“Just nurse him and your milk will come in. If you give him bottles, he won’t bother to nurse.”
“Forget about nursing. Give him formula, or he will be hungry and crying every two hours. He’ll lose weight, and you’ll
both be miserable.”
If you’re a first-time breastfeeder, you’re already confused. Just keeping it real. Breastfeeding at first is a maze of hot and cold compresses, trial and error, tears and exhaustion, wet diapers and more. The problem with being a first-time breastfeeder is the quasi-support you receive from everyone who has seen it all before. While not blasé to your struggles, breastfeeding vets often don’t see you as much as an individual as they do just another ... well, breastfeeder.
Reaching for help when your infant doesn’t latch properly, someone may stare down at your boob while telling you you’re doing “it” wrong. At home, exhausted, you may call your lactation support person who suggests ice packs but who’s now telling you to take a hot shower and relax. You are desperate NOT to give your baby a bottle of formula because your milk is not yet “established,” but then your mom-in-law does it anyway — behind your back — because she’s worried about the baby. WHAT?
Going in to breastfeeding, there’s only ONE thing that is certain amid all of the unknowns: you WILL be confused. No matter how much you prepare yourself, think you know what to expect or read about breastfeeding, once you have your infant in your arms, your heart and emotions take over and it’s difficult to “relax.”
Meanwhile, there are some tried-and-true examples that can help in your efforts to get started on “breast is best,” says Sherry A. Ross, M.D., author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. (Savio; 2018). In addition, Leigh Anne O’Connor, a lactation consultant and La Leche League leader says to begin by closing your ears to the assorted advice coming your way about how “best” to feed your baby. You are the one who knows best.
Here are our top five tips for getting started with breastfeeding:
1. Educate yourself.
Do your homework before Baby is born and join a lactation support group like La Leche League. Learn how often you should feed your infant and what that may “look” like for your first several weeks at home. Learn all of the different ways you can hold your infant during nursing. Say “yes” to support and make your intentions to breastfeed widely known to your family.
2. Get skin-to-skin.
Get used to having your infant on your chest. Discover which shirts and tops work best for you by practicing at home. Some women just prefer a soft T-shirt they can easily pull up. Going out with the baby will require more creativity with your modesty, although plenty of women today have mastered the art of “in-your-face” nursing and the heck with everone else.
3. Understand a good latch.
A “good” latch makes breastfeeding comfortable and is basically when your baby’s gums and jaw work together to provide a “clamp” on the areola part of your breast — not the nipple! If breastfeeding hurts, Baby’s latch is “off” and it’s time to reposition him. With a good latch, your infant can suck away and stimulate your glands to produce.
4. Nurse as much as Baby wants.
Before your milk “comes in,” the baby will get the colostrum only. That means that for the first several days after Baby’s birth, your milk ducts will not be filling with milk. But feed Baby every hour to stimulate the milk production. After about three or four days of this your milk WILL come in. This is when you start feeding your infant as much as he likes and in between, pumping to store up more for night time feedings, etc.
5. Keep Baby awake to nurse.
Know that you may have a sleepy baby or you may have a wakeful one. No matter what, your baby will drift off to sleep in the middle of a breastfeeding session, so be patient. Massage him to keep him awake, if you like, but be oh-so-gentle. There’s no rush, ever!
St. Thomas Midtown
Free breast-feeding clinic.
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Free breast-feeding support group.
Nashville Birth and Babies
Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline