Everything our western culture says about babies, just forget it all. Yes. Just forget it all and follow your motherly instincts. I could write on this for days, but for now, all I’m going to say is your motherly instincts are strong and are usually right. Listen to yourself.
These are all the things I wish I had known about breast feeding before I started. It would have made the journey so much easier, especially in the beginning since that is the most difficult time.
Everyone will parent differently, and I get that and respect your decision 100%, the point of this is to share what helped us the most and to share what I have learned.
- Leaking during pregnancy is not an indication of supply after baby is born.
In order to make mature milk, your placenta has to detach from the uterine wall, anything you leak before you give birth (if you leak at all) is colostrum.
There are three types of milk you will make over the course of your breastfeeding journey.
Colostrum: You will make this for 3-5 days until your milk “comes in.” It’s rich in fat, protein, vitamins, minerals and immunologic components. It is thick and yellowish. Don’t waste any of this, it is pure liquid gold!
(I’m not a fan of the terminology of your milk “coming in” because it can be interpreted as you make nothing until that point, which is very untrue. Colostrum is ALL your baby needs until your body begins to make mature milk. Their tummy is so small, it doesn’t take much. see #14)
Transitional milk: This will last about 2 weeks. It has a high fat content and more calories. You may start to feel your breasts get hard at this point because your body will make a higher volume.
Mature milk: 90% of mature milk is water, the remaining is what your baby needs to grow and be healthy. There are two parts to mature milk also.
Foremilk and hind milk. Fore milk is more watery and can sometimes look blueish, think skim milk. Hind milk is very white and thicker, think whole milk. If you place your milk in the fridge and let it sit, it will separate. This is fine!
2. Breast feeding shouldn’t be excruciating.
We all handle pain differently, but when your baby latches it shouldn’t be horrible. Sore, yes, they have to get used to the constant sucking, but if it is toe-curling-ly painful, something is wrong with the latch. Shallow latch, lip or tongue ties. Regarless of the reason, it can be corrected so don’t throw in the towel! Get with an IBCLC (International board certified lactation consultant) to help you improve latch. There are nipple shields to help with this but should only be used under the care of a lactation consultant. But also remember: just as you are learning how to breast feed, so is your baby. You are learning together.
As far as lip and tongue ties go, you should find a provider who is trained in identifying them. Your pediatrician or IBCLC may be able to help, but if they assess your child for a tie and say he does not have one, but you continue to have issues, get a second opinion from a preferred provider. (ENT’s can be helpful) Do not let anyone tell you that a tie does not make any difference when it comes to breast feeding because it does. Tongue ties are often missed by several people, if you are struggling to breast feed and suspect a tie, please keep getting second, third, forth opinions. Getting it corrected makes a world of difference when it comes to breast feeding!
3.The first few weeks are HARD. But I promise you, it gets so much easier!
Those first few weeks are a blur. When I say it’s hard, it is so hard. It is a HUGE adjustment but you will adapt. You will question everything, worry about everything, and over analyze literally everything but stick with it! The struggles are temporary as you both get the hang of it. Remember, your baby is learning how to breast feed just like you are.
Here is a link to my blog to help you on a bad day.
4.Bed sharing will save your sanity.
We started with a crib that was a side-car set up. Looking back now we never should have wasted money on it. When he slept in bed with me I got more sleep—still not enough, but more than when I was trying to put him back in the crib. And I would fall asleep holding him on accident which is way more dangerous than safe bed sharing techniques. It is very beneficial for your baby. Doctors tend to be a little fearful of bed sharing, but there are safe ways to do it.
5. Do research on the forth trimester to help you succeed with your breast feeding relationship and overall relationship with your child.
“He won’t let me put him down for even a minute, he will scream!” Totally normal. You are all he knows, you are his safe place, and you are familiar in this new environment that is so scary. In the womb, there is constant warmth, movement, nutrition; it’s dark and quiet with only the sounds of your voice muffled and the sounds of your body. In this new place, it’s bright, loud, it’s cold, there’s suddenly these new things called hunger and thirst that are strange. The only thing that he knows is you. It is normal for your baby to want to be held by you literally all the time.
