Breastfeeding: Getting Off to a Great Start

I’ll admit that I didn’t do much to prepare for breastfeeding while pregnant with my first child. I think I read one chapter in a breastfeeding book and watched 2 videos on latching the week before I gave birth. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, so why would I need to read and research it? I quickly discovered that while breastfeeding is natural, there’s also a learning curve for both mom and baby; one I was not prepared for. By day 3 I was supplementing with formula, and by 6 weeks I had given up on breastfeeding altogether. Breastfeeding for those six weeks was painful and frustrating.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second I was determined to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. I read as many articles and books as I could get my hands on. I watched countless videos on latching and positioning. And I learned to trust my instincts. I successfully breastfed my daughter for over 9 months and enjoyed that time with her. Here are my tips for those first few weeks to insure breastfeeding success.


Breast Crawl

Instead of forcing baby to latch immediately after birth, I did something known as the breast crawl, or baby led latching. I simply held her vertically, skin to skin, on my chest. After about 40 minutes of dozing on me, she started rooting around. I supported her, but did not force anything. I watched as she found her way to the breast and latched on with no help from me. There was no forcing it on my part. No awkward holds. No frustration on her part. She latched perfectly that first night and we never had issues with latching.

Nurse Often

It’s important to remember in the first weeks that there is no such thing as nursing too often. You should expect to breastfeed at least 10-12 times a day. You may be feeding ever 2 hours around the clock, or your baby may cluster feed. Both are completely normal and crucial for a good breastfeeding start. So don’t worry about the clock. Follow your baby’s cues and offer the breast as often as possible. This will do 3 things:

-Signal your body to start producing more milk

-Help with proper latch and milk intake

-Help with engorgement

Watch For Hunger Cues

Its important to feed the baby before they are crying. Crying is a late hunger cue, and many times if you wait until baby is crying it can be hard to get the baby to get a good latch, unless you calm them down first. So the baby is hungry and crying, but not taking the breast, mom is frustrated and stressed and in turn it causes the baby to cry more in relation to the stress she is reading from the mother. Instead, feed the baby when you see early hunger cues such as rooting and lip smacking. By feeding at the first sign of hunger you have a better chance of keeping baby and mom calm and experiencing a good nursing period.

Is Baby Getting Enough?

How do I know if baby is getting enough milk? This is probably the number one question for breastfeeding moms. There are several ways to tell if baby is getting enough.

-Time spent at the breast. Once your milk comes in its important that baby spends at least 10 minutes on each side to make sure they are getting the rich, caloric hindmilk. As baby gets older they will be more efficient at getting the milk out, but until then encourage your sleepy newborn to take a full feeding.

-Wet and dirty diapers. You should see 1 dirty diaper on day 1, 2 on day 2, 3 on day 3, etc until you’re milk comes in between days 3-5. By day 5 you should be changing 5 or 6 wet diapers, and it’s very likely baby may stool after every feeding. Stools will start out black, then green, and by day 5 wil be a yellow color. Stools will be runny and possibly seedy.

-Contentment and Development. Is baby happy and content between feedings? Is baby experiencing times of being alert, as well as good sleep? If baby appears to be content and healthy then there is a good chance they are getting enough.

-Weight Gain. Tracking baby’s weight is the most obvious way of making sure baby is getting enough. Babies lose on average 7% of their body weight after birth, so tracking weight is something that you’re pediatrician will watch for in the first couple of weeks. However, it’s important to remember that breastfed babies gain weight at a slower pace than formula-fed babies. For many breastfed babies it could take 2 weeks before they have gained back the weight they lost at birth.

Talk to a Lactation Consultant

If you have any questions or concerns the best thing to do is seek out professional help. Phone a lactation consultant, schedule an in-person meeting, or attend a breastfeeding group. You’ll receive valuable information as well as great support.

It can be tempting to supplement in the first couple weeks to see faster weight gain, but as long as baby is making good output, feeding 8-12 times a day (with good latch), and is happy and content between nursing sessions,  you can be confident that baby is getting enough breast milk. Enjoy the breastfeeding journey!


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