Breastfeeding: 7 Strategies for Success

By: Dahlia Frydman, IBCLC & Doula

One of the most frequent questions expectant moms ask me is: “How do I prepare to breastfeed? ” We used to tell moms they had to “toughen up their nipples” but now research has shown, (thank heavens) that “nipple toughening” makes no difference. Here are some practical tips to help you prepare:

1. NO PLASTIC
Just Momma! Specify on your birth plan that no artificial nipples, pacifiers or formula be given to your baby unless medically necessary (if supplemental feedings are required you can use a syringe or SNS).  This helps both you and your baby.  It helps you because the frequent suckling will stimulate your mature milk to come in sooner and help reduce engorgement.  It helps your baby because while sucking is an inherent reflex, breastfeeding is a learned behavior and practice makes perfect.  Suckling helps them relax and feel secure, and avoiding artificial substitutes helps prevent nipple confusion.

2. NATURAL BABY
Studies show,oms whose births include multiple interventions have lower rates of prolonged breastfeeding. Research further concludes, “Having a doula or trained birth coach attend to you during labor results in no use or lower rates of anesthesia/ medication during labor and shorter births” {Childbirth Connection’s Cochrane Review of studies on continuous labor support (2003, 2007)}.  But not to worry, most babies do just fine, regardless of interventions.  If you end up having an epidural or other interventions and your baby needs a little bit more time before they can breastfeed just keep offering and provide lot’s of skin to skin cuddling.  If you are committed and patient, I promise, it will all work out.

3. SUPPORT
It’s very helpful to take a prenatal breastfeeding class. In addition to learning some hands on techniques for positioning and nursing your newborn, you will be receive valuable tips for avoiding or overcoming challenges during the early postpartum period.  Does your hospital or birth center have a lactation consultant on staff? If not call around and select one you have a good rapport with. (most insurance companies reimburse for lactation services) Find out if she can visit you within the first 24 hours if things aren’t going well. Hopefully you won’t need it, but better to be prepared. Some lactation consultants will even be willing to answer a few questions by phone  (no charge) and getting expert advice early on can make a world of difference.   (Find an IBCLC: http://www.ilca.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3432)

4. SUPPLIES
Two good supportive nursing bras, (your breast size at two weeks postpartum is your new “real” size during your nursing career) nursing pads, nipple cream, (LOVE Earth Mama Angel Baby)  frozen peas/gel packs and cabbage (sparingly) to ease breast soreness/engorgement.  Some moms also like having a glider/rocker, nursing pillow, breast pump (free thru your Insurance) and milk storage bags.

5. LATCH
Breastfeed your baby shortly after you deliver. Babies who are breastfed within the first hour postpartum generally have more successful breastfeeding experiences than those who aren’t.  Many medical procedures can be done while the baby is on you and breastfeeding. Weight checks and baths can wait while this critical milestone is unhurriedly taking place. Breastfeeding is so much more than nutrition—it’s brain wiring!

6. SCHEDULED OR FEED ON DEMAND
Baby led feeding is lovely! Babies know when they are hungry and know how much they need.  If we follow their cues they won’t be over or underfed. Instead, their nutrition intake will be just right.  But start this after the first 1-2 weeks.  All newborns lose weight in the first week of life and are very sleepy!  Your breasts need frequent stimulation and regular emptying to signal milk production. Thus, in order to reduce weight loss, decrease baby’s bilirubin levels, increase your milk production and relieve engorgement, it is advisable during the first 2 weeks of life; during the daytime wake your baby to feed at least every 3 hours (and sooner if they like) and every 4-5 hours during the night.  After your two week pediatrician appointment if baby’s weights have stabilized and your milk supply has regulated you can feel relaxed about following your baby’s cues for feeding.

7. MAMMA CARE
Sleep when baby sleeps; it is a necessity!  In fact, mother nature has built rest & recovery right into your chemistry.  You may notice how sleepy you get 30-45 minutes after you breastfeed?  This is due to the spike in serum prolactin levels (“the mothering hormone”) and CCK (a gut hormone signaling when you are satiated). Your only job in the early postpartum weeks is to let your body gently heal from childbirth and to keep breastfeeding. Transitioning into motherhood is the biggest adjustment of your life.  You will remember and enjoy it so much more if you are feeling peaceful & rested.

Congratulations & enjoy your new baby!
Resources:
•    “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by LLL International. Or visit a La Leche League meeting.  They are located in every city and it’s a wonderful peer to peer support network.  Learn from other nursing moms and connect with new mommy friends.
•    “Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding”, Ina May Gaskin Midwife
•    “Nursing Mother’s Companion”,  Kathleen Huggins R.N.
•    “The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers” Dr. Jack Newman


Dahlia Frydman, IBCLC & Doula, can be contacted at www.YourIdealBirth.com