6. You are not starting a bad habit by holding your baby all the time!
This is an extension of the last point. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are spoiling your baby by holding him. That’s just ludicrous. You are creating a bond and a trusting relationship with your baby, letting him know that you will always be there to provide comfort. I can’t say this enough, your baby will not be this little and dependent on you forever. Eventually you will have a child who is so curious of the world around him that he does not want to be held and you will wish you had held them just a little more when they allowed you.
7. Baby wearing will also save your sanity.
Invest in a carrier. There’s tons on the market. You can be hands free and get things done and most of the time your baby will fall asleep because they are literally on you and feel safe. My son has been worn since birth and it has really helped me and my husband do chores around the house, go to the store, or get him to sleep on tough nights. You can even nurse in them to help you be even more hands free during feeding time.
8. Chiropractors have amazing health benefits for your baby and your breast feeding relationship.
When my son was born, he wouldn’t latch on one side and fought me until I switched sides. After his adjustment (his first time, he was only 6 days old) he nursed on the problem side right there in the office. It can also help prevent ear infections, help with gas and pooping, reflux and sleeping. When my son had gone several days without going #2, I would take him in and during the adjustment he would go. Every time. They have bones and joints just like adults that can get out of line, especially after being born! That’s hard on their little bodies. My son was 6 days old at his first adjustment and he continues to get adjusted. Don’t be afraid of chiropractic care for your baby, they are adjusted differently than adults. It’s pressure no stronger than how you would check the ripeness of a tomato. Some chiropractors, after finishing school, can do extra hours to learn more about adjusting infants. You can find them in your area on icpa4kids.org.
9.Over supply is not a “good” thing.
I use the word good lightly because if it weren’t for over suppliers other babies wouldn’t be able to be blessed with donated milk! But over supply comes with risks of clogged ducts that can turn into mastitis which can get gnarly quickly. If you have a fever and red streaks on your breasts, call your doctor. Try to get clogs out before they progress. It’ll hurt, but try to pump to get the clog out and let baby nurse nurse nurse. Massage it while you pump or baby nurses and dangle feed to let gravity help you. Over supply can also cause problems for your baby such as gassiness due to the foremilk hindmilk imbalance that over supply can cause. This can lead to weight gain problems.
To correct over supply: block feed. Only nurse on one side per feeding so baby has the opportunity to get to the hind milk. My son is over 9 months at the time of this post and I still block feed to this day for almost every meal. If you’re pumping and you have over supply, slowly cut back your sessions. If you stop cold turkey you could get clogs and mastitis. Not to mention you’d be very engorged and uncomfortable.
10.Your supply will regulate, crazy engorgement won’t last forever.
I went from a B cup to a D cup when my milk came in. it was very uncomfortable for several weeks. I had to hand express to relieve pressure and make my breasts a little softer for my son to be able to latch. Around the 6-8 week mark your supply will regulate to baby’s demand. For me it happened literally overnight. I woke up with a dry shirt for the first time in weeks and my boobs were soft instead of boulders. I totally panicked. I wish someone would have told me about regulation! I seriously thought my milk was gone!
11.It is not recommended to pump for the first 6-8 weeks.
Piggy backing off my last point, baby needs to regulate your supply so in the perfect scenario, boob only until you regulate. If you are going back to work, you only need enough for the first day back because you will pump for the next day while you are at work (again, in a perfect world). If you want an emergency stash, still hold off until you regulate, but you can pump the other side while baby nurses to start a stash. Or pump in the morning. I have donated twice and pumping the other side is how I did it. Or if my son was teething and didn’t want to nurse hardly at all, I pumped to keep up supply during though couple days when he was barely interested in nursing.
