Thursday, January 24, 2013

Top ten things to get breastfeeding off to a good start

With breastfeeding nothing is more important than getting off to a good start.  A rough start can be overcome, but as a sleep deprived postpartum mom you want to avoid it if at all possible. 

  What exactly is a good start?  I would define a good start as appropriate weight gain by baby, not supplementing with formula, and a good latch which means no pain for mom.

And is there anything an expecting mom can do to increase the odds of having a good start?   I would suggest that there are ten things you can do to make it as easy as possible.  The first five are things to know before giving birth.  The last five are things to do after the birth.

Before Birth:
1) It is helpful to know if you have protruding, flat, or inverted nipples.  Prior to breastfeeding, nipples are perceived as only sexual and so women often have no idea which type of nipple they have.  By the way, inverted nipples are not inverted all the time, they go in instead of out when compressed for breastfeeding.  Check out Anne Smith's directions and photos if you want to check whether you have flat or inverted nipples.   Wearing breast shells for a few hours a day during the last trimester can really help if you have inverted nipples.
2)  Watch someone else latch a newborn (30 days old or less)
3)  Get educated.  Know what's normal for breastfeeding newborns.  If you know that it is normal for breastfeeding newborns to lose 10% of their weight the first week, it is not as scary.  Knowing that babies digest breastmilk in two hours and that they should be hungry an hour and half after you started the last feeding will make the whole process easier.  So what should you know?
Feeding pattern
Normal diapers
Normal weight loss/gain
Signs of Hunger
Newborn reflexes and how they can affect latch
Breastfeeding positions.
4) Write your birth plan.  This does not have to be elaborate.  Actually I think that the more simply they are the more the nurses are able to accommodate them.  But consider putting in it what your plans are for feedings, rooming in, supplementing with formula, and pacifiers.  If you have inverted nipples it would be a good idea to request that a breast pump be available immediately after birth.
5)  Find your cheerleader. If things are great and easy, your husband may be the only cheerleader you need.  But having a friend, mother, mother-in-law, or sister who has done this before may be what keeps you going if things get a little rough.  And remember, you are not the only one learning how to do this.  Baby is too.

1)  Get baby to breast within 30 minutes of birth if at all possible.  Why? So they don't "forget" how to do the birth crawl.
2)  It is not supposed to hurt.  If it does, get a lactation consultant to help with latch.  If your nipple looks like a new tube of lipstick after baby comes off the breast, latch isn't good enough.  With enough feedings this will turn to a cracked or bruised nipple. 
3) Room in (so you don't miss early signs of hunger)
4)  Keep a log of wet and poopy diapers and time at the breast until baby is back to birth weight.
5)  Drink enough water and be sure to feed yourself.  Sleep whenever you can.


  1. This is wonderful! I really wish someone had warned me about the nipple thing before birth. I had flat nipples, and my daughter had a lazy latch (possibly due to an undiagnosed tongue tie or the fact that I had demoral during delivery). Within a minute or two of her attempting to latch for the first time, they brought me a nipple shield.

    Also, I adore the sweet newborn picture!! Thanks for joining us at the Breastfeeding Blog Hop! ~Melissa

    1. I had flat nipples too Melissa. But since I was a pediatric nurse I knew it ahead of time. I wore the shells during labor so we were ready to go. The demerol may have done it. Did you have to get her frenulum clipped?

  2. Rooming in is great advice! I had so many people tell me, especially with my second, to just let him stay in the nursery so I could rest. Ummm, no! I didn't even like when the pediatrician took him to check him over and I went with. It's so much more comforting having baby right there with you!

    1. I totally can't sleep when my baby is out of the room. But it is SO much easier to latch a newborn with early hunger cues. The nurses are way to busy to watch all the babies for early (quiet) cues.