I’ve been breastfeeding for over two years now. It’s something I found myself interested in, and so I have done copious amounts of research on the subject, and been an active member of several breastfeeding communities. This doesn’t make me an expert — the true experts are Lactation Consultants (see #5) so if you are having serious problems nursing please speak to an LC. For the rest of us, here’s some great advice from one seasoned mama:
1. Unless you have to go back to work, do not introduce a bottle until baby is at least 6 weeks old. This will allow you to establish a healthy and balanced milk supply. Bottle feeding earlier can effect your supply, even if you pump to make up for it.
2. Spend lots of time skin-to-skin, meaning your skin touching your newborn’s skin. Some Mom’s love having what they call a “nurse in”, which means spending cuddle time in bed with their baby doing ski- to-skin.
3. Nurse on demand. Trying to force your infant to wait between feedings, even at night, will impact your supply. It is unhealthy to try to force young babies onto a feeding schedule. Your child will get used to the cycle of waking and sleeping, and if you like you can try to play with your baby extra during daylight hours to encourage them to learn day and night…. but do not hold off feeds. Newborns nurse every 2-4 hours round the clock.
4. Don’t introduce a pacifier until 6 weeks if you choose to use one at all. This will help avoid “nipple confusion” or bad sucking habits. There are some exceptions to this — if you have a premie it may help your underdeveloped baby learn how to suck by practicing on a paci before he is allowed to try nursing. Full term babies, try to hold out til 6 weeks or skip them altogether.
5. If you are having problems, get help right away. Most insurance companies cover visits with lactation consultants, find out what yours allows before baby is born so you are prepared. Get some recommendations for local IBCLC certified lactation consultants (different than regular lactation counselors) and keep their numbers handy in case you need them.
6. Don’t ever top baby off with formula or pumped milk after nursing unless directed to by a pediatrician or lactation consultant. If you are unsure if your baby is getting enough milk, just listen for the swallowing noises while he eats.
7. Don’t keep formula in the house, donate all samples given to you. Most areas have stores open 24 hours a day where you can go buy formula if you need to, having it around will just make it easier to turn to when breastfeeding is challenging.
8. Choose a baby friendly hospital to deliver in. Getting a great start on your nursing journey can often make a big difference in the beginning, and certain hospitals work hard to earn and maintain “baby friendly” status. Baby friendly hospitals are trained to encourage breastfeeding and early mother-baby bonding. Read more about the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative here.
9. if baby won’t latch or if latching continues to be painful for you or your baby, have him checked for a tongue or lip tie. This common problem which can be caught by pediatricians or lactation consultants is easily fixable, and most women find that nursing is much easier after the tie has been taken care of.
10. Get connected — join breastfeeding support communities online, attend your hospitals nursing support group in person, or check out a local La Leche League. Community is key, and you have one here too! Feel free to send me any questions about nursing and I’d be glad to answer them.