Breastfeeding may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Those first few weeks of breastfeeding are a time of learning for both you and your baby. You are both learning a new skill! Your baby is born with many amazing reflexes that will help them breastfeed and as you spend more time with your baby you will learn all their cues. Here are some tips and advice from a lactation consultant that can make those early days a little easier as you both learn!
1. Get help early from an IBCLC if you are having trouble or just to answer your questions and check things are going well. Don’t wait to get help if you are struggling!
2. Empty your breasts often. Feed your baby on demand 8-12 times a day, if not directly breastfeeding use your pump. Empty breasts make more milk than full breasts. Frequent milk removal during the early weeks is critical to long-term milk production.
3. Start to learn your baby's hunger cues. Notice what your baby does right before they are super-hungry (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth) and feed them at their early cues. Remember, crying is a late hunger cue.
4. Rest! Rely on your partner and support system for help. Your main job is to heal from the birth and feed your baby. Ask for help with all the household tasks. If you have older children, ask family or friends to help you care for them as much as possible.
5. Make sure you are getting proper nutrition and fluids. Milk-making requires about 500 additional calories a day. Eat plenty of whole grains, protein, healthy cats, and fruits and veggies. Fueling your body is important for your own healing and energy levels needed for caring for a new baby. Keep a water bottle with you and drink to thirst. You need to stay hydrated, but you don’t need “extra” water in order to make milk.
6. Join a virtual support group for parents or breastfeeding. Your local La Leche League or hospital might have one, or there are many groups on Facebook to connect with other breastfeeding/ pumping moms.
7. Check-in with yourself mentally or ask your partner to keep an eye on your mental health. If you need help or aren’t feeling like yourself and it feels like more than the baby blues reach out to your OBGYN for resources.
8. Be flexible. You can't predict what life will be like once your baby arrives, so be prepared to make changes or switch gears if you need to. Know it's not always a linear path, and that's ok.
9. Celebrate your successes, even if they seem small. Maybe take a "brelfie" (breastfeeding selfie) at each milestone to make a little digital scrapbook at the end.