As an expectant mother prepares for life with a little one, finding the feeding plan that’s right for her and her child is important. Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed (pumped milk or formula), what’s important is that your baby is fed, and as mom, you know what’s best for your baby.
Should breastfeeding be the route you choose, we know it can be a little nerve-wracking at first. Learning the scheduling and method takes time, but you don’t have to go in unprepared! We’ve found that with a little education and practice, many women find breastfeeding to be an excellent choice for them and their child.
To get you started, here are a few breastfeeding tips to help you prepare for your journey:
1. Don’t stress about milk production
We find that milk production is often a key stressor for new moms. Milk could take up to five days to come in after labor and delivery. In addition, you may need some help encouraging your body to produce more milk through pumping after feedings. (Talk to your lactation consultant about whether or not you need to pump after each feeding those first couple of weeks.)
If your body isn’t producing enough milk for your baby to have a full feeding, it’s perfectly ok to supplement with formula or donated milk. And if you decide in the end breastfeeding isn’t for you, that is completely fine. There’s no need for this to become a source of anxiety for you and your family. As they say: “Fed is best!”
2. Understand the breastfeeding basics
Breastfeeding seems generally self explanatory, but it does require some education and practice for both mom and baby. If it’s a little tricky at first, you’re not alone! And if your baby is struggling to latch at first, that’s not unusual either. Many babies need time and practice to learn how to latch properly. Here’s a guide from WIC Breastfeeding Support on latching.
For information on basic methods of breastfeeding, we found this video by Taking Cara Babies to be helpful.
3. Equip yourself with helpful nursing supplies
We’ve found some nursing tools helpful, especially in those first few days and weeks of getting used to breastfeeding. Here are some helpful nursing supplies:
- A nipple shield – If your baby is having trouble latching at first, the nipple shield is an excellent resource to help him access the milk as well as practice opening his mouth a little wider for a better latch.
- A pump – Though not every breastfeeding mother chooses to use a pump, many find it helpful to increase milk production, offer relief during engorgement periods or provide another feeding option by refrigerating or freezing pumped milk.
- Nursing bras and tank tops – These are also not required for a successful nursing experience, but having the proper clothing can make breastfeeding a little smoother and convenient. If you will be pumping, a dual nursing-pumping bra is a great option.
- Nipple cream – As your body gets used to this new, incredible task, your nipples may need some time to adjust. Some women experience cracked or sore nipples, and nipple cream is an easy way to relieve pain and help through the transition.
- Nursing pads – Your body will go through many transitions as your baby’s feeding schedule fluctuates. As they grow and need to eat less frequently, you may experience engorgement and leak occasionally. If your baby eventually begins to sleep through the night (hopefully!) and doesn’t require a middle of the night feeding, your body will need some time to get used to that as well.
- Lots of water & healthy snacks – Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day! That means your body needs a little extra hydration and nutrition. Be sure to have enough water and snacks around, especially in those early breastfeeding days when you may be extra parched.
4. Keep feeding schedules in mind
In the first few weeks of your newborn’s life, he will need to nurse for about 10+ minutes every two hours (or supplement with pumped milk or formula) for proper nourishment. As he grows, the baby won’t need to nurse as frequently. The CDC provides an estimated breastfeeding schedule here, but we recommend you check in with your child’s pediatrician at his regular appointments as well.
In the first year of his life, your baby grows dramatically! The Mayo Clinic shares more about baby growth here.
5. Know that it may be an adjustment
If you find breastfeeding to be challenging or frustrating at first, you’re not alone! It takes a little time to get used to for many women, and it can be an adjustment to spend so much time nursing a little one. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or to give it some time to feel more natural. But whatever your choice in the end when it comes to baby feedings, remember that mama knows best.
If you’re seeking more extensive education on breastfeeding, Life’s Choices offers both in-person and online breastfeeding class options (completely free of charge). We would love to be a free resource for you if breastfeeding is the feeding journey you choose. Contact us today to schedule your free breastfeeding classes, or learn more here:
Disclaimer: These tips are not medical advice – simply tips from our own personal experience. If you find that breastfeeding is trickier than expected, we encourage you to connect with a lactation consultant or other medical expert.