What to expect as a breastfeeding mother
The key to successful breastfeeding is a great support network. There are many places to turn for help. Most areas have mother groups and special breastfeeding peer groups that can be a great support system especially if you don’t have family close by.
It takes a while to prepare baby and yourself to get out the door (even longer if you already have another child!) but try not to isolate yourself – particularly in the early days when you and baby are recovering from delivery. These groups can be great to bring up questions, concerns, and to know that you are amongst your fellow mothers. You can also find a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in your area to support you in the first weeks with your new baby.
Every baby is different, and every mother’s experience with her newborn is unique. While no two babies are alike, the following typical feeding routines should let you know what to expect, help you recognize the ranges of normal, and give you guidance about when to seek help from a healthcare provider.
Breastfed Newborns Nurse A Lot
On average, your baby will awaken to breastfeed every one to three hours or feed at least 10-12 times per day. Feedings are timed from the beginning of one nursing to the beginning of the next. After your baby finishes a feeding, she'll probably be ready to nurse again within the next couple of hours. This time will lengthen as baby grows but it is important to understand the frequency is normal and good, as it is building and establishing your supply and helping to nourish your baby.
Many new breastfeeding mothers are not prepared for the normal frequency of feedings. Because the baby wants to feed so often the mother assumes that she is not producing enough milk. Often new breastfeeding mothers comment, "It seems like all I do is breastfeed." This is not how breastfeeding looks forever.
Most breastfed babies become more efficient at breastfeeding as they get older. Try not to focus so much attention on the clock. Instead, focus on the cues your baby gives about how often she needs to nurse. If she was just fed an hour ago and is acting hungry again, respond to her signals and offer your breast. Feeding frequently during these first weeks is the principal way your milk supply becomes adjusted to meet your baby's requirements.
This is known as the "breastfeeding law of supply and demand." Remember that drained breasts make milk, so it's important to continue breastfeeding frequently to make milk. Because your body is constantly making milk, your breast will never really be emptied.
Your Breasts Seem to be Taking on a Life of Their Own
Your body is experiencing a lot during this time and as your breasts continue to produce milk, they may seem like they are changing by the hour. In the early months of nursing, you may experience leaking. Nursing pads help prevent embarrassing leaks.
Your breasts may also swell and become engorged, and your nipples can become sensitive and sore. If your nipples do become sore or cracked, use a product that can be applied to soothe and protect your nipples.
Engorgement, or swollen breasts, is a temporary condition that begins about the third day postpartum as mature milk comes in. Nursing frequently during this period is the best way to alleviate or avoid engorgement because your baby is helping your body understand how much milk she will drink and the body will adjust accordingly.
Breastfeeding while engorged can be difficult since the baby can have a hard time properly latching on, but don't let this discourage you. Your nipple needs to touch the roof of your baby’s mouth to stimulate the baby to latch on, suck and swallow. Other things to try:
- Take hot showers to help soften your breasts
- Express some of the milk either by hand expression or with a breast pump. Express just enough to soften the breast so the baby can properly latch onto the breast
- Use ice packs after nursing to help keep the swelling down and relieve the pain.
Let your baby set the pace for breastfeeding
Pay attention to her feeding cues. The number of feedings each baby needs and the length of time each feeding lasts will vary from baby to baby. Trying to force a breastfed baby to wait longer between feedings, or fit a particular feeding schedule, can result in poor weight gain and decreased milk supply.
Talk to your pediatrician or healthcare provider about vitamins or minerals that your baby may need as a breastfeeding baby.
Article provided by Lansinoh Laboratories, a major supplier of products, advice and encouragement to mothers committed to breastfeeding. Products include HPA® Lanolin, from Lansinoh, Therapearl® 3-in-1 Breast Therapy and Therapearl 3 in 1 Gel Packs.