My lactation specialist (or guru, as I call her) Linda Hanna has been an absolute godsend to me. Her tips have made me feel comfortable, less anxious, and most importantly...they have worked.
I was first referred to Linda by Lori Bregman with my first son, Brooks and have worked with her ever since. Since I don’t want to keep all her breastfeeding knowledge to myself, I asked Linda to share her top 10 tips to help all you new mommas out. And, if you are like me--you’ll need it!
Here are Linda’s tips to help get you through those first few months of breastfeeding:
Although most newborns will attempt to latch on to the breast within the first two hours after delivery, many infants will not show any signs of being breastfeeding-ready for 24-36 hours. Moms and dads of these babies should still try to do skin-to-skin (when possible) and continue to offer the breast, but be prepared to use a breast pump and feed your baby colostrum when available.
The labor and birth process (vaginal delivery, assisted vaginal birth, or cesarean birth) can often cause the breast/nipple-areola complex to change shape and size, due in part to increased fluid retention. Although this is quite normal and will resolve, the first few days of breastfeeding can be challenging. Moms and dads should plan to address any of these issues with treatment plans such as warm compresses, massage, reverse nipple pressure, pumping and even ice treatment. Speak with your nurses and lactation consultants if this becomes one of your challenges and remember that the baby will be able to latch on well once this issue is addressed.
Parents are faced with choosing a breast pump even prior to the birth of the baby. The insurance companies are providing a variety of options that can be very confusing to expectant parents. Speak with your childbirth educator and/or lactation consultant to help determine which pump best suits your personal needs. Some mothers will find they need a strong and effective double breast pump, such as a hospital grade breast pump, while other mothers will be very comfortable with a handheld single, battery-operated breast pump.
The need for a breast pump will be determined by multiple facts including working versus staying at home, milk supply concerns, nipple pain, and a host of other issues that can be discussed with a lactation consultant or your obstetrician.
During the third trimester an expectant mother should begin wardrobe planning. This includes finding clothes to wear while nursing, nursing bras, a hands-free pumping bra, and the other accessories necessary to support breastfeeding.
Make sure you are fit properly for at least 1 or 2 bras or tank tops that you can wear while nursing or sleeping. Cotton or disposable nursing pads can help protect your bras and clothing from leaking, as well as nipple butters, creams or ointments you may use. A non-lanolin cream or ointment is best for nipple tenderness, and can be used after nursing or pumping. These products do not need to be washed off before feeding. Coconut oil is another option for tender nipples, as it can promote healing. Soothing Gel Pads can greatly help with nipple trauma and pain.
Parents should work on recognizing the feeding cues and other signs the baby will display during a feeding. Some are indications that the baby is ready to nurse, while other cues are indications that the baby is ready for a break, sleep or other activity.
Each feeding event is usually going to take 45 minutes to 1 hour, and will occur 7-10 times in a 24-hr period. Each feeding should include 10 -20 minutes of nursing on each breast, often once or twice on each breast. Newborns will nurse in courses and take short breaks between breasts, and that is considered normal. Babies are known to nurse for 10-15 minutes, take a break, play and look around or engage with the parents/caregivers, and then come back to the breast to continue the feeding for another 10-20 minutes. The break time between breasts should be spent engaging with the baby in various ways, such as singing, reading, talking and playing with high-contrast (black and white) picture books.
Mothers nutritional intake is as important as any other part of the breastfeeding experience. Healthy food choices result in excellent quality milk and significant milk production. Some foods are actually galactogogues, which means that they are known to support milk production. These foods include grains and oats, green leafy vegetables, fruits, and good fats like avocado and coconut oils, to name just a few. Drinking plenty of fluids, including as much water as can be tolerated, is essential for milk production. Find a good reference book that explains more about pregnancy and lactation nutrition and use this as a guidebook on your journey through nursing.
It is important to take time for yourself for daily hygiene, naps, healthy eating and drinking to maintain your milk supply and emotional health. The normal birth recovery process is physically taxing and can be very emotional for new moms. Get help if you can with some of your typical day-to-day household chores. You may want to get some support with cooking, cleaning or food shopping. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support from friends and family.
Take a few minutes to create a calm, happy place to nurse your baby. You will want to nurse in a variety of locations around your home and eventually outside of your home as well. For now, creating a safe area to nurse your baby with a comfortable chair, a pillow for nursing, and all of your supplies nearby, will make the breastfeeding experience more positive for you and the baby.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant when you have questions. The more support and reinforcement you receive, the greater your chances of success will be. Breastfeeding has many challenges. Balancing a nursing schedule, working, family life and other children’s needs is a full-time job. And, when you are doing many of these things on your own, it will be very helpful to get expert advice as quickly as possible so you can avoid any unnecessary bumps along the way.
To avoid serious breastfeeding issues, treat problems that arise as quickly as possible. If you think you have plugged duct or other breast concern such as deep breast pain, cracked nipples, or infections, the sooner you get help the easier it will be to treat. You should reach out to your lactation consultant and your health care provider for a treatment plan and get started on that plan as soon as possible.
Even if you’re not in the Los Angeles area, you can still benefit from Linda’s services. Her app, Mahmee , is a postpartum healthcare app offering super-personalized, on-demand care and education to new mothers with infants 0-12 months old. Got a sore nipple or low milk supply? You can create your own physician-approved care plan to treat it, or start a text or video chat with a registered nurse. Click here to download! It’s definitely one of my breastfeeding MUST-HAVES!
For more of my must-haves, check them out here.
Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.