1. Be PROACTIVE - Education is Key
It's never too early to prepare yourself! Take a prenatal breastfeeding class or meet with a lactation professional during pregnancy (message me to register for Mamma’s Magical Milk virtual class or check out the details HERE). This simple step will help you to be more confident as you will understand the basics of lactation and human milk.
Educating yourself about which routine hospital procedures can interfere with the initiation of breastfeeding can also help you as you create a birth plan to share with your health care provider. Many of these common practices may harm a breastfeeding relationship and can easily be delayed or eliminated all together depending on your individual needs.
Finally, be sure to read accurate and current breastfeeding literature during pregnancy. My favorite authors and experts are Dr. James J. McKenna and Dr. Jack Newman. La Leche League International also has free resources available online. Additionally, keep a list of useful websites handy for general breastfeeding information. Be sure the content on these websites is written by a trusted lactation professional or qualified doctor in order to avoid following bad advice. Always consult your own physician or healthcare provider to address any personal health concerns.
2. Advocate for Yourself
Don't let anyone get in the way of your goals. Communicate with doctors and nurses or whoever is caring for you and your newborn immediately after birth to let them know how you will be mothering and raising your child. For example, let them know to avoid using artificial nipples if you wish to exclusively breastfeed and make sure they know which routine procedures you’d like to delay or skip all together.
You know your baby best. We all have unique circumstances and other people's opinions of you are none of your business. Rest assured that following your maternal instincts while caring for your baby will never steer you wrong. You do not owe an explanation to anyone and you never need to justify your informed decisions, no matter how odd or different they may seem to others.
3. Avoid Schedules
Practicing "responsive feeding", better known as "breastfeeding on demand", is crucial for your newborn. Offering the breast constantly is the best way to ensure your baby always has access to be nursed when needed.
While it may be true that the average infant nurses every 1-3 hours, this does NOT mean that you should wait 3 hours in between each feed. This DOES mean that an infant may need to nurse every hour (or more often) at times, or every 2 hours at other times, or may even be able to go 3 hours or more in between feeds sometimes (perhaps overnight if you're lucky)!
Our babies rarely take the same amount of milk at each nursing session and therefore, we can not predict when they will want a snack, a meal, or just a cuddle. For this same reason, it is also especially important not to limit your infant's time at the breast. "Watch your baby, not the clock" is an easy expression to keep in mind. Trying to feed a breastfeed baby on a schedule can also negatively affect a mother's supply.
4. Enjoy SSC as Much as Possible
If you don't know what Skin-to-Skin Contact (SSC) is by now, it's time to learn! SSC is so important for you and your baby, especially during the first few hours after birth. There are endless benefits of SSC, but one worth mentioning is it helps to initiate breastfeeding. We will most often get the best latch with biological nurturing, also know as laid back breastfeeding. Placing your naked newborn on your bare chest allows the infant to crawl to the breast and latch on himself, without the forced from a nurse or anyone else.
SSC has also been shown to: help the parent and infant feel calm and relaxed as it reduces cortisol (stress) levels, regulate baby's heart rate and breathing, stimulate digestion, maintain baby's body temperature and blood pressure, provide baby with the mother's "good" bacteria, help to release hormones needed for breastfeeding, and improve oxygen saturation¹’². Additionally, practicing constant SSC provides easy access to the breast for your infant, allowing him to nurse whenever he needs to, whether it be for hunger, thirst or comfort and connection seeking.
5. Build Your Support System
You need to establish your team before your baby's arrival. Have an LC ready whether it be virtual or in person if needed. You will also have to discuss duties for your partner in order to allow you to focus most of your energy on learning to breastfeed your newborn. In addition to your partner, you may be fortunate enough to have your own mother, father, grandparent or in-laws help you both during this time as your transition into motherhood. Some ideas for your support system include: cooking, cleaning, walking the dogs, laundry, holding the baby while you shower, and all household chores. If you do not have friends or family to count on, a postpartum doula may be particularly useful.
A "mom tribe" is another necessity. It's important to find at least one good postpartum buddy to connect with and help you to feel human again during the hard times. Consider colleagues or friends who recently gave birth and are also breastfeeding so you can support and help one another as you share your experiences. A breastfeeding support group is another a "must have" during this time as it can get you and your baby out of the house to meet other new mothers and babies. If you are unable to connect with friends or support groups in person, there are many virtual support groups available as well. Mamma's Magical Milk has a private support group and also holds "live" virtual meetings. If you're on Long Island, you may also be able to join Mamma's Magical Milk's free in-person support group (schedule varies).
Skin-to-skin contact. (2019, October 23). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/baby-friendly-resources/implementing-standards-resources/skin-to-skin-contact/
The importance of skin-to-skin with baby after delivery. (2018, August 09). Retrieved October 18, 2020, from https://news.sanfordhealth.org/childrens/the-importance-of-skin-to-skin-after-delivery-you-should-know/