Breastfeeding may be the most natural thing there is, but it can take a lot of work before it seems that way. We’ve assembled 10 helpful tips for new moms and moms-to-be on breastfeeding and increasing lactation.
1. Don’t Scrub Your Nipples
We’re not really sure which old wife started this rumor, but using a scrub brush or loofah on your nipples to “toughen them up” is completely unnecessary.
Pregnancy is hard enough without adding chapped, sore nipples to your list of complaints.
2. Be a Little Patient While Your Milk Comes In
When you’re still pregnant your body starts producing colostrum. Colostrum is a nutrient-rich, syrupy, pre-milk miracle that your baby needs in its first few days of life.
After two to three days your body typically starts producing milk; however, it can take five or six days for some moms, and that’s OK. If you’re concerned, call a lactation consultant LLLI.org.
3. Know That Newborns Nurse A LOT
Newborns are constantly hungry, and that’s OK. Breastmilk is the perfect food for babies, and is quickly digested. With a stomach the size of an egg, it’s expected that babies will need to refuel often.
Frequent nursing also serves another purpose. Your breasts work on supply and demand. The greater the demand, the more milk your body will produce. Your baby is helping your body to learn how much milk it needs to make. So grab a seat and relax. You’re going to be here for a while.
4. Try Not to Worry Too Much About Supply
One of the difficulties in breastfeeding is not having a way of seeing how much milk your baby is getting. When your baby seems like she’s always hungry, it’s easy to worry you’re not making enough milk.
How much milk you can pump is not at all related to how much milk your baby is getting. As long as your baby is making at least five or six wet diapers a day, your supply is just fine.
5. Learn to Love Cluster Feedings
The time when many moms worry the most is when baby suddenly goes from feeding every few hours to demanding to nurse every few minutes. Cluster feedings have more to do with times of rapid change than with your supply.
Growth spurts usually last two or three days and happen at about 1 week old, 3 weeks old, 6 weeks old, and again at 3, 4, 6, and 9 months old. Added bonus, when the cluster feedings are finally over, your milk supply will have increased.
6. Tend Tender Nipples
Nipples are already a sensitive area for most women, and after three hours of non-stop nursing, nipples can feel downright raw. While pain can be due to a bad latch, in the beginning, it can be just as likely that you need to get used to nursing.
Your own breast milk is the best remedy, next, rubbing purified lanolin onto your nipples after each nursing session can help prevent chafing and excessive dryness. The tannins in tea are also great for healing–for blisters and cracks, a teabag makes an excellent warm compress.
7. Drink Often
It takes a lot of water to make milk. Until your body regulates and figures out exactly what it’s doing, you’re going to need a lot of water. A nice reusable water bottle should be on every mom-to-be’s baby registry.
Let your partner know that there may be a night when you’re going to have to wake him up to get you some water. It won’t make it any easier for him to get up, but at least it won’t be a complete surprise.
8. Work with Inverted Nipples
Many women with flat or inverted nipples are told they will never be able to breastfeed successfully. While it may be more difficult at first, it is definitely not impossible. Nipple shields are fitted covers that help stimulate the baby’s sucking reflex. Over time breast tissue will adjust and release an inverted nipple.
Nipple shield users should always work with a lactation specialist to help determine when it’s the right time to wean an infant from using a shield.
9. Discuss Breastfeeding Expectations With Your Partner Before the Baby is Here
No matter how prepared you think you are, or how dedicated you are to nursing, there will come a time when you want to give up. It might be your third night with only two hours of sleep, or your fourth hour straight of nursing, but when it happens, if your partner says, “OK. I’ll go get some formula,” it will decrease your chance of success exponentially.
Before the baby is born, discuss your desire to breastfeed. Let your partner know that you’re probably going to have a moment of doubt, and that it’s their job to remind you how important it is to you to breastfeed your child.
10. Practice Makes Perfect
It takes time to figure everything out–go easy on yourself.
There is so much advertising out there saying that breastfeeding is the best, most natural thing for your baby. Pictures of moms looking lovingly at their angelic infants make it look like it’s the easiest thing in the world. They lie! Breastfeeding is a huge adjustment and can take a lot of time.
The beauty of breastfeeding is that after you and baby figure out how to latch, how to hold, what to eat, what to drink, and how to sit, one day, you’ll realize you’re doing something amazing, and it’s all been totally worth it.