I hear the story again and again of women trying to breastfeed but stopping quickly because it didn’t work out- whether the baby didn’t take to the breast, the mom wasn’t producing enough breastmilk or it was just too difficult. What if I told you these things are preventable? And that it does get easier? Women don’t get the education and support they need in order to establish a strong breastfeeding relationship with their baby. They also aren’t always educated on how beneficial breastmilk is for babies, but I’ll share that in another post.
Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of breastfeeding success:
• Be patient. Breastfeeding is really really hard in the beginning. Both you and baby are new to this and even though it’s instinctual, you both have a lot of learning to do. I promise, it’s hard work well worth it. You’re giving your baby the best nutrition possible, helping them build their immune system and creating such a special bond with them. ️
• Feed on demand. Don’t worry about putting baby on a feeding schedule from day 1. They’re hungry. A lot. Even if you feel like they want to be on your boob 24/7 in the beginning, allow it and embrace this time on the couch because it won’t last for long.
• Do not supplement with formula, especially in the first few days. For the first three days after your baby is born, you will only produce colostrum in very small amounts . This is all your baby needs. It is very dense and baby's stomach is only the size of a cherry at this point. At this time, your body is producing exactly what it needs to and your baby does not need formula on top of this.
• Lots of skin to skin, not just the day they’re born, but for the first few weeks. This helps create a bond and signals to your breasts that there’s a baby who needs milk!
• Avoid giving baby a bottle for the first month, or 2 weeks at the very least. You produce the amount of milk that baby demands. So if you’re supplementing with a bottle, you boobs get the hint that they’re not needed.
• Check for tongue and lip ties. These often go undetected and can be detrimental for breastfeeding. It can be painful for mom and make it difficult for baby to latch and/or efficiently eat. Tongue and lip tie procedures take about 30 seconds and can spare you a lot of pain and frustration.
• Drink water. Breastmilk is composed of mostly water, so be sure to drink A LOT. If you’re dehydrated, not only will you feel crappy but your supply will likely decrease. I always had a huge glass of water within arms reach. Using a straw also makes it easier.
• Eat! You burn about 500 extra calories a day to produce milk. If you don’t eat enough, you won’t make enough. Some foods you can consume to help with milk production are oats, flax, fenugreek, healthy fats, and brewers yeast. Make sure your meals and snacks contain enough protein and healthy fats for staying power. Sugar will do you no favors. Keep snacks nearby so you always have easy access when hunger strikes.
• Get help from a lactation consultant. They can your baby get a good latch and help you with positioning. And so much more!
• Avoid induction for the birth, specifically using pitocin. Pitocin is synthetic oxytocin, which is the hormone that not only induces labor, but also signals the breasts to release milk. When given pitocin, the release of oxytocin is inhibited (because the body thinks it's already there!). This can lead to difficulty with maintaining a good supply from the start. Oxytocin is also the hormone that makes you feel connected and head over heals in love with your baby the moment they are born. You may feel less of a connection with you baby at first if you had been given pitocin.
• Co-sleep. Being near your baby at all times, especially in the early days, can help increase milk production. And you can hear when they’re hungry right away so they don’t get worked up and start crying so hard they can’t nurse.
I can say from personal experience (and from observing others) that all these little things add up to success. We were thrown a lot of curveballs in the first days of Rory’s life: tongue tie, lip tie, thrush, a period of decrease in supply at 2 months after I was away from him for a day, but we both hung in there. We didn’t really get into a good groove until he was about 6 weeks old, and that’s normal! Yes, it can be so difficult, painful, frustrating. But once getting over this hump, it gets so much easier! We are now 7 months into this journey and I can’t imagine ever not breastfeeding. Not only is it the best option nutritionally, but it’s so easy, saves a ton of money, and gives us time to connect. I know I will miss these days when they are over.
Here are some of my favorite products that helped me with breastfeeding.