Monday, January 3, 2011

What Advice Would I Give?

I have been very open in the fact that I believe lack of proper education and support played a major role in my failure to establish an adequate milk supply. During a conversation with a friend, she asked me- "If you could give out 10 points to help successfully breastfeed, what would they be?"
"Only ten?" I replied. She laughed! But really, I don't think I can narrow it down to just 10, but I am going to try. So here are my main words of advice. Please remember, these are based on my personal experience and experiences of friends. Every baby is different so I go off of what I have noticed in the majority of breastfeeding relationships.
  1. Understand that latch is not an automatic thing. - When I took the breastfeeding class, they spoke a lot about latch, they never explained that it could take weeks for a baby to start latching well on his/her own. I have heard numerous moms say "I tried breastfeeding, but my baby had a bad latch so I had to stop before my milk even came in." Also, this is still latch related so it counts under the same number, try not to worry too much about the latch. Breastfeeding will hurt a little in the beginning (for most women) even with a perfect latch. The important thing is that the pain is not intense, it does stop after a few weeks, the milk is flowing, and both you and your baby are comfortable. Sometimes we think to much about "The Latch."
  2. Do not swaddle your baby- I know what you are thinking- WHAT does swaddling have to do with breastfeeding? Swaddling makes your baby sleepy, therefore, they do not nurse as well, they sleep longer than they are designed to, so they do not demand food as often (which effects supply), and swaddling during nursing often makes for a baby that falls asleep before he/she is full. The exception- a baby like our guest blogger had for her first- where the reflux and other physical issues make it so stressful to breastfeed that it is better to go ahead and swaddle your baby.
  3. Do not give a pacifier for at least 4 weeks, preferably 2 months- Everyone has heard this, but they have heard the following reason- nipple confusion. I have another reason- it can hurt your supply. The first few days to months, it is important that you nurse on demand and frequently in order to build up your supply. Not only does a pacifier take away the times when your baby may have been willing to nurse for comfort, a hungry baby may also settle for a pacifier at times. Either way, it is time your little one is not on your breast, which in turn can effect your supply, especially in the early days and weeks.
  4. Do not have a lot of visitors in the hospital or at your home for the first few weeks- Breastfeeding is hard work, awkward in the beginning, and both you and your baby need to be relaxed. When you have a lot of visitors, especially ones you are not comfortable showing your breasts too, you may tend to push off feedings, give a bottle in place of a nursing session, or rush your little one to finish before they are full. This again may effect your supply, your baby's willingness to breastfeed, and more.
  5. Understand When Supplementing is Needed- This is my biggest thing. When I was discharged from the hospital, I was told Lil Man had lost "too much weight" and I should start supplementing. Oh, how I wish I knew then what I know now. First- Lil Man was in the hospital a day longer than the typical vaginally delivered baby so of course he lost a little more weight. Second- I received extra fluids due to my c-section, which I later learned can inflate a baby's birth weight. Third- Lil Man was ZERO percent jaundiced. He really had only lost 2 oz over the "acceptable" amount. There was no reason I should have had to supplement. Supplementing meant time away from the breast. Also, it became easy during those first 6 weeks (the hardest weeks of breastfeeding) to say "give him a bottle" because the doctor had told me to supplement so it was "necessary."
  6. DO NOT HAVE FORMULA IN YOUR HOME- This is really important. You hear all the time how much easier breastfeeding is than formula feeding. Well, in some ways it is. You don't have to pack bottles around, less dishes, etc. HOWEVER- during the first six weeks, growth spurts, and marathon nursing session that formula is very tempting. If you don't have it in your home, and actually have to drive to the store to get it- it is a lot easier to get through a rough nursing session. Breastfeeding is hard work. If it was so easy- everyone would do it.
  7. Be prepared to stand up for breastfeeding- People always talk about horror stories of being told they can't nurse in public, glares from strangers, and so forth....NOT VERY COMMON! What is common- a well-meaning grandmother who tells you that she put her baby on a schedule instead of feeding by demand, an aunt who says you should give formula at night so your child will sleep better, a cousin that is mis-informed and states myths to you about breastfeeding, or a friend who doesn't understand why you are nursing your baby AGAIN. These are the comments you will most likely encounter and they are the ones you need to be prepared for. It is easy to blow off a stranger with a glare but when someone you care about and respect tells you that you should be putting your baby on a feeding schedule, and pushes it, you may feel like you need to do it. STAND UP FOR BREASTFEEDING.
  8. Understand the importance of feeding on demand- Since I used the example of a feeding schedule, I thought I should talk about feeding on demand. This one sounds simple enough- your baby is hungry so feed him/her. However, some babies are hungry every hour, on the hour and will eat for almost an hour. I promise, this won't last forever. However, your baby may still nurse during the night long after your friend's formula fed baby sleeps 10 hours. Don't let that detour you. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers still get as much sleep. Also, feeding on demand is important for your supply, and it teaches your baby that you are their for his/her needs and you will take care of him/her.
  9. Do not give a bottle for at least 4 weeks, 6 is better- This is because of three things. Nipple confusion, Time away from the breast, and BOTTLE PREFERENCE. I have a friend who I know her child is developing a bottle preference, but I have no clue how to tell her. Bottle preference comes when a baby realizes how much easier milk flows from a bottle than the nipple. Yep, just like my husband, baby's will take the easiest way to getting food in their mouths. However, bottle preference does not mean you can not offer the benefits of breastmilk. Pumping is a great option (See Wiski's Story). Many moms feel that dad giving a bottle is a great way for them to bond with baby. Their are other ways dad can bond- giving baths, cuddling, etc. It is important to your supply and your breastfeeding relationship that you bring your child to the breast and avoid bottles as much as possible, for as long as possible. Worried your child won't take a bottle? Try not to. Many still will, after a little coaxing, take a bottle from someone other than mom. If not, women have been able to get their little ones to take a sippy cup as early as 4 months.
  10. Have a great support team- This is probably the most important one. Explain to EVERYONE that breastfeeding is important to you. Be sure your child's doctor is breastfeeding friendly. Many pediatricians are quick to suggest formula for everything. Often times when formula would actually be the exact opposite of what would solve a "issue" a baby may be having. Make sure Daddy is on board with breastfeeding. I am so grateful that my husband understood how important it was for me. There were many days I just wanted to quit, and he encouraged me to keep going.
  11. BONUS ONE- have faith in your body and its ability to produce milk and feed your baby. Almost every obstacle you can think of is either preventable or can be overcome.
I think those are the main things I would tell someone if they asked what they should know in order to succeed at breastfeeding.

What words of advice would you give?


Stef said...

i think #11 is the most important thing for new moms to hear! great blog becca!! thank you!

C Tam said...

Awesome. I agree 100%, though I have to say my Lo and me lucked out to be totally successful even though we broke half the "rules" you've mentioned. I think many women have been lucky like me to have a body & baby that compensated and were successful DESPITE the fact that they had binkies, bottles, schedules, supplementing, socializing, etc. For some women and babies, these points might be the crucial turning point however, so it is good the warnings are given.

Becca said...

I too have been lucky in that Lil Man never developed a bottle preference. However, I often wonder, outside of being told to supplement when it probably was not needed, if the pacifier added to my supply issues.
There are women who are very lucky- I just give the advice because it is a big risk to take, and many moms do not catch the negative effects early enough to correct them and then they give up breastfeeding.