Keep in mind that some women do not respond to a pump at all. If you don’t get anything out, that doesn’t mean your baby is starving. (It’s all in the diapers! See #21) Make sure all your pump parts fit you the way they should and the membranes on your pump have been changed.
12.Breast fed babies who are fed by bottle should be pace fed.
This is a big one! If done incorrectly, it can harm your supply, stretch out baby’s tummy and/or create a bottle preference. Please watch youtube video’s over and over until you understand how to do it. When baby is being watched by a sitter or family, they also need to understand how to do it. Proper knowledge of pace feeding will help keep your breast feeding relationship successful.
13.The general rule of thumb for breast milk being fed by bottle is 1-1.5 ounces for every hour.
Your milk changes to meet your baby’s needs so this amount will stay the same no matter the age. With the exception of those first few weeks when their tummies are just so, so tiny.
For some reason if you have to pump in the early days and you aren’t getting very much, remember just how little it takes to fill up their tummy for each meal. It doesn’t take much, especially those first few days. This is also why they nurse so frequently. Breast milk is also digested much quicker.
Day one: 5-7ml (cherry)
Day three: ¾ to 1 ounce (walnut)
One week: 1.5 to 2 ounces (apricot)
One month: 2.5 to 5 ounces (egg)
15.Your breasts are never “empty.”
Your breasts continuously make milk. They do not start and stop, they’re a 24/7 365 factory. You may physically feel empty if your breasts feel less full than usual; the actions of your baby on the breast will make you think you are empty. You are not. You do not dry up over night, it is gradual. When your baby is latching and unlatching, crying at the breast, hitting, slapping, pulling at your breasts he’s saying, “Boobs, make more! I’m right here, I need more milk!” Let him do it, it’s natures way of stimulating a let down and making more milk. Think of how puppies and kittens knead on mom while they nurse, same principle.
16.Breast fed baby behavior is different than what society deems “normal” baby behavior.
It’ll be hard to sum this up in one paragraph, I could write on this for hours. Do a lot of research on this yourself also. Just throw whatever our culture says or family says about what your baby should or shouldn’t do and learn about your own baby and specifically the breast fed baby. They behave differently. Breast feeding is biologically normal. Breast feeding is such a dying art. Few people understand it. Scheduled feeding and “experts” who say what a baby should/shouldn’t be doing has taken over our culture. When a baby doesn’t act like they “should” it’s automatically the breasts fault when really, it’s the lack of understanding that is at fault. Then the mother feels like a failure because she thinks she is unable to feed her child. No. Our culture does not understand the biological norm anymore. Trust your baby and your body.
17.The breast is about so much more than food.
Your baby will want the breast for many reasons other than food. The breast is comfort, safety, warmth. It solves hunger and thirst, fear. It’s familiar, it’s mom and mom is safe, it’s calming when the world is overwhelming. You will hear family say, “He can’t be hungry again, you just fed him an hour ago.” Maybe he’s not hungry. Maybe he wants to nurse because he is overwhelmed or just wants his moms comfort. If the breast calms him, it’s solved whatever problem he was having and that is not wrong. Babies have many different ways to nurse to get what they want. If they want milk, they nurse for it, if they want to just comfort nurse, that’s what they do and they may not draw the milk out. The sucking action varies for what they want.
18. ALWAYS feed on demand—meaning: when baby wants the breast, give it to them.
This is best for a healthy supply. Our culture has structured so much of child rearing we have got to lighten up and follow the lead of our babies. They eat when they are hungry, and stop when they are full. They do not understand what it means to over eat; they are eating because that’s the instinct. They are not gluttonous; they eat for a biological need. “I am hungry, I must eat.” So that’s what they do. Their brain does not have the concept to over eat. Just because they are on the breast, does not mean they are taking milk. If a baby is fed from the breast only, they cannot over eat. A bottle fed baby CAN over eat. No matter what the marketing says, no bottle mimics the breast the best. Babies have much more control over their milk intake with the breast than they do a bottle. This is why pace feeding is so important.
