7 Tips for Successfully Breastfeeding Your Newborn
By: Michelle Faoro, RN, IBCLC
Skin to Skin
Holding your baby skin to skin often not only promotes bonding, it also provides many other benefits to both mom and baby. Moms begin to learn the baby’s signs of hunger and discomfort which, in turn, boosts maternal confidence. Babies tend to cry less and sleep better decreasing mom and baby’s anxiety. Rates of postpartum depression are significantly decreased in moms that practice holding their babies on their skin often. Babies that are held skin to skin often in the first three months of life typically feed more frequently which means moms, consequently, produce more milk. Skin to skin is also scientifically proven to help your baby transition to extrauterine life by stabilizing blood sugar, regulating heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature. This is important for all babies but, especially critical for premature infants who tend to have difficulty regulating these processes on their own. Skin to skin relieves pain in newborns. Whether it’s a heelstick or more in-depth procedure, the degree of pain relief has been shown to correlate to the amount of time spent skin to skin. We also know it is linked to higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months. How soon should you begin? Right after delivery or as soon as mom and baby are stable enough. Dad can also do skin to skin if mom is unavailable. Check out this article from Sanford Health: https://news.sanfordhealth.org/childrens/the-importance-of-skin-to-skin-after-delivery-you-should-know/
Fine Tune the Latch
While you’re in the hospital work on the latch as much as possible and take advantage of the help available from Lactation and your postpartum nurses. Mom’s often know terminology such as “deep latch” but, aren’t quite sure how to recognize whether the latch is “right” or how to fix it if they are aware that the latch is not quite right. Practice while lactation observes you rather than just having someone latch for you. A poor latch will catch up with you quickly in the form of sore nipples, lower supply and possibly poor weight gain.
Your milk production is driven by supply-demand. Feeding on demand just means that you feed your baby whenever they show early feeding cues such as rooting, licking or smacking their lips, and bringing their hands to their mouth. Although feeding on cue is recommended, you’ll still want to ensure a minimum of 8 feeds every 24 hours. That means you may have to wake the baby to feed if they are not waking on their own for a minimum of 8 feeds. Breastfed babies often eat very frequently, referred to as “cluster feeding”. Cluster feeding is the way your baby increases your supply. The volume of the baby’s belly is only 5-7ml on day one and increases to 45-60 ml by the end of the first week. The milk supply of an exclusively breastfeeding mom typically goes from about 30 ml on day 1 to 750-800 ml at 1 month but, to do that your body needs the get the message that your baby needs more milk. As tempting as it may be to give a bottle when your baby is cluster feeding, keep the baby on the breast. In order to make enough milk for your baby remember to feed whenever your baby shows hunger cues.
Read our blog on Baby Led Feeding for more information on this topic.
Learn to Hand Express
Effective hand expression can be a lifesaver throughout the duration of breastfeeding but, it comes in especially handy (pun intended) in the first few days. Often, newborns that are very sleepy in the first day, have low blood sugar or difficulty latching can avoid excessive weight loss or the need for supplementation with formula if mom can provide her own expressed breast milk. Why hand express instead of pumping? The pump is not very effective for milk removal in the early days after delivery. Because your colostrum, which is the earlier milk that your body begins producing from about 12-18 weeks in your pregnancy through the first few days postpartum, is thicker and more concentrated, the compression used in hand expression is much more effective for milk removal. Studies show that what mothers do in terms of latching and milk removal frequency, in the first few days postpartum has a big impact on milk production potential. This is especially important for pump dependent mothers. Studies show that pump dependent moms that incorporated regular hand expression, typically, achieved substantially higher milk volumes than those that only pumped. There’s definitely a technique to hand expression and you’ll have to find what works best for you once you learn the basics. Ask for assistance from the hospital lactation consultant as often as needed. This video from Stanford is very helpful: https://med.stanford.edu/newborns/professional-education/breastfeeding/hand-expressing-milk.html
Seek Help Early On
The majority of moms experience some level of breastfeeding difficulty early on. Timely help is invaluable in achieving successful lactation. Seeing a lactation consultant prenatally and in the first week or two is always a great idea regardless of whether or not there is a perceived problem. Meeting with an IBCLC (International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant) can help you master the basics or may be that little bit of extra reassurance that all is well. If there is a concern, an IBCLC may help you to identify the issue early on and address it proactively. If you’re experiencing a difficult or painful latch, are concerned about your milk supply or unsure if your baby I getting enough milk, don’t wait to get help. Most of these issues can be worked out with the help of a skilled lactation consultant. So many moms are unable to reach their breastfeeding goals due to common issues that can usually be remedied with a little help.
Sleep When the Baby Sleeps
Newborns can be so inconsiderate. As if not sleeping for 2 days while in the hospital between being in labor and the constant influx of hospital staff in your room wasn’t enough, now your easy going newborn has turned into a nocturnal party animal. Sleeping during the day when the baby sleeps is essential to pushing through the first month of breastfeeding. Studies actually show that sleep deprivation increases sensitivity to pain, makes people less empathetic, leads to paranoid and delusional thoughts, weakens the immune system, triggers emotional instability and depression and exacerbates pre-existing anxiety and depression. That’s a pretty daunting list of problems that would best be avoided or at least minimized, if possible. Your newborn does actually sleep between 14-19 hours so, take advantage of the daytime sleeping hours to get the rest you need. The difference in your mood, outlook and ability to keep up with the demands of a new baby will be dramatic.
Keep Going…It Gets Easier!
You may be exhausted and wondering how you’ll ever make it through the first month, let alone, year. Even when breastfeeding is going well, it’s just not easy in the beginning. If you can push through, it does get easier and will actually become enjoyable. Aside from the difficulty, it takes time to develop a bond with your baby. Usually, somewhere around 40 days in, breastfeeding becomes significantly easier than bottle feeding and more enjoyable. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps during the day, make sure you eat and drink enough and accept all the help you can get from friends and family. You can do it!
This graph gives a good visual of the shift in the ease of breastfeeding over bottle feeding.
Call today for a private appointment with the Breastfeeding Team at Florida Craniofacial Institute, we can be reached at 813-870-6000.