long as you both are healthy and stable).
Go for the gold! Speaking of gold, your first milk won’t look like milk. Early milk, called colostrum, comes out in thick, golden-yellow drops. Colostrum lines your baby’s tiny belly with a protective coating of antibodies and is super easy to digest, making it the perfect first milk!
Focus on positioning and latch. Cradle. Cross-cradle. Baby-led. Football. These are all names of breastfeeding positions. You will learn them all eventually! Be patient and begin by focusing on these basic principles for positioning your baby:
- Make yourself comfortable first. Find a chair or bed that allows you to be comfortable for a long while. Hunching over will hurt your back. After delivery, you might want to adjust to take pressure off your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus). The point is to get comfy.
- Tummy to mummy! Place your baby so their belly is facing your belly. They don’t have to turn their head to reach your breast by going tummy to mummy. Have you ever eaten a sandwich with your head cocked to the side? Probably not because that would be hard!
- Nose to nipple. Line up your baby’s nose with your nipple. A nursing pillow helps bring your baby up to your level and gets them in a good position.
- Ensure a good latch. A poor latch causes nipple pain. It also decreases the amount of milk your newborn will transfer from your breast.
One sign of a great latch is a wide open mouth with lips “flanged”, or turned out. Think duck face lips! Flanged lips lubricate the nipple while your baby sucks, decreasing the likelihood of developing painful blisters. A wide gape gets your baby’s mouth deep around the back of your nipple so they can really get your milk flowing.
At first, it’s tempting to let your baby eat in any position, whether it is comfortable or not. However, you will have more long-term success with breastfeeding if you follow the tips above.
There’s an app for that! Keep a journal or log of your baby’s feeds, poops, and pees for the first few days. Sleep deprivation clouds your memory as a new parent, so writing it down helps you keep track. There are tons of apps for your phone. If you enjoy old-fashioned pen and paper, try this resource from The March of Dimes.
Keep the milk flowing. Emptying your breasts often boosts your milk supply and prevents clogged milk ducts or breast inflammation known as mastitis. Hand expressing your colostrum or milk stimulates milk production if your baby skips a feed. Hand expression also relieves tight, full breasts as your milk comes in.
Lastly, Fed is Best! It makes sense to give human milk to human babies. However, sometimes direct breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Pumping your milk and giving it to your baby is just as healthy.
Ultimately the choice of what to feed your newborn is yours. The goal is to help nourish your baby and help them grow. You can use “straight from the tap” breastfeeding, your pumped milk, donor breastmilk, or formula.
Support your little one while nursing or bottle feeding with one of Boppy’s award-winning nursing pillows. Remember that these are designed for your baby's supervised awake time, not sleep.