My sons first doctor told me to only feed my son for 10 minutes then stop him and not offer the breast for a minimum of 2 hours. My son gained weight very quickly in the beginning, he said he gained too much, basically that he was fat so I needed to cut him off. This is NOT how you breast feed! AT ALL! Please find a breast feeding friendly doctor. I’m so thankful that I knew better and listened to the lactation consultants and other breast feeding moms before I followed his recommendation. It breaks my heart thinking about how many mothers he told that to who listened and their breast feeding relationship suffered because of it.
ALWAYS feed on demand. ALWAYS.
19. Stop looking at the clock.
Those apps that let you time how long your baby eats on each side, forget it. You will drive yourself bonkers watching the clock. It will create unnecessary stress. Put the app down and just feed your baby and let your baby nurse. If you time it, you will over analyze everything about it. “Omg, yesterday, he ate for 14 minutes on the left side and this morning he nursed for 32 minutes! Why?! Am I not making enough milk?!” Just stop timing! He may not have been taking milk the whole time, maybe he was just more hungry than normal. Their appetites fluctuate just like ours. Don’t read into it so far that you panic. Just. Don’t. Time it.
20.The hardest part of nursing is not questioning your supply.
This is very true for me. I was/am so determined to breast feed and never give formula (not shaming—it was just my personal goal) that I obsessed over my supply. I timed it, I over analyzed every aspect of it but I eventually just had to quit freaking out and tell myself “If his diaper output remains normal, my supply is fine.”
21. If diaper output remains in the age appropriate range: your supply is enough for your baby.
Fussy at the breast? Nursing for what seems like hours and hours? Latching and unlatching over and over? Not indicative of a healthy or unhealthy supply. Diapers. It’s all in the diapers. Seriously.
1 wet for each day of life until 4 days.
By day 4, your baby should have 6+ wet diapers a day and about 3 poops.
I was one of those moms who said “Okay, well, how much pee counts as one wet?” 3 table spoons. Dump that on a diaper so you know what it feels like.
After 6+ weeks, 5 or so wets a day and dirties can start to get more spaced out up to 7-10 days at the most. While it’s common for a baby to go days without having a BM, it’s not ideal and getting baby on an infant probiotic will help keep baby regular.
4-6TB is considered one wet diaper at this stage.
22.Don’t obsess over weight percentiles.
It’s just another silly thing for moms to unnecessarily obsess and stress over. “My baby is only in the 3rd percentile, I don’t think my milk is good enough.” Yes it is, it is tailored specifically for him. The percentiles don’t take into account genetics. Every person is different and every baby grows at different rates. What’s important is that your child is gaining 4-7 ounces a week until about 4 months. About 0.5-1 oz a day and following their own growth curve. Breast fed babies grow at different rates than formula fed babies and should be read on the WHO growth chart, not the CDC growth chart. Make sure your doctor is reading your baby on the correct chart.
23.If weight gain becomes a legitimate concern, there are things you can try before jumping to formula supplementation.
This is when you go to the IBCLC, weigh your baby naked, in a fresh diaper, feed them, they weigh them again. The difference is how much milk they transferred during a nursing session. Do several to get the bigger picture, one weighted feed can’t give you an overall assessment of milk transfer because maybe at that particular time baby wasn’t very hungry.
If supplementation becomes medically necessary, do not assume that this means you have to give formula. You can (and should) supplement with your own milk by pumping for bottles. Always nurse first before supplementing. If you top off with formula instead of your own milk, your body does not know that your baby needs that extra ounce or however much so it will never make it, therefore you will continue to be dependent on formula for supplementing.
If you are in a situation where baby does not have the opportunity to feed at the breast (NICU) it is possible to feed the baby via syringe instead of bottle to avoid a bottle preference if you wish so as to avoid confusion for baby.
24.WHO and the AAP recommend no solid foods until a minimum of 6 months of age.
