Breastfeeding Your Baby

The Basics Every Mom Should Know

General Info for All.

Confidence and relaxation matter! I have had many instances when I focussed on pumping (because I was on a schedule, was worried about getting enough, etc) and after 20 minutes or more only had drops of milk in the bottle. After relaxing and working on visualizations or distraction during the very same pumping session the milk would start to flow and I’d get plenty! I was SHOCKED no one ever told me how much this mattered. The more you worry and focus on whether or not you can nurse and provide enough milk, the more difficult it is.

Try to do everything in your power to build your confidence AND relax. For each woman this is different. It may mean gathering information ahead of time, reading, watching videos, talking to others, going to LLL meetings, etc. It may mean guided meditations or visualizations prior to or during nursing/pumping. Or, it may even mean distractions such as playing a computer game, watching a movie or reading a book while nursing/pumping. Experiment with what works for you.

Ask for a lesson ... right away, in the hospital. There are nurses or lactation consultants that can help you hands-on and in-person with your nipples and your baby. You don’t need to feel like you're struggling to ask!

If you need further help, ask ask ask. Other nursing moms, le leche leagues, lactation consultants, postpartum doulas. The more hands-on and in-person, the better. You will get varied advice. Choose what really works for you. My midwives said it best, “sanity over ideology!”

There are some lactation consultants who do house calls and come to you if you’re at home. Here is one I’ve heard positive reviews of:

It is very normal to worry about your baby getting enough milk and most moms really do make enough. The best way to tell is by a) watching numbers of wet diapers and b) watching the baby’s front soft spot. If it dips in and you can see the pulse clearly, your baby may be dehydrated.

Frequency and duration are NOT the best indicators of your milk supply. Although the books tell you how babies 'should' nurse, some babies like to suck longer, more frequently, power nurse, etc. Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t fit the mold! Again, do what works for you and your baby.

Each mom’s milk is different. Some mom’s make fattier milk which may be more filling, while the opposite may also be true. Don’t get attached to the amount your baby 'should' be drinking. Pay attention to their health and spirit - an alert and thriving baby is what matters.

In the first week, your baby will be monitored for weight loss. Keep in mind that the smaller your baby is at birth the more narrow margin he or she will have of an acceptable amount of weight loss. 10% of a 5 1/2 lbs baby is just a half pound, while a 9 lb. baby has a pound. Don’t be discouraged or frightened and just keep this in mind.

Breastfeeding ANY amount is one of the best things you can do for your baby. Don’t worry about having to do it perfectly. If you even do one feeding a day with breastmilk it is well worth it! USE FORMULA if you need to. Fed is best! Do what you can with breast milk and fill any gaps as needed. This is the sanest and most sustainable way to successfully breastfeed. An all or nothing mentality leads to women feeling like failures and “giving up.” Remember, “Sanity over Ideology!” Do the version that you CAN and works for you and your baby and boobs!

Breastfeeding a newborn takes roughly the equivalent amount of time as working full time, not to mention the work it takes your body to make the milk. Remind yourself and your partner of this and have realistic expectations on what you’ll be able to do while nursing your new baby. It does get easier and is all well worth the effort.

Support does matter! An invested and supportive partner and social network has been shown to be statistically significant in promoting longer and more successful nursing. 

Promoting More Milk.

Supply is based on frequency and not duration*. Try increasing frequency if possible. If your baby isn’t interested don’t hesitate to pump between feedings. Just be sure not to sacrifice your sleep or sanity to do so as that cancels itself right out!

*Unless you stimulate multiple let downs of milk in one feeding/pumping session. If this is the case, you will also increase supply! I was trying to pump less often but longer when I was trying to DECREASE my milk and getting 2 let downs per pumping session and my supply kept going UP! My lactation consultant said, not everyone can get multiple let downs in one session, but if there are more than one it is a STRONG signal to make more milk!

Sufficient calories are needed to make milk. Try increasing your food intake, especially naturally red foods (beets, berries) as well as dark leafy greens, nuts (trail mix is great), eggs, and some meat (especially soups made with soup bones and slow cooked meats with bones like roasts).

