I hear it all the time, new moms are afraid they won’t be able to breastfeed their babies. In reality, only a very small percentage of women have legitimate reasons for not being able to produce enough milk. For the rest of us, I leave it up to a mom’s ability to persevere through early challenges with the help of a few tricks along the way.
First, breastfeeding is a normal and natural part of life. Breastmilk offers baby a whole host of nutrition and immune building blocks that no formula or substitute milk can provide. This milk is made specifically for your baby and your baby’s needs.
In the first few days of breastfeeding you will produce colostrum. This part of the milk is packed full of carbs, protein and antibodies to keep your baby healthy. It’s a thick, yellow, sticky substance and is the perfect first food for your baby as it’s easily digestible. It also acts as a laxative to help start up baby’s bowels. Some women start excreting colostrum while pregnant. Usually around day 3 or 4 your milk supply will come in and you will no longer be producing colostrum.
It is important to start breastfeeding your baby as soon as possible after delivery. I recommend having baby placed on your bare chest immediately after birth to allow for skin to skin contact and offering the breast. Sucking is your baby’s natural way to comfort and after such a big event she will need a lot of comforting with mom. Standard newborn checks can be performed while baby is on your chest.
I still remember the first time my son latched on. My jaw dropped and I simply said, “Ouch! Is it supposed to feel like this?!” The midwives laughed and told me that it’s completely normal. They showed me how to adjust his latch. A good latch is important for a few reasons. Firstly, a baby burns calories to feed. The better the latch the more efficiently they’re able to feed. Secondly, a good latch ensures mom is comfortable and prevents cracking and discomfort. The lips of the baby should look like a duck. Pushed out and not hidden inside baby’s mouth. You should not be able to see the bottom of your areola (the dark part around your nipple), and your nipple should be directed more upwards in baby’s mouth. If you find the latch is uncomfortable, do not pull your nipple out. That would really hurt! Instead, take your pinky finger and slide it into baby’s mouth and gentle press back on your nipple to break the suction.
Having a good jar of nipple butter on hand helped me tremendously in the first couple of months. I used the nipple butter by Earth Mama Angel Baby. It is completely safe for mom and baby and helps to heal and prevent nipple cracking. If you have excessive cracking you can take a zinc supplement for a few days. Zinc helps speed up the body’s ability to heal. It also encourages milk production so I wouldn’t use this for more than a week as you may end up dealing with engorgement.
In the early weeks I also drank one cup of Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicinals daily. This helps with milk production. Don’t drink too much as you may become engorged.
Let baby suckle. Even if your baby is not feeding I recommend letting her suckle. This is how your baby soothes and it also helps with milk production.
Learn how to hand express milk. Sometimes your baby will need some help to get going. They may wake because they’re hungry but be too tired to have a full feed. Hand expressing can bring the milk down and encourages your baby to feed.
If you find your newborn drowses off too quickly during a feed, softly draw circles on the top of your baby’s head. This helps keep baby awake and brings their focus back to feeding.
Babies take short breaks while feeding. Do not expect her to continuously feed in one session.
Lastly, for you moms out there, try your best to relax. It’s important to keep your stress and worry levels down as baby can sense this. The two of you will work together on ensuring your milk comes in and that your supply meets baby’s demand. Babies go through regular growth spurts and your milk supply will adjust to match baby’s needs.