This seems to be the question I am faced with most often – is there any way I can prepare my body or myself to ensure I have a successful breastfeeding journey.
You have just gone through 40 weeks of growing a little human, laboured to bring this child into this world and after this massively emotional time and now the breastfeeding time begins. It almost seems a little unfair that this is the first introduction into motherhood. My personal story with the introduction into breastfeeding was nothing short of stressful, but if you want to read how my personal experience leads to the “birth of Mrs Milk, read here.
Here are a few ways you can start to prepare for breastfeeding before your baby arrives
1. Talk to a professional
The first time you hear the words “latch” “engorgement” “let down” and “colostrum” should be in an environment where you can absorb information — not in a hospital room with a screaming hungry newborn.
Perhaps take the time to meet with a lactation consultant before you require the help. They will be able to assess your breasts and you will be able to prepare yourself if you have any issues that may make breastfeeding a challenge (ie flat or inverted nipples)
Most anti-natal classes do go into quite a bit of detail, but this information can be very generalised and often for a larger audience
Discuss your birth plan with your Midwife or OB\GYN ** This is a very important step.** Make sure whoever is part of your birthing plan is aware that you want to breastfeed. Studies have shown the best way to initiate your milk flow is to have your baby placed skin-to-skin as soon as they are delivered – this is for any kind of delivery. Take a listen to Doula Katrina Meeks short video we did with her about the first 12 hours
Learn (and practice) the Main Breastfeeding Positions
Cradle, cross-cradle, football, side-lying – Yes these are all ways you can hold your baby to breastfeed.
I will never forget the look on my doulas face when she told me to try to hold John like a football to breastfeed him. I think she could see the panic on my face. If you have an idea of what the different positions are you will feel more confident to try them when baby arrives. Keep in mind, if you are having a c-section birth – you will be sensitive along the wound and should look at the football and side options to avoid putting baby on top of your sensitive wound.
Understand Where Your Milk Supply Comes From
You don’t know it yet, but your milk supply will become a focal point of your day in a few weeks or months. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing if your milk supply will be abundant, just right, or if you’ll have a low supply. Regardless of where your body will fall on the milk-supply spectrum, it’s important to know where your supply comes from and how you can influence production.
Supply and Demand -
The greatest way to maintain a healthy milk supply is to feed or pump frequently. Your body will produce on a supply and demand basis, so the more demand, the more supply. Keep in mind, if you have topped baby up with formula – your body has no way of knowing that this milk was consumed by baby and thus will not replace (or reproduce) this consumed bottle milk. If you do need to top up in hospital please remove the milk from your breasts with a pump and ask the nurse to show you how to pace feed your baby. If you need to read about pace feeding click here
Meeting Calorie Goals -
Breastfeeding mothers don’t have to eat one specific type of diet, but they do need to be hitting the correct calorie amount in order to make milk. Breastfeeding moms require about 500 more calories a day vs normal diet. It’s all too easy to stop taking care of your body and miss meals when you are so busy looking after your new little human.
Mrs Milk Bars are a wholesome, convenient, energy-packed snack made specifically for breastfeeding moms. Eating one or two bars a day ensures you’re eating healthy ingredients and not snacking on cheap sugar products or failing to meet your calorie count. We recommend buying bars ahead of time and keeping several in your hospital bag for when baby arrives.
Drinking water to thirst is extremely important for breastfeeding women - you can not pour from an empty cup. Always keep a water bottle on hand so that your body is never straining for liquid to make milk. The best advice here is "Drink to thirst"
Mentally Prepare Yourself For a Newborn’s Breastfeeding Schedule
Time to be real mammas - Breastfeeding IS A JOB, and most likely the routine is going to kick your butt the first couple of weeks. It may take about 3 days for your milk to officially come in. However the colostrum that your body produces in these first days is all the milk your baby needs.
Newborn babies need to eat at every two-hour mark until they get back up to their birth weight. Every two hours, 24/7. That means a typical day could have feedings at 6 a.m., 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m. 12 a.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m. The good news is that it is over quickly. The bad news is when you’re in that schedule, it feels like there is no way can you keep going. Trust us, you can!
Psych Yourself Up for the Routine - you can do this! Go into that crazy feeding schedule knowing you will be challenged but you will make it through. Try to think of each feeding as a positive because it means your child is gaining weight quickly. Once you are given the go-ahead by your paediatrician you can relax into 3-4 hour stretches between feedings.
Know Pain is Only Temporary
Understand that it’s natural for breastfeeding to feel painful at first, but your body toughens up and it gets easier. Many women fail when they begin breastfeeding because it’s uncomfortable. When a baby latches in the first few weeks there is about a 10 second “ow ow ow” where you hold your breath and tense up while your nipples have a weird sensation.
Pretty soon you’ll stop having to hold your breath and before you know it, latching is no big deal. Breastfeeding can feel uncomfortable at first, but with all new things, it becomes the norm quickly as your body and mind adjust.
Make sure you have a good nipple cream and use it from the get-go! We recommend the Natralogic Nipple cream which is certified organic and locally made. A good nipple cream can help soothe and alleviate the soreness and also heal the pain.
If the pain is too severe, please don't try to be a hero - seek the assistance of a lactation consultant. Your baby may have tongue-tie and this will interfere with your breastfeeding journey because the baby needs to be able to move his tongue forward, over his bottom lip, to cup the breast and exert some pressure to extract the milk. When that motion is restricted, the baby's attempts to get milk often lead to nipple damage and pain
While breastfeeding is natural, it does not always come naturally. You can never fully prepare for every single thing that will happen when baby comes home, being as informed as possible will give you a strong start. Make sure to watch our whole series of short videos from Doula Katrina Meek on our YouTube channel to have a good overall understanding of what to expect.
Breastfeeding will be a journey for you and your baby, from the early days of figuring things out until it’s time to wean. The knowledge and preparation you put into the start of that journey will pay off for both of you!
Our advice to any new mom who hopes to breastfeed is to follow the tips above and give yourself and your baby time to practice and learn together to figure out what works best for you.
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