This includes baby cereals and oatmeal. NOTHING but breast milk or formula for the first 6 months, even if the label says 4+ months. WHO and AAP trump a food company if you ask me… The link I’ve provided goes into greater detail on why this is so important.
Also, breast milk or formula is to be baby’s main source of nutrition for the first 1 year.
25.Medication while nursing
If you have to have surgery or need to take medication while nursing, many doctors will tell you that you cannot nurse anymore, or you’ll have to pump and dump, you’ll have to give formula for X amount of days etc… Here’s the answer: Call infant risk. They are the world’s leading research center for medication safety during pregnancy and lactation. http://www.infantrisk.com/ http://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/illness-surgery/mom-surgery/ If you are put on a pain medication for a dental procedure for example, and they tell you not to nurse because of the medicine they have prescribed, think about this: Mothers who have C-sections get strong pain medication and still nurse in the hospital. There are options for pain while you are nursing.
26.Leap behavior is a doozy. Hang on.
When I say leap behavior I mean mental development. It can make them fussy and just a totally different baby for a few days. The first several weeks are full on leaps and growth spurts, this is often why it is the most difficult time. The Wonder Weeks will help you understand this and give you tips to make it through. https://www.thewonderweeks.com/
Babies spit up for many reasons. A lot of people will jump to telling you to cut out dairy to see if it helps but that may not be the reason. It also takes weeks for dairy to leave your system and cutting it out 100% is HARD. It is in pretty much everything. The sphincter that connects their esophagus to their stomach is immature, that could be one reason. If your baby is acting normal when he spits up, he is likely just a happy spitter and will grow out of it. This was my son, he was like Ole Faithful but was never in pain and sometimes spit up while he was laughing or smiling. If your baby is crying and arching his back and is acting very uncomfortable, it could be reflux. The chiropractor can help with reflux and there are medications if it is severe.
Also, if you have oversupply or an overactive let down, it can cause excessive spit up. This was also my son and I. I have over supply and my milk literally sprays out of me, sometimes very far… When he was very little still learning how to breast feed, this was hard for him to handle. He would have to gulp quickly to keep up with the flow, therefore he would suck a lot of air which in turn made him gassy, so when he burped, milk came up too.
If you have this problem, when you feel your let down coming, unlatch baby and catch it in a bottle or rag then when it calms down latch baby back on. Letdowns can be painful or just an odd tickling sensation as your milk literally “lets down” for baby. It’s okay if you don’t feel it, some women don’t. The hormone that causes contractions is also the same hormone that lets down your milk. In the early days, you may feel uterine cramps while you nurse. This is okay and normal, nothing to be concerned about.
There are many factors that play into the storage of milk.
Room temp freshly expressed: 4-8 hours
Fridge freshly pumped: 3-8 days
Fridge thawed from freezer stash: 24 hours
Freezer in a refrigerator: 6 months (not stored in the door)
Deep freezer: 1 year
29.How to prepare the milk
Store in however many ounces you’d like, but it is easiest to store in the amount you normally give bottles which can range from 1-4 ounces. You just don’t want to waste milk because once it’s thawed, the clocks ticking! It’s precious!
Once thawed, do not refreeze
To thaw, hold under warm water or place in the fridge over night
Do not microwave human milk
30. The two shirt method is great for nursing in public if you have a baby who doesn’t want to be covered.
Wear a nursing bra with tank top or a nursing tank top under your regular shirt, that way you can pull up the top shirt but still be covered on top and on bottom.
31. Birth control while nursing
Anything you take that has hormones has potential to mess with supply. Most doctors and midwives prescribe a progesterone only pill (the Mini-Pill) to nursing mothers who wish to have birth control.
****Breast feeding is not a natural birth control!! You can still get pregnant!****
If you’re doing the deed, you can get pregnant. Breast feeding or not. Every woman’s body is different, just take the necessary precautions when getting it on.
32.YOU CAN DO IT!
This is my final must-know: YOU CAN DO IT! It is hard, but it is worth it. I’m adding the link to my post again for encouragement. I promise it gets better.