After doing a few polls on my social media accounts asking my followers what questions they have about breastfeeding - my friend and colleague Jennifer Chivas and I had a blast coming up with some answers in our Beyond the Birth video series. Did you guys catch our first video on Milk Supply? Check it out on Youtube here!
I know that not everyone always has time to watch a 5 or 10 minute video, so I wanted to include the responses to the breastfeeding questions here in a blogpost as well.
1. How do I prepare for the first week at home with a breastfed baby?
Set up a lactation station! Put all the things you will need when you are breastfeeding in one area. It is essentially an area where you can put your feet up and have multiple pillows of different sizes and shapes to support your lower back and/or for each of the sides of your arm to support your baby. This is to make breastfeeding more comfortable and to allow for all of your body to be ergonomically supported. Have a few rolled up receiving blankets or a rolled towel to help support the head and neck of the baby. Next to your lactation station, you can have a small table with your cell phone and charger, a few bottles of water, high protein snacks that will keep you fueled, reading materials, a burp cloth, some nursing pads, and a small container of olive oil for massage and hand expression before latching. Try not to get too obsessed with stuff! Most of the stuff you will need you can find inside of your home already.
2. Best ways to deal with nipple confusion?
First, let’s define what nipple confusion is. Nipple confusion is when a breastfed baby has a hard time latching and breastfeeding effectively after being fed from a bottle.
Here are some strategies you can implement to help with nipple confusion.
-Since there is no way to predict if your little one will struggle with nipple confusion, it’s recommended to delay giving a bottle or pacifier until breastfeeding is well established - usually when your baby is about 4 weeks old.
-If your baby is getting more bottles once you return to work or school and your milk supply might be lower, he or she may prefer the quick flow of the bottle. You can work on reversing this by trying to increase your milk supply and focusing on more breastfeeding time.
-Another type of nipple confusion occurs when the baby refuses bottles and only wants to breastfeed. Practice offering bottles in a relaxed, low-key way and stop if your baby becomes fussy or stressed. Or, try switching it up and having someone else give the bottle. Some babies will not accept a bottle from mom, but will accept a bottle from a family member or caregiver.
-Look into using a bottle system that mimics babies’ natural breastfeeding motions and behavior to make the transition from bottle to breast easier. (For example, the Mimijumi No So Hungry 4oz. Bottle, Dr. Brown's Breast to Bottle, or the Medela Calma.)
3. How can I boost my milk supply?
First of all, is your milk supply really low? Often, mothers think that their milk supply is low when it really isn’t. If your baby is gaining weight well on breastmilk alone, then you do not have a problem with milk supply!
If your baby is having an adequate number of wet and dirty diapers, then the following things DO NOT mean that you have a low milk supply:
-Your baby nurses frequently. Breastmilk is digested quickly (usually in 1.5-2 hours,) so breastfed babies need to eat more often than formula-fed babies. Many babies have a strong need to suck. Also, babies often need continuous contact with mom in order to feel secure and safe. All of these things are normal, and you cannot spoil your baby by meeting these needs.
-Your baby suddenly increases the frequency and/or length of nursings. This is oftentimes a growth spurt! The baby nurses more, (usually lasting a few days to a week,) which increases your milk supply. There is no need to offer your baby supplements when this happens: supplementing will inform your body that the baby doesn’t need the extra milk, and your supply will drop.
-Your baby nurses more often and is fussy in the evening.
-Your baby doesn’t nurse as long as he/she did previously. As babies get older and better at nursing, they become more efficient at extracting milk.
4. Is there a breast milk cup that can save leaked milk at night? (All the one’s I have seen have big air vents that might let milk drip if side sleeping or if head drops low.)
Unfortunately, I have not come across any breast milk cups that can save leaked milk at night for when you are lying down! Sorry. Maybe I will invent something like this. :) I recommend using either disposable or reusable nursing pads inside of a lose-fitting nursing bra to prevent leaks during the night.
-Lansinoh Stay Dry Nursing Pads
-Medela Nursing Pads
-Lansinoh Washable Nursing Pads
-LilyPadz Reusable Nursing Pads
-Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads
-Eco Nursing Pads
To save leaked breast milk while your baby is nursing on one side, or when you are not with your baby, I recommend using one of the following milk savers:
-The Milkie’s Milk Saver On-The-Go
-Medela Milk Collection Shells
-The Haakaa Silicone Manuel Hand Pump
5. How do I obtain a good latch?
-Have a good lactation station with a lot of physical support, such as pillows and things to help you get in a good position. This is the first battle.
-Understand the baby’s anatomy. Taking a breastfeeding class will help you understand how to get a good latch.
-Have a soft breast. If you are very engorged and very full, you have to know how to soften your breast. Watch this video made by Stanford on hand expression and how to do it properly. The first week is when you will likely get engorged, because your breasts have never lactated before or had a baby latch onto them before, and they are likely going to be very tender. You can use a warm compress to help relieve some of that pain.
-Babies need to be belly to belly and skin to skin. When they are belly to belly and skin to skin, they are more likely to be interested in latching.
-Catch their feeding cues. If you get a baby when they are cuing, before they are screaming, and you bring them to the breast content, they are more likely to have a good latch.
-Use good latch technique. Try the “flipple” method - you hold the breast from underneath using a “U” hold, tipping the nipple to the ceiling. While doing so, it is important to understand the baby’s anatomy. Baby’s latch with their tongues by dropping their jaw. They come in with their chin and tongue first to the underside of the breast and then go up and over the entire areola, not just the nipple. To get a better understanding, watch this YouTube video.
6. How do I make breastfeeding more comfortable?
Make sure you have body support, are taking your pain medication, and know how to do hand expression.
-Pain medication can include Ibuprofen or any form of Motrin. Motrin is the best for moms, as long as you are able to take it. Some people are allergic to it, but most women are safe to take Motrin around the clock. It helps with all the normal aches and pains that moms have - breast pain, butt pain, back pain, shoulder pain, overall body aches from the delivery.
-Continue taking your prenatal vitamin and keep your essential oils around. Think about the things that make you more comfortable. If a mom is uncomfortable breastfeeding, she is not going to breastfeed. She is not going to enjoy the experience or feel at rest with her baby. The pain and the stress of being uncomfortable while breastfeeding can create negative feelings which can shorten that relationship. Make sure you are eating small, high protein snacks frequently. And support your feet! A lot of women have very swollen feet after they have delivered a baby, so it is very important that the feet are up.
7. What is the most important thing a mom should do after the baby is born?
-Unless if there is a medically necessary reason for the newborn baby to be separated from the mother when they are born, skin to skin contact should be the first priority. Keeping your baby close during the immediate hour after giving birth is so important because it releases hormones that relieve stress in the mother and helps to regulate the baby's body temperature, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Your baby may even initiate their first breastfeed by crawling to the breast on their own, a feat called the "breast crawl."
Do you have a question about breastfeeding? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!