Breastfeeding. A scary word for some. An intriguing word for me.
I wanted nothing more than to be able to breastfeed my son once I found out I was pregnant. No woman in my family had breastfed beyond 1 month prior to me. Since I’m a Dietitian, I had listened to several podcasts about the benefits of breastfeeding to my baby and myself and I was DETERMINED to do it.
And now, 11 months have passed and we are STILL SUCCESSFULLY BREASTFEEDING.
My goal is to breastfeed until my son weans himself, whenever that may be.
We’ve had ups and downs along the way, but besides the determination and sleepy nights, there were a few things that set us up for a strong breastfeeding foundation.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR BREASTFEEDING SUCCESS.
(1) First, what kind of hospital are you delivering at? Are you delivering at a hospital or at home?
If you are delivering at a hospital, is it a “baby friendly” one?
“Baby–Friendly” is the official description of an initiative created by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to encourage hospitals all over the world to promote healthy feeding choices for infants.
The hospital you choose doesn’t have to be a certified “baby-friendly” hospital to guarantee breastfeeding success. The one I delivered at wasn’t and I am still successfully breastfeeding 11 months later.
However, make sure your place of delivery has nursing staff that have breastfeeding experience and preferably, an IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) or CLC (certified lactation consultant) on staff. Make sure baby will be rooming in with you at night and that formula and pacifiers are NOT offered to your baby unless medically necessary.
It would be an added bonus if they offer a breastfeeding clinic that you can go to also.
These are ALL best practices that my hospital did have and I truly believe they contributed to my breastfeeding success.
(2) Have a plan with your healthcare provider about how the birthing process will go.
You and your healthcare provider should strive for baby to be skin to skin directly after birth regardless if the birthing method is vaginal or cesarean. This helps with the breast crawl and latching process.
Some babies naturally latch themselves on if you let them go through the “breast crawl” process. Others need a little help.
I had SEVERAL nurses at my discretion that had helped moms breastfeed before. They were there in the hospital when I needed to support and to stay on top of feeding my baby frequently. It’s VERY important that you nurse or “move milk” by hand expression pretty frequently within the first 10 hours of your baby’s life.
And babies are super sleepy during this time period so it’s important that you know how to look for signs that the baby is ready to latch.
I created a Breastfeeding Help in the Hospital Guide for new mom’s to be able to take to the hospital with them. They can use this when trying to get baby to latch.
(3) Perfecting the Latch for breastfeeding.
I work at WIC (Women Infants and Children) and am a CLC myself. When I ask parents how they know that their baby is hungry, the #1 answer I get is, because he/she is crying. Crying is actually a LATE sign of hunger. If you try latching your baby when he/she is already crying, they may become frustrated very easily.
We want to look for EARLY SIGNS TO LATCH:
- REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement – when baby’s eyes are going back and forth – this is a deep sleep for us adults but a light sleep for baby)
- Quietly alert (meaning his eyes are open but he isn’t making much noise)
- Active alert (eyes open, moving around and maybe cooing)
Other signs to look for include: when baby is rooting (turning towards you and mouthing), when baby’s fists are closed tightly.
There are different positions that you can try like the football, however, I always thought cradling my baby (picture below) was the most comfortable for both of us. Whichever position you choose, baby should be positioned (tummy to mummy, shoulders and hips squared to mom).
The picture above is a good example of what baby should look like when positioned correctly.
Baby may not always latch perfectly on the first go. They introduced a nipple shield to me at the hospital because Ben was having trouble latching due to my nipples being flat. They also had me wear these Medela Soft Shells to help draw my nipple out. I think they helped a little bit.
I used the shield (when I had to) at night or when it seemed like he was getting really frustrated trying to latch during the day. But I ALWAYS TRIED TO LATCH FIRST. The shield was just a crutch to get us by. I went to breastfeeding clinic for the first time at 2 weeks, the lactation consultant helped Ben get a good latch and we never used the nipple shield again.
Dont give up
If you can’t get baby to latch right away, you can try these things that were given to me. Although, there is no research that they are proven to work. You can also express your COLOSTRUM into a spoon INSTEAD OF A BOTTLE and feed it to baby that way. Doing this prevents nipple confusion from giving them a bottle.
