Here is a quick summary of key things moms-to-be/new moms should take note of with regards to breastfeeding. Do note that this post is based largely on my personal experience and the experiences of friends. If you have any health concerns/questions, you should seek professional help (i.e. lactation consultant/your doctor). Let me know in the comments section if there is anything else I should add.
Breastfeeding: A Timeline
When you are still pregnant:
- Check your nipples. Are they inverted/flat etc.? If they are (or you are not sure), you can read this post and seek professional help. Contact a lactation consultant, or get referred to one by your doctor. Sometimes things can be done to help correct the issue, if not, at least your lactation consultant/doctor will be aware of the issue and more specific guidance can be given during the early stages of breastfeeding.
- Prepare for breastfeeding by reading up, watching other moms breastfeeding, talking to your doctor about any concerns you have, and attending a class. You don’t have to do ALL of these things but reading up and watching other moms breastfeed can be helpful.
- Prepare mentally and emotionally. I never thought breastfeeding would be hard until I heard from friends who had kids while I was pregnant. Hearing my own peers struggle with breastfeeding helped me prepare mentally and emotionally for the “trials and challenges” ahead. I went in knowing that breastfeeding was probably going to be hard and that I had to persevere. I also told my husband and mom (who was around to help with E) to encourage and support me and not let me give up that easily. They were a strong source of support.
- Prepare the necessary items to help with the breastfeeding journey. I have a list here.
After you give birth (Weeks 0-6/8):
- Remember, your milk does not come in until later (usually about 3+ days). I was told by my lactation consultant that any interventions given during pregnancy can (but not always) delay your milk coming in. I did not have an epidural, but I had to have some IV antibiotics because my water bag had burst 2 days prior without my knowledge. Because of that, my milk did come in a little later (day 4/5). Do not worry if it doesn’t seem baby is eating anything. They are still drinking colostrum. Unless medical professionals say baby’s weight gain/number of wet diapers/bilirubin levels are high and you need to supplement with formula, there is no need to supplement.
- In the meantime, latch baby on as much as possible (when baby displays hunger cues).
- Do as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. This helps your milk come in and also helps in milk production.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids = milk production.
- Request to see a lactation consultant in the hospital. Let them see how you latch baby on and if your nipples are uncomfortable/sore, let them know.
- Newborns eat about every 2 hours, some newborns eat more frequently so feed baby on demand. This also signals to your body how much milk to produce.
- If you decide to feed via bottle/supplementary nursing system/cup, make sure you pump. If you skip pumping, it signals to your body to produce less milk. As such, remember not to skip night feedings/pumping. Dropping night feeds/pumping = reduction in supply.
- If you can’t breastfeed because your nipples are too sore/damaged, read this for help in maintaining your supply.
- Remember, breast milk digests much faster than formula so breastfed babies do eat more frequently than formula fed babies.
- If you are pumping and feeding and not sure how much milk to feed baby, here is a helpful article.
- This website is helpful to see that babies’ tummies are SMALL and thus they do not eat as much as we think they should. The only way to tell if baby is being fed enough is by the number of wet diapers and weight gain.
After weeks 6-8:
- If you have been breastfeeding, your supply will start to be more established around this time. Breastfed babies drink the same amount of milk from now to about 6 months or when they start solids. This is because the caloric composition of breast milk changes as baby gets older. Babies on formula will have to be fed more as the caloric composition of formula remains the same.
- You can purchase a nursing bra around this time as your breast size will probably be more definite.
- If you want to introduce a bottle, now is a good time. I avoided introducing bottles earlier for fear of nipple confusion. If you do decide to introduce the bottle earlier, ensure you practice paced bottle feeding.
Week 8 and beyond:
- How often to feed baby? It depends on each child. I breastfed largely on demand (watching for hunger cues) but I also had a rough schedule that E followed. In the first six months or so, E ate about 8-10 times a day, sometimes more if she fed a lot during the night. Most importantly, do not deny baby any milk just because you are on a schedule. Babies need all the nutrition they can get.
- Continue to be “protective” of your nipples. If they feel sore/uncomfortable, check baby’s latch. If there doesn’t seem to be any issues, try a different position and see if that is better. If not, contact a lactation consultant for help.
- Don’t skip any night feedings. It is rare that babies sleep through the night at a young age. Waking up at night to eat is normal, so don’t worry if your baby is still nursing at night. If you bottle feed at night, don’t forget to pump too. If you miss pumping, it might affect your supply.
6 months/when you introduce solids:
- Some babies will probably start to eat less after solids are introduced. However, some babies aren’t too keen on solids and still prefer breast milk/formula. E still breastfed a lot even after solids were introduced.
- Do note that baby’s main source of nutrition is still breast milk/formula. Food before one is just for fun.
12 months and beyond:
- Some people decide to wean their child after the age of one. My personal goal was to breastfeed for at least a year. After a year I realized E was still very much dependent on the boob for comfort and nutrition so I decided to continue.
- KellyMom has a great article on extended breastfeeding.
- The hubs has left it to me to decide when I want to wean E. I am secretly hoping E self-weans. Knowing her strong personality, it will be hard if I initiate weaning. That being said, I’ve decided to wait till E turns two and evaluate again.
- KellyMom has a great article on weaning techniques.