When breastfeeding doesn’t just come naturally

New moms often hear “breastfeeding is natural,” but for many, it doesn’t always seem like that.

I am a mother, nursing nurse, certified lactation consultant and mother of four young children. I consider myself well versed in the ins and outs of breastfeeding. But when I gave birth to my fourth child about seven months ago, things didn’t go smoothly. When we left the hospital we were dealing with a painful latch due to my baby Lip and tongue band – a band of tissue that holds the tip of the tongue to the floor of the mouth – along with bleeding nipples and newborn jaundice. It was a tough transition home, but we got through it as a team.

Breastfeeding isn’t an all-or-nothing method of feeding your baby — every mother’s journey is different, some breastfeed exclusively, some pump, some supplement with formula — and there are both triumphs and struggles that come along of breastfeeding can go up and down journey.

I’ve found this point really resonates with a lot of new moms out there. In 2020 I created one Website with online guides and courses to help new mothers with breastfeeding and baby care and started one Instagram feed for parents. In both cases breastfeeding questions and concerns are always in the foreground.

Yes, breastfeeding can feel extremely blissful and makes a mom proud, but it can also feel very lonely and isolating when it comes to making it work. There is so much to navigate, not just in the early days but in the later months as well. Parents need help dealing with different situations, but they also need the support of a community.

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Here are some of the most common questions I get asked about breastfeeding.

What do I feed after the baby is born until my milk “comes in”? I’m worried the baby will be hungry.

Your body actually starts producing a substance called “colostrum” or “first milk” in the second trimester. pregnancy. Colostrum is a thick, nutrient-rich substance that can nourish your baby until mature milk is produced. If you’ve decided to breastfeed your new baby, it’s important that you breastfeed or pump frequently for the first few days while your body transitions from producing colostrum to mature milk. This generally occurs around days three to seven after birth, with the huge change in hormones after birth. Whether it’s a suckling baby or a breast pump for the first few days, milk is unlikely to come out in large quantities. But these frequent breastfeeding sessions are actually giving your body signals that it has a “need” for mature milk. During this time, it’s important to work with your healthcare team to ensure your baby is latching well to the breast – it may take some practice from both mother and baby to achieve good latching – and to check whether your pump is built-in working / working effectively when you pump. It’s also important to contact your baby’s pediatrician for weight checks to ensure your baby is getting enough milk and thriving while breastfeeding.

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I heard that breastfeeding is painful at first, is that true?

Although breastfeeding your baby during these early days may cause nipple tenderness, it shouldn’t be painful. If pain occurs, it is a sign that something needs to be adjusted. This can be related to positioning during breastfeeding, a baby not latched low enough to the breast, or oral ties in the baby’s mouth – which impede tongue movement. You can consult a lactation consultant if you are unsure what to look for. During this time, it is important to work towards finding and correcting the cause of the pain. It’s also important to take care of yourself and your body – there are nipple balms, creams and gel pads available to provide soothing relief while you and baby adjust to breastfeeding.

My baby started sleeping longer at night. Do I have to get up in the middle of the night to pump to keep producing enough milk?

Typically, your body adapts to meet an increased demand from your baby during daylight hours, allowing for longer nighttime stretches without the mother having to wake up to empty the breast through breastfeeding or pumping. With this change, you may notice that your breasts feel hard and swollen at night as your body adjusts. Especially during this time it is important to take care of your body and make yourself comfortable. If you wake up bloated and unwell in the middle of the night, it’s okay to use a pump or hand express to withdraw enough milk to feel relief but not enough to empty the breast, which would signal the body to to continue this at night much milk. However, some people find that lack of breastfeeding during the night due to a baby’s sleep alternation affects their milk production during the day—decreasing it. If so, you may need to reintroduce a nighttime pumping session, or “dream feeding” — where you offer your baby a breastfeeding session while he’s asleep — back into your routine. Every woman is different and how her body adapts to different situations can be different.

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Should I start saving milk for when I go back to work?

First things first: they don’t to need a freezer full of milk to return to work. You just need to save enough milk to get through the next day without your baby. If you are working from home, you should find a quiet and private pumping spot to replenish the breast milk that the baby uses each day. However, some women try to pump a little “extra” every few days to keep in the freezer just in case. If you’re keen to try this, look for ways to collect milk, especially in the first few weeks during maternity leave.

When you breastfeed your baby, milk will normally come out of both breasts, although you can only have your baby on one breast at a time. Many women like to use “breast cups” that cover the breast and contain leaks, or a manual silicone pump, like the Haakaa pump, that attaches to the non-feeding breast while the baby nurses on the other side. A few weeks after giving birth, some women also start introducing one session per day with their electric breast pump to collect “extra” milk to store for later. This also gives you a chance to become familiar with your pump before getting back to work. Remember that even a little bit a day adds up over time.

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How long should I breastfeed?

Many women choose to continue breastfeeding after returning to work, and some choose not to. It’s important to find out what works best for you and your family and for work-life balance, as well as for your mental health. Some moms choose to breastfeed as much as possible in their new schedule, some right after work, some just before bed (or waking up), and some not at all. Studies have shown that the health benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and a breastfeeding mother can last well beyond the one-year mark. There is no “switch” that flips at six or twelve months when breast milk is no longer useful. It’s important that parents feel informed and supported in their decisions, whether it’s to stop breastfeeding or to continue past a certain point.

Karrie Locher is a mother/baby nurse and mother of four children aged 5 and under. she runs karingforpostpartum.com which offers online courses for new parents and an online Instagram community for parents www.instagram.com/karrie_locher/

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