10 breastfeeding tips for mom-to-be

I’m a huge fan of top ten lists, so in honor of National Breastfeeding Week, I worked out the top ten things I want to share with moms-to-be about to embark on their breastfeeding journey.

  1. Supply and demand – Number one on my list for a reason.  Your baby emptying your breast stimulates more milk to be made.  When baby demands, your breasts supply.  If baby demands less, your body slows production.  But sometimes, your body just thinks baby is demanding less.  Debbie Paige shares in her blog post Breastfeeding Interrupted a graphic showing how a bottle of formula during those early days of breastfeeding can disrupt the cycle of supply and demand.  But not only formula interrupts the cycle; instead, it could be ignoring feeding cues like rooting because it seems like  your baby just fed.
  2. Find support – I’m not talking about a Boppy pillow; I mean find people to support you.  Breastfeeding can be very isolating the first several weeks.  I remember being home alone with my daughter and feeling so overwhelmed when I couldn’t get her to latch.  Find support.  For me, an  introverted bibliophile, leaving the library with a stack of breastfeeding books was my support.  A little more mainstream would be to visit a lactation consultant, join a local Le Leche League group, or lean on a sister or friend with experience.
  3. Breast crawl – Seriously, if you haven’t before, search this on YouTube now.  Its amazing!  We picture human newborns as so defenseless when compared to say giraffe that can walk when only minutes old.  But, a human newborn can maneuver up her mom’s torsos and latch on to the breast within minutes of birth pretty much unaided.
  4. This visual – Where was this when I started nursing my daughter?  Cluster feeding is normal!  Colostrum is enough!  Your body and your baby are designed to work together.  Your milk will come in when your baby’s stomach is large enough to handle it.
  5. On demand – Breastfed babies don’t wear watches, and they do not know about the nifty charts designed for formula fed babies.  Instead, breastfed babies know that being close to you and sucking provide extreme comfort, so that is where they want to be.  They also know that to get your body to make more milk for them as they grow, they need to tell your body that demand is going up.  Watch your baby for feeding clues instead of the clock for how many minutes have past.
  6. No ounces – Just give up the notion of measuring what your baby eats in ounces.  You might sometimes be able to guess, but you will not know unless you plan to live at the doctor’s office and weigh junior before and after each feed.  Let it go.  Instead, learn to measure by wet and dirty diapers, your baby’s satiated behavior (including the milk drunk expression and dribble of milk down the chin), and the feel of your breasts.  Yup, you are going to be groping your own breasts a lot.
  7. Comfy spots –  Once you got the basics down, you can start nursing while baby wearing at the farmer’s market, but for now, you will be sitting, and hopefully laying at night (more on positions in a minute).  Keep some comfy spots well stocked with what you need to be comfortable for long periods of time.  My personal favorite: a book to read aloud to baby and a smartphone to provide distraction when I need to stay awake or to text hubby in the next room to come help.
  8. Try different positions – What works day 1 might not be the same as day 5 or day 21 or day 100.  Your body is healing from labor, your breast are changing as milk production kicks into high gear, and baby is growing.  A new position might be all you need to get the best latch, to subdue a forceful let down, or to unplug a sore duct heading off mastitis.
  9. The pump is not your baby – Until you have circumstances that require it, don’t even take that pump out of the box.  Its your baby’s job to empty your breast so your baby is going to do it the best.  I have a combined 34 months of breastfeeding under my belt, but never pumped more than a couple ounces at a time.  Don’t let the pump dictate if you have low supply.  Trust your baby, not the ounce indicator lines on your milk storage bags.  And if you do determine you do have low supply, put baby to breast more often rather than the pump whenever possible.
  10. Take pictures – The day will come when nursing seems so ingrained in your being that you believe you will never forget every detail.  But you will.  Take pictures.  Write down your thoughts.  Someday your child will wean, and the feel of his legs tucked against your side, the smell of her bedtime lotion, the sweet sting of let down — all these will begin to fade.  Take a moment to capture it, even if you never share it with anyone but yourself.