Breastfeeding 101

Breastfeeding is natural but it something that takes time and patience to learn - both for you and your baby. Even if you’ve had a baby and breastfed before this new baby will be different, so take your time to learn about your baby’s feeding/sucking habits and learn and grow together. Breastfeeding is all about becoming a team with your baby! Learn together to get a good latch and cheer each other on!

A good latch is key! Making sure that you are tummy to tummy with baby and that baby’s head, back and bottom are in a straight row is very important. Sit in a comfortable position and use pillows or a bolster to help support baby. “Tummy to tummy, nose to nipple” is what you want to remember when positioning, this is good for all positions - cradle, cross cradle, football, sidelying all need to be tummy to tummy, nose to nipple.

Latching:

  • Tummy to tummy, nose to nipple

  • Tickle baby’s lips with your nipple to get them to open wide

  • Hold your breast behind the areola so that it is shape as the baby’s mouth to help them latch on, once they are sucking release your hold

  • Latch them on getting as much of the areola in their mouth as possible

  • Let them suck at least 15 minutes per side per feed

  • If you feel baby is not on the breast properly, unlatch them and reposition.

  • To unlatch baby simply slide your pinky finger between the side of their mouth and your nipple breaking the suction

  • You should not hear any clicking or smacking, if you do unlatch and reposition baby on breast.

Skin to skin is so important for baby, you and your partner! Being skin to skin with baby helps to regulate their breathing, helps with their brain development and of course aids with bonding. Having a baby skin to skin also helps to stimulate them to feed more. It is especially important those first few weeks but is so beneficial beyond into the first 3-6 months as baby is developing and coping with the outside world.

Supply & Demand becomes demand and supply. Making milk for your baby is all about stimulating a supply for them. When your baby is first born you have colostrum in your breasts, this is the perfect first food for baby! Their tiny tummy ‘s can only hold a small amount so colostrum is perfect! The small quantity of colostrum gently stretches their stomach which is easier on baby. After 3-5 days your milk will come in and you will feel that your breasts are hard and engorged, just keep nursing on demand and the milk supply will regulate in about 72 hours. Do not use a breast pump during this time as it will stimulate you to make more milk! Hand express to comfort and feed on demand. Demand and supply is the philosophy all throughout your nursing journey. Baby will demand more milk by nursing more frequently during growth spurts and you in turn will make more milk!

How to tell baby is getting enough? The things we look for to tell that baby is eating well is wet/dirty diapers, growth/weight gain and developmental milestones.

  • Wet/dirty diapers - The first day baby should have 1 wet/1dirty diaper, day 2, two wet/2 dirty diapers, etc… when baby is nursing they should be having wet and dirty diapers this tells us they are transferring the milk they are eating.

  • Growth/weight gain - in the very first week it is normal for a baby to lose weight (up to 10% is normal) from there they should get back to their birth weight by week two. Of course each baby is unique and will gain weight on their own timetable. Most breastfed babies will double their birth weight by 5 months but keep in mind some gain fast and others slow. Doctors look for a consistent growth curve to gauge growth.

  • Developmental milestones - rolling over, crawling, walking and babbling/talking are examples of developmental milestones for babies. For newborns you want to look for reflexive things like mouthing/suckling reflex, grasping reflex and startle reflex. By the end of the first month things to look for are that baby can raise their head when they are on their stomach, can focus on objects 8-12 inches away (black and white contrast can help with this development), baby reacts when their is a loud noise or someone is talking/playing with them.

Do I need to supplement with formula or give water? Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. By consistently having them on your breast for at least 15 minutes per side per feed they will get all they need. There is no need to supplement with formula, and supplementing with water is not recommended anymore. Look for hunger cues and latch baby before they get overly hungry and are crying! Of course there are special circumstances such as a preemie baby, cleft palate, etc in which supplementing is crucial for baby’s development and health, this is something to really discuss with your medical provider.

Hunger cues:

  • rooting and searching for breast

  • lip smacking, sucking on fists

  • waking and fussing

By looking for these cues and feeding baby before they are crying and frustrated it makes it so much easier! They latch on easier and don’t fight with you and they calm down a lot easier too.

Do I need a special diet? There is no need to maintain a special diet and the restrictions on what to eat during pregnancy do not continue during breastfeeding so eat that sushi or lunch meat & cheese! You should make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced, nutritional diet as it will help with your milk production and overall health. Some babies may be extra gassy or fussy if you consume a lot of broccoli or eat a lot of milk products so watch your baby for signs of being overly gassy or fussy as you may have to adjust your diet. When I was breastfeeding my son I noticed he got very gassy and upset about 5 hours after I had anything with onions, broccoli or garlic (which I love!) so I had to adjust my diet to not include those foods while I was breastfeeding him. Some babies have more sensitive systems and they will change as they get older.

Do I have to pump? There is no need to regularly use a breast pump during your breastfeeding journey. Feed on demand and take baby with you and you are good! If you want a date night or have to go back to work then you can pump and provide breastmilk for your baby while you are gone. A Haaka type silicone pump is good especially at the beginning of your journey as it collects milk that would otherwise go into a breast pad. Simply attach it to the breast you are not feeding on and save that milk! I will have another post about pumping at a later time.

How long do I need to breastfeed for? It is recommended to breastfeed for at least a year, although it is common to breastfeed well past two years. Breastmilk is a complete food for babies and all they need for the first 6 months of life. Even after 6 months breastmilk should be primarily what they eat, start introducing foods when your baby shows signs of being ready but remember “food before one is just for fun”.

So to recap:

  • On demand feeding of baby

  • look for hunger cues before baby is frustrated

  • position baby “tummy to tummy, nose to nipple”

  • make sure you have a good latch, if not, reposition baby on breast

  • feed 15 minutes per side/per feed (at least 30 minutes total per feed)

  • it is all demand and supply! Baby feeds (demands milk) which in turn stimulates you to make more milk for them (supply)

  • baby should be having wet/dirty diapers, gaining weight and meeting developmental milestones

Remember, breastfeeding is a journey and is unique to every nursing couplet. Enjoy and learn alongside your baby. If you are having issues or need support please reach out! I do phone consultations for those not in my area (808) 298-1458 or amauidoula@gmail.com

This blog is owned and operated by Lora Casco, A Maui Doula & Childbirth Education.