Top 10 Ways to Help Breastfeeding Start Smoothly
1. Prepare before the birth of your baby
You would not give birth without being informed, without seeking answers to your questions, right? Well, I encourage you to do the same for breastfeeding! Go find the answers to your questions. Sort out the overwhelming information with an educated professional. Discuss your motivations, your fears, problems and solutions with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
2. Give birth with the least interventions possible
Breastfeeding is the physiological result of pregnancy and childbirth. Each step influences the next. Each intervention during labor interferes with the physiological hormone secretion, which disrupts hormone secretion for lactation and the reflexes of the newborn for breastfeeding. The presence of a doula can help manage the pain to avoid analgesics, which often lead to a cascade of other interventions, and thus promote the initiation of breastfeeding.
3. Have skin to skin contact with your baby
As soon as your baby is born, you can request (and it is often hospital protocol) that he or she be placed on your belly/chest, skin to skin. This helps the baby to stabilize, to calm down and to initiate breastfeeding. The practice of skin to skin is important in the first 6 weeks (or longer, much longer!) and essential in the first 2 hours of life. It helps to establish milk production and promotes the secretion of hormones for lactation between the mother and baby. Feel free to have skin to skin as often as you want, do not forget it once you are at home! Common hospital protocols can wait several hours and for the most part can be done on mom, after the first feed!
4. First latch within an hour of birth, ideally
By being skin to skin with you at birth, your baby will be able to express his or her ability and instinct to find your breast on his own. Usually, the baby expresses these reflexes in the first hour of life. It is important to give him this opportunity because it allows him to organize neurologically for breastfeeding. This sequence, of putting baby on your chest and letting him latch on his own, can be repeated as many times as desired or as necessary so that breastfeeding starts well and is painless. Indeed, pain is not normal even in early lactation. It is indicative that something is not working.
5. Early cue feeding without limits of time and frequency
Watch the baby, not the clock! After this first latch, initiated by the baby, the next will be every time your baby wakes. Do not miss the opportunity because in those first few days they are short! We must also remember that at first, the woman produces colostrum. This is a condensed milk, very rich in nutrients and every drop is important for the baby. Colostrum does not flow freely. It seems like we don’t produce much of it, but it is all your baby needs until your milk comes in. Frequent feedings, at least 8 times per 24 hours, allow the baby to take good weight and helps establish your milk production. Indeed, it takes about six weeks for your body to stabilize milk production and frequent stimulation in the first few weeks helps ensure good supply. The duration of feedings varies from one baby to the next and from one feeding to the next, so again don’t look at the clock, the baby decides when he is hungry and when he is finished at the breast. You do not have to wait until your baby is crying to feed them. Crying is a sign of distress in a newborn!
6. Keep the baby close
To be able to breastfeed your baby at every awakening, I suggest you keep her close to you at all times. This is why it is recommended to have your newborn in your room with you. A co-sleeper crib (one that attaches safely to your bed) is handy for this and gives you more freedom of movement. This allows the baby to discover, get to know and better recognize its signs of arousal, hunger and fatigue and for you to meet their needs more efficiently. Thus the attachment relationship develops.
7. Avoid pacifiers and bottles
These accessories can harm the establishment of breastfeeding in two ways. On the one hand, the baby does not use the same muscles as when they suck on the breast and it may create nipple confusion. Also, the time the baby spends with a pacifier or bottle in the first six weeks can result in missed opportunities to stimulate milk production. This is a critical period for the establishment of your milk production for the remainder of your breastfeeding relationship. The more often your baby is at your breast the more milk your body will make.
8. Avoid commercial infant formula
Supplementing with infant formula should not be done unless there is a medical indication and only after a breastfeeding assessment by a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). Also, if supplementation is necessary, ideally it should be done with the expressed breast milk. This could be enough to meet the needs of the baby. Remember that colostrum is rich for this reason, a few drops are enough! Any supplement of infant formula can harm the development of milk production and therefore jeopardize breastfeeding.
9. Give yourself time
In a society where everything moves fast and where we solve all our problems with a click, we’re not used to taking time. Adapting to our new role as a parent, caring for our baby, and getting comfortable breastfeeding, can take time, days or even weeks. We must give ourselves time to develop our new skills and develop our confidence to discover the pleasure of being a parent.
10. Surround yourself with Support
The first weeks with a baby can be intense and demanding. This is especially true when breastfeeding is difficult at the beginning. Therefore, it is essential to have the support of your loved ones (spouse, family and friends) so you can concentrate on your baby and set up your breastfeeding. The support is not to take care of the baby but more to take care of the house (cleaning, washing, meals), you as a new mother and older children. I also recommend finding a breastfeeding peer or counselor, as it is recognized that this kind of support extends the duration of breastfeeding. You can also contact Nourri-Source, La Leche League, a nurse from your CLSC or a Board Certified Lactation Consultant in private practice. Finally, there are many associations that organize activities for new mothers and allow them to exchange, share and help each other.
And you? How did your breastfeeding relationship begin? Tell us!
Consultante en lactation IBCLC
Au service de votre allaitement
This post was originally written in French and translated by Momzelle in English