This is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and we’re celebrating over here at Overlake OB/GYN. How much do we love breastfeeding? Oh, let us count the ways! The more we learn about the amazing powers of breastfeeding, the more we feel compelled to spread the word. Just a few of the many important reasons to breast feed your baby include:
- It’s an incredible bonding experience for both mother and baby, releasing regular doses of oxytocin (the “love” hormone) every time you nurse. Babies are nearsighted for quite some time so breastfeeding is also a chance for your baby to enjoy up-close and personal time with her favorite face in the world.
- Breastfed babies are typically sick less often and grow up with lower rates of asthma, diabetes and childhood obesity. In addition to providing the exact amount of fats, proteins, carb, vitamins and minerals your baby needs, your breastmilk is loaded with probiotics and antibodies that simply can’t be replicated by formula no matter how hard the manufacturers try.
- Studies show that breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancers, and women who breastfeed seem to have better odds of surviving breast cancer if they do get it.
- It’s FREE and you don’t have to warm, mix or shake it in the middle of the night. No bottles and nipples to clean.
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 tips to ensure breastfeeding success. If you’re feeling discouraged about breastfeeding your baby, please contact Overlake ASAP so we can refer you to your local La Leche League, a lactation specialist and/or a breastfeeding support group near you. You will be so happy you stuck with it – and soon, we assure you, it will be old hat!
We would like to impress upon you that the actual percentage of women who physically can’t breastfeed is less than 5%, and most breastfeeding experts feel it is closer to 1% and 2%. In other words, a physical inability to breastfeed is incredibly rare, and it should be diagnosed via multiple opinions from lactation consultants and/or breastfeeding-friendly OBs or midwives. We are NOT addressing those issues here. The following tips are for the large majority of women who can and will be able to breastfeed with knowledge, support and encouragement.
10 Tips for Breastfeeding Success
- Choose a birthing team that supports breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should begin as soon as possible after your baby is born. In order for that to happen, you need to choose a birthing team that places a high-priority on breastfeeding. Talk to your OB/GYN about the breastfeeding resources they offer. If you are delivering at a hospital, choose one that has lactation consultants on-site. You may want to check with a local La Leche League group to see which hospitals their lactation consultants have found to be the most supportive of breastfeeding.
- Get in touch with your local La Leche League before you go into labor. We would love to say that breastfeeding is always easy, but it isn’t always easy at the start – especially for first-time mothers. It can take a little loving assistance and a well-trained eye to help you position the baby so she can get a nice, deep, firm latch – reducing nipple friction and other breastfeeding complications. Go to a La Leche League meeting before you have your baby so you can meet a few new moms, hear their stories and get to know the leaders. This will make it much easier for you to reach out if you need assistance down the road.
- Get a Copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. This book is a phenomenal resource for women who plan to breastfeed, who are breastfeeding or who are having difficulty breastfeeding. Published by La Leche League, International, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding incorporates a ton of research, solutions for virtually any breastfeeding problem that may arise, stories and quotes from real breastfeeding moms, and tips for breastfeeding through various stages of infant/babyhood. All of it is delivered with a compassionate respect for you – “if it doesn’t feel right for you, skip this and move on…” We highly recommend reading this if you are pregnant, but it’s imperative to have it on-hand once the baby comes.
- Be gentle with yourself. Breastfeeding can be a little tricky. It’s an amazing dance between your body and your baby’s. If you start to get anxious, nervous or frustrated with the process – those emotions will transfer right to your baby and he’ll feel the same way, which makes it much more difficult. Be gentle with yourself and know that you are both in this together, and with the right support and resources, you’ll be breastfeeding like pros in no time. Any breastfeeding challenges you’re experiencing will fade quickly (believe it or not!) once you’re on the right track.
- Use tons of pillows. You want to support your body as much as possible so it is comfortable, and not all bent up in awkward and uncomfortable positions. Prop yourself up with pillows – including under your arms, to provide enough support.
- Cultivate a healthy latch. Ultimately, your baby’s latch is the key to successful breastfeeding. You’d think that the baby sucks directly on the nipple; In fact, the baby actually takes the nipple deeper back into its mouth and works the area just past the nipple to extract the milk. Click Here to get an idea of how far your nipple will actually be in the baby’s mouth. Click Here to see a picture of a healthy latch from the exterior view. You may need to squeeze or flatten your nipple out and push it into your baby’s mouth further than he’s originally taking it for the first week or so. His mouth should almost completely cover your areola and his lips should be flanged outward, following the line of your upper and lower breast (rather than folded to the inside, which creates friction on your nipple). Once you’ve had a “good latch,” you’ll know the difference.
- Understand “fore” and “hind” milk. The first bit of milk that is released is called the “foremilk” and it is a little more watery than hindmilk. The hindmilk is much more fatty. For that reason, it’s important that your baby get to drink as much milk as he or she wants – rather than being on a timer. If you stop a feeding before your baby is done, she is missing out on valuable calories, nutrients and hydration. These days, the general consensus is that baby-led feeds are the way to go. Timing your baby’s feeding deprives the baby of nourishment. Babies, contrary to old-school beliefs, are NOT manipulative – they are instinctual and they ask for what they need, when they need it. A baby-led, breastfed baby is usually a happy baby!
- Don’t panic. Unfortunately, even educated OBs will inspire fear in the hearts of new mothers when they are struggling with breastfeeding, commenting on a baby losing weight, or encouraging formula feeding to “feed” the baby until you can breastfeed sufficiently. In the large majority of cases, your baby will be just fine and, in fact, feeding your baby formula can inhibit your body’s ability to make milk because it is a demand-supply relationship. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you produce. The less you breastfeed, the less milk you produce. This is why your choice of OB and/or midwife is SO important. You want to make sure you’re working with a professional who will give you breastfeeding-friendly support and advice, not one who pushes you to give up within the first week or two, or who promotes formula use.
- Keep your baby close to the bed. Getting up to go into another room to breastfeed can make the process that much harder – especially for the first few months. We recommend using a co-sleeper or keeping the baby’s crib/bassinet in the same room as you during the baby’s infancy so she’s never more than a step or a reach away.
- Try to avoid “schedules” Almost every “feeding schedule” experts have ever come up with has been debunked over time. Your baby knows when he needs food and his feeding cycles will change considerably and rapidly in relationship to his physical and intellectual growth. Some weeks, your baby will seem like he’s on a wonderful, every 2-hour schedule. The next week he will be “cluster-feeding” (wanting to eat in shorter feeds, much more frequently). It’s all okay – your baby knows when he is thirsty and hungry and you should trust his needs.
Are you concerned about breastfeeding? Looking for a team of OB/GYN and midwives that prioritize breastfeeding after delivery and provide plenty of post-natal breastfeeding support? Contact Overlake OB/GYN.