One of the earliest questions that women are often asked upon announcing they’re going to have a baby is, “Are you planning to breastfeed?” While breastfeeding may seem like one of the most natural activities for women, the process of breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally for mom and baby.
At Moreland OB-GYN, we understand that every woman and every baby is unique. We focus on listening to you and providing information to help you make the best possible choice for you and your baby. Whether you’re in the early phases of planning for baby, already expecting, or you’re currently nursing, here are our top ten tips for breastfeeding success.
1. Go in With an Open Mind
You don’t have to look far to see what seems like every mother having an easy time nursing their young. What you rarely see are the myriad of factors that accompany the decision to breastfeed. Am I comfortable with it? Am I returning to work after maternity leave? Is my partner supportive of it? Do I have any health conditions or am I on any medications that may prevent me from nursing? Can I make enough milk to support my baby’s growth?
While it’s important to carefully evaluate all of the factors in your life to help you decide whether or not breastfeeding is right for you, it’s not always a smooth journey. As a result, it’s important to go into breastfeeding with an open mind, with the support of those close to you, and bring your sense of humor.
2. Do Your Homework
As you prepare to embark on your breastfeeding journey, it’s a good idea to do some research. Ask friends and family members for their thoughts and advice, read articles and blog posts online, join breastfeeding groups (online or in-person), and of course, talk to your physician or healthcare provider.
Not only is engaging in research helpful to learn from the experiences of other women; having conversations with those close to you is often helpful to garner the support and encouragement that is vital for success.
3. Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthily
Making healthy food choices and drinking plenty of water is important for everyone’s health, but for pregnant and nursing women, staying hydrated and eating healthy is an absolute must. On average, milk production burns about 500 calories each day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to increase your caloric intake. However, women who began their pregnancy at a normal weight and stayed within their doctor’s recommended weight range during pregnancy may need to up their number of daily calories.
On average, nursing moms should strive to drink eight cups of water each day. Not only does it ensure you won’t get dehydrated, but it also helps your body recover from birth. In terms of diet, breastfeeding women are encouraged to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, including protein, calcium, and rich in iron. Breastfeeding women should also make sure they're eating leafy greens, yellow fruits and vegetables, other fruits and vegetables, whole grains and complex carbohydrates, and foods rich in Omega 3s. Also, keep taking your prenatal vitamin daily.
Looking for more information about what to eat as you prepare to breastfeed? Read this article: What is a Healthy Breastfeeding Diet? From Gluten and Dairy Free to MSPI.
4. Set the Mood
Before you begin a breastfeeding session, get as comfortable as possible, and minimize the amount of activity and stress around you as much as possible. In a quiet room, settle into a position that’s comfortable for both you and your baby - a couch, chair, glider, or in bed - and use pillows to help raise your baby to a comfortable height and help support baby while you nurse.
5. Get Into Position
Proper positioning during breastfeeding is essential in helping your baby latch on the right way which can help prevent nipple soreness and other common issues experienced by nursing moms.
According to lactation experts, including nursing moms, here are the five best breastfeeding holds to try with your baby:
- Cradle Hold - The most common position, where you cradle your baby in your arms with their head resting in the bend of your elbow of the arm on the side you’ll be breastfeeding.
- Crossover Hold - Place your baby across your lap and hold your baby’s head with the hand opposite to the breast you’ll be nursing from.
- Football Hold - Place your baby at your side, tuck their legs under your arm - like a receiver holding a football - on the same side as the breast you’re planning to nurse from. (This position is great if you’ve had a C-section and want to avoid placing your baby against your abdomen, you have large breasts, a small or premature baby, or twins.)
- Laid-Back Position - Lie back on a bed, couch, or comfortable chair in a semi-reclining position and place your baby tummy-to-tummy on your body. Gravity should help keep your baby resting on you. Baby can rest in any direction, as long as the whole front of the baby is against yours, and baby can reach your breast. (This position is helpful for moms with smaller breasts, newborns and for babies with excess gas.)
- Side-Lying Position - With both you and your baby lying on your sides, tummy-to-tummy, position your baby against you so that it can reach your breast. (This position is great for middle-of-the-night feedings, but make sure to remove excess bedding around your infant, so you don’t create a suffocation hazard.)
Learn more about breastfeeding success in 'Your Guide to Breastfeeding' from The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women's Health.
6. Wear Nursing Bras
Nursing bras are an essential element of breastfeeding success. Not only because they are designed to be comfortable and supportive, but they also ensure that blood flows freely within soft breast tissue, reducing the chances of developing blocked milk ducts. Blocked milk ducts are painful and typically reduce your breasts’ ability to provide enough milk for your baby.
There are dozens of types and styles of nursing bras available, but experts recommend letting comfort be your guide, as most moms wear a nursing bra fairly often, especially during the first weeks of breastfeeding.
7. Invest in a Good Breast Pump
If you’re planning to go back to work after having your baby, if you or your baby fall into a high-risk category, or if you’re having twins, investing in a good breast pump is a good idea. If your baby is delivered a little early, it may take them a bit longer to get the hang of nursing, so pumping will help your milk to come in and allow you to pass the nutrient-rich early milk on to your newborn. Having multiple babies may present some feeding challenges, so pumping can help give them the sustenance they need. For working moms, electric pumps offer a quick, convenient way to keep up your milk supply when you’re away from baby.
8. Involve Your Partner
While your partner likely doesn’t have the ability to contribute to feedings on the level that you do, it’s important to involve them in the breastfeeding process. They can help by bringing baby to you when it’s time for a feeding, helping to get baby latched on correctly, getting you a cool glass of water, juice, or milk to keep you hydrated, or burping baby afterward. These things may seem relatively small, but this level of support is not only important for nursing moms and helps your partner to bond with the baby.
9. Carve Out Some “You” Time
Breastfeeding is a huge commitment to your baby and yourself, and it’s often a journey filled with highs and lows. As a result, it’s important to find a little time each day to take care of yourself. Enlist the help of your partner, a family member, or friend to care for the baby while you enjoy activities that allow you to feel “normal.” Take a bath, spend some time in your garden, go for a walk, practice yoga or simply rest.
10. Be Gentle with Yourself
Even if you begin your breastfeeding journey armed with knowledge, the support of your partner, and an open mind, not everything goes as planned. If you struggle occasionally with a feeding, experience a complication that requires you to change course temporarily, or you give breastfeeding a try and find it just isn’t for you; it really is OK. As long as you focus on making the best choice you possibly can for you, your baby and your lifestyle, you’re doing the right thing...and you’re a great mom.
Why Choose Moreland OB-GYN?
At Moreland OB-GYN, we specialize in women’s health care and prioritizing the needs of our patients at all ages and stages of life. We hope you’ll connect with us to answer your questions and we hope you’ll turn to our experts as a trusted source for information.