Drink sufficient amounts of fluids. Watch your urine color and NOT ounces to tell if you're getting enough.

Keep baby as close as possible. Baby wearing, slings, sleeping with baby, holding baby, skin on skin - this will all stimulate more milk. Try taking baths with baby and nursing in the bathtub.

Try herbs. Mu Tong is a very gentle Chinese herb that is helpful for most women. If you are interested in trying it, please ask me! You might also try fenugreek tea or mother’s milk tea.

If you had blood loss or taxation with your birth, consider adding an extra iron supplement. I highly recommend Floradix Iron and herbs to build back up your blood which will also help increase milk.

Avoid drying foods and drugs. Spicy foods, antihistamines, decongestants and hormonal forms of birth control can all decrease milk supplies.

Lifestyle matters! If you are exercising more than your body can handle right now, sleeping too little, or working (mentally or physically) too hard, you may have too little left to make more milk.

Revisit the stress and confidence suggestions. It is a slippery slope, the more you focus on milk amount, the less it will freely flow! 

Too Much Milk.

Be sure to follow the avoiding issues section and consider block feeding techniques and calling a lactation consultant. Be kind to yourself too! Not many women expect to have too much milk, but it can be a big challenge and lead to lots of discomfort and even pain. If you cannot decrease your supply and still have more milk than you need, there are some wonderful places you can donate your extra milk. Google "breast milk donation" or "milk share" for programs including milk for adopted babies, babies of mother’s with AIDS, etc. See below: Blocked Ducts and Mastitis.


Avoiding Issues

Blocked Ducts and Mastitis - Avoiding Issues.

Nurse, nurse, and nurse some more. Unrestricted feedings for 2 - 3 weeks is essential for establishing milk supply and keeping it moving. Routinely feel your breasts to check for painful areas or lumps, especially if you have an extra abundant milk supply. Should you find them, nurse your baby with his/her chin pointing towards the lump to help drain that area of the breast. Get creative with positions if you need to! Use hot compresses or aim the shower head at any areas that feel full or blocked and massage them out. Getting good at hand expressing is also super helpful in avoiding blocked ducts! If you know how to hand express you can get good at specifically draining a certain duct. It’ll be sore, but can help you avoid full on mastitis!

Stimulate the MER (milk ejection reflex). You can do this in the shower or before / during pumping by leaning forwards and gently shaking your breasts from side to side. This helps the milk let down and come out freely.

Put cooked cabbage leaves over any red, blocked areas should other preventative techniques not work. Get medical help if you get a fever or feel fluish. If you do need antibiotics be sure to supplement with probiotics while you take them.

Thrush - Yeast Infection.

If your baby has a thick white coat on her/his tongue or a clearly defined very red diaper rash or your nipples are red and irritated or you have “stabby” or burning pain with your milk letting down, there is a good chance you have thrush. You may find you have some or all symptoms. Thrush is especially stressful because it passes from mom to baby and back and must be treated in both to be corrected. Try as many of the following for at least 10 - 14 days for the best chance at naturally correcting the situation.

Wash all affected areas with a very dilute vinegar water - preferably unpasturized cider vinegar - 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1/2 gallon water. Put this on nipples before nursing to get some in baby’s mouth too.

Wash all things that come in contact with affected areas in vinegar water (1/2 cup per load).

Use topical anti-fungal cream on nipples and diaper area as needed, but be sure to wash off before nursing.

Use gentian violet, but be careful, it stains!!!

Boil all pump and bottle parts each time you use them.

Change nursing pads and diapers frequently since yeast thrive in hot moist environments.

Expose affected areas to sunlight if possible - yeast doesn’t like the sun.

Take probiotics and give baby probiotics too.

Decrease sugar (including fruits and dairy) and simple carbs. 

DON’T feel bad if you need to take an antifungal prescription! I did EVERYTHING natural for weeks to get rid of thrush and eventually took Diflucan for over a week and finally kicked it. Some situations are stubborn and it’s not a failure to do what you need to to feel better!