(4) Ongoing support for breastfeeding.
The best thing that I had throughout my breastfeeding journey is support. Whenever I had a question, I asked the lactation consultant at breastfeeding clinic or the one I took my hypnobirthing class through.
When I was doubting myself and the process, I just asked questions and I can’t explain how helpful and reassuring it was to talk with someone who had been through it before.
It is common for moms to think that they don’t have enough milk to feed baby adequately. I think this happens right around the time that the baby starts cluster feeding.
Common breastfeeding problems
What is CLUSTER FEEDING?
Cluster feeding is what the baby does to bring in more milk. They do it roughly at 4 weeks, 6 weeks, and 8 weeks. However, every baby is different so your baby might do it earlier or later than that.
Cluster feeding made me feel like my baby wasn’t getting enough milk. He would nurse all evening long going from one side to the other and get upset because my milk wasn’t letting down very quickly. But your baby is getting enough and this process is NECESSARY for the baby to increase your milk supply and help bring in more milk.
If you supplement with formula at this time, it could really affect your milk supply and your ability to have enough milk to feed your baby long term.
What is a CLOGGED DUCT?
A clogged duct is when one of the milk ducts in your breast tissue that leads to the nipple gets clogged with milk. This can happen for many reasons. Some of those include:
- tight fitting clothes
- bra underwire
- change in baby’s feeding patterns
- if the breast isn’t completely drained at feedings or pump times.
The best way to beat a clogged duct is to PREVENT IT. However, if you find yourself with one, there are several things you can try to get rid of it. When I recently thought I had a clogged duct, these were some strategies I tried to get rid of it:
- Hot shower or hot bath (in a bath with jets if you can). You can also try dangling your breast in the warm water to help it let down.
- Hot or cold compress – for this I would literally run a towel under hot water, ring it out, then put it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, lay it on my hardwood floor, then lay belly down on the towel so your breast is compressed.
- Dangle feeding or pumping. Since my son didn’t feed very well on the side I had a clogged duct in, I tried dangle pumping to let gravity do its thing. This has worked very well for some of my friends.
- Having your husband, partner, or spouse suck it out. Okay this one can seem gross, but trust me, you might try anything you can in a clogged duct situation and it WORKS. Sometimes the force of a baby or pump suck just isn’t enough to get the clog out.
- Massage. Massage by putting your thumb where you think the clog is and then “stripping” towards your nipple. This is the advice a fellow a lactation consultant gave to me!
What is MASTITIS?
Mastitis means there is inflammation in the breast tissue that could involve some type of infection. It can be in one or both breasts. Normally, it only affects one breast. If it is in both breasts, that can mean a more serious infection.
You can still breastfeed if you have mastitis. In fact, it is necessary to keep removing milk from that side so a) you don’t lose your supply and b) you don’t get engorged which could make the problem worse.
It is ideal to nurse or pump every 3 hours when you have mastitis and continue massage and hot showers as if you had a clogged duct.
In my situation, I thought I had a massive clogged duct because it felt like a tennis ball.
However, the outside of my breast started to turn red and hot and then I knew I had mastitis and needed to start an antibiotic ASAP.
If you think this is your situation, call you doctor and tell them your situation immediately. If you have an IBCLC or CLC (lactation consultant) that you go to, you can also have them look at it and see what they recommend.
After I tried everything, I ended up going to my local breastfeeding clinic. When the IBCLC looked at my breast, she immediately recommended to my midwife that I start an antibiotic.
Once I started the antibiotic, it was almost immediate relief of the redness and hotness.
As I continued the antibiotic, the swelling and mass in my breast started to go down. This really helped with feeding because I was able to let down more milk and please my baby.
I was so worried about my milk supply when I found out I had mastitis. I did have to supplement with some frozen breast milk I had in the freezer for about a week, however, my supply bounced back after that.
SUPPORT IS NECESSARY.
Even though I am a certified lactation consultant myself, I didn’t have much experience with many moms with clogged ducts and mastitis up until this point. I just don’t see it much where I work at WIC. So it was crucial for me to have another person, a second opinion to help me through this and assure me everything would be okay!
If you have additional questions regarding breastfeeding success or problems, please feel free to leave a comment on this post or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Breastfeeding! 🙂