Yaffa Stark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with a Master’s Degree in Human Development and a specialization in Lactation. She is the Lactation Consultant at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Panorama City, as well as having a private practice at Breast Pump Express. She has four grown, married children and eighteen grandchildren. Yaffa can be reached at (213) 931-8675 or via e-mail at YaffaStark@aol.com.
Prepare During Pregnancy
Reading a good breastfeeding book or two during your pregnancy is helpful, but one of the most beneficial things you can do is to observe other women breastfeeding their babies. You can often find friends who are breastfeeding that would be willing to allow you to observe, or you can attend a La Leche League meeting, where pregnant women are welcome. The way to reach La Leche League to find out where there is a meeting near you is to call (800) LA-LECHE.
Research has repeatedly shown that the support and help of your partner during breastfeeding is crucial to success. Attending a good breastfeeding class with your partner is an excellent way of learning lots of good information about breastfeeding. In my opinion though, trying to learn how to actually breastfeed a baby without a baby is like trying to learn to drive without a car.
You Do Have Milk When Your Baby Is Born!
During your pregnancy you may have noticed some yellow or white crusting on your nipples. This is colostrum. Colostrum is your first milk. It is better not to attempt to express any out during your pregnancy – save it for your baby. When your baby is born his stomach is only as big as his little fist. His requirements for feeding are very small, though he certainly must have regular feedings at your breasts during his first days. Your baby’s first milk, your colostrum will fulfill those early requirements. Between day two and day five after your baby’s birth your second milk will come in. At this time it is a rich mixture of colostrum and breast milk and will often appear to be a creamy yellowish-white in color. As days go on and the colostrum finishes, your milk will begin to look a bit watery, like non-fat milk. This is what you can expect mature breast milk to look like.
Begin Nursing As Soon As Possible After The Baby Is Born
Ideally you will begin to breastfeed in the first hour after birth. This is the baby’s “quiet alert” time and she may be very interested in breastfeeding. Don’t be disappointed if she doesn’t. Keep her close to your breasts and spend this lovely time bonding until she is hungry.
You and/or your partner need to be prepared to give instructions to the hospital staff. Let them know that you are breastfeeding and that you don’t want your baby to have any bottles or pacifiers unless ordered by a doctor for medical reasons. Using artificial nipples in the first three to four weeks may hinder your breastfeeding efforts or create nipple confusion. Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester in New York, and the author of Breastfeeding for the Medical Profession states, “It is quite normal for new babies to suckle for only two or three minutes before falling asleep. In the first few days, a couple of mouthfuls of colostrum every few hours is all your baby needs.”
Frequent Feedings Will Help To Ease Engorgement
The more often you allow your baby to feed at your breasts, the less chance you will have of severe engorgement. Engorgement is not necessary for your milk to come in. Your breasts will certainly enlarge, though they need not be drastically distended and you will hear more swallowing when the baby feeds. This will occur even if there is not extreme engorgement. A lesser amount of engorgement is, in fact, the more desirable way for your second milk to come in. If your breasts DO feel distended and uncomfortable, the best way to ease that discomfort is to use ice packs on your breasts between feedings. Remember – it’s important that you don’t put the ice pack directly on your skin, but over a towel or diaper to avoid ice burns. When your breasts get engorged, it is not all milk. There is other swelling going on inside your breasts. The ice helps alleviate that swelling and it feels soothing as well. If you like, you may use a warm compress for ten minutes just before feeding. This often helps the milk to come down.
Preventing Sore Nipples
The only way to prevent sore nipples is to make sure that your baby is positioned and latched on correctly. If it pinches when she’s feeding and/or your nipple appears creased after she has finished, something is not right. If it hurts when the baby latches on, take her off and do it again. If you can’t seem to get it right, you may require the help of a lactation professional. If this becomes necessary, try to look for a Certified Lactation Consultant, preferably one who is Internationally Board Certified (IBCLC). Until you can get help, express some breast milk after feeding and massage it into your nipples, allowing them to air dry. There are, at times, other problems that can cause nipples to be sore. With the help of a lactation professional you can get to the core of the problem and correct it.
Remember Not To Introduce Artificial Nipples Too Soon
Waiting until the baby is somewhere between three and six weeks old is the ideal way to go when it comes to introducing bottles and/or pacifiers. It is probably best if mommy is not the one to offer the bottle. Your baby has gotten used to getting his milk from your breast and if he sees you, that will be what he wants. Your partner, a grandparent or your nanny will have more success. I have found that breastfeeding babies who need to have a bottle do better with the proper nipple – one that allows her to use the same mouth posture that she uses on your breast. Try the Nuk size 2 nipple and make sure your baby’s mouth is open around the bottom, wide part of the nipple. Yes, I know the package says for 6-18 month old babies, but lactation professionals have been using this nipple with success for a long time.
Relax And Enjoy Your Baby
Now that you are finally a mommy, relax and enjoy it. These years fly by so quickly that before you know it, your infant has become a self-sufficient toddler. Don’t allow this period to go by without appreciating it. It will be a delightful and special time in your life.