Hi I’m Alicia Lilly! I’m a Registered Nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), founder and creator of Think Like A Mom®.
I was a first time mom in my mid 30’s and despite being a breastfeeding professional, I struggled to breastfeed.
There is a lot to learn with breastfeeding, but here are my top tips for a family breastfeeding for the first time:
1. Take a breastfeeding class before you give birth.
Not just the 20 minute section where they discuss breastfeeding in your childbirth class! I'm talking about a whole class taught by a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or a professional trained in breastfeeding.
This class will go more into depth about how breastfeeding works, as well as latch and positioning.
2. Meet with a Lactation Consultant prenatally.
Yes you can set up a breastfeeding consultation while you are still pregnant. It's actually best to do this while pregnant because they can discuss with you the best approach for you based on your medical history and specific situation. This is very important so you can set realistic expectations and goals. You can discuss a plan of action for immediately after birth, when you arrive home and going back to work (if applicable).
3. Skin-to-skin with your baby is very important.
Many underestimate the power of skin-to-skin. Skin-to-skin just means placing your naked baby (diaper only) on your bare chest (with no bra). If you are able to put your baby skin to skin, do so immediately after the birth. This helps improve milk production and will regulate your baby’s temperature and blood sugar. If you are not able to immediately do skin to skin, do so as soon as you and your baby are stable enough.
4. Your body produces colostrum which is the first phase of your breastmilk.
Why am I telling you this? Because the first breastfeeding experience for most families is HARD. In the beginning you're most likely going to feel like you don't have any breast milk or it's just not coming out but rest assured IT'S THERE. This is why skin-to-skin is so important because it triggers that breastfeeding instinct within your baby immediately after birth to try and latch for that first feeding. During this first feeding, most babies will latch and breastfeed for a long time and then will be very sleepy afterwards.
5. Your baby will "clusterfeed" on day Two.
What is clusterfeeding? This is a term that means when your baby feeds multiple times ("cluster") within a short period. Remember when I said you're most likely going to feel like you don't have any breast milk. This is the time when you will probably feel that. Don't be discouraged, colostrum is thick and it doesn't take much to fill your baby's tummy. The good thing about this clusterfeeding period is that each time your baby breastfeeds, it sends a signal for your body to produce the milk that your baby will need in the future.
Think of it like this: when you go to a restaurant and place your order you don't get your food immediately. If you order large amount of food, you get a large amount in return, but if your order a small amount of food, you get a small amount in return. That's the same way breastfeeding works. Each time your baby breastfeeds, they are "placing their order" which will determine your future supply of milk. Breastfeeding more will yield more milk, breastfeeding less will yield less milk. The same is true for pumping using a breast pump.
6. Learn how to hand express your breast milk.
While you are still in the hospital or birthing center, ask the lactation consultant or breastfeeding professional to show you how to hand express. This is a good thing to learn even if you plan to use a breast pump. Remember when we talked about how thick colostrum is? In the early days, you will get more milk hand expressing than you will with a breast pump because of the thick consistency of colostrum. This really helps to boost your milk supply.
7. Consult with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding professional immediately if breastfeeding is not going well.
It's normal for your nipples to be tender and sore the first week of breastfeeding but they should NOT be cracking, bruised, bleeding or blistering. This is a sign of a problem with your baby's latch.
8. You need a support system.
Have a support system (family & friends) that are supportive of your breastfeeding goals and are willing to assist as you need them to. Remember that breastfeeding can take up to 6 weeks to learn so give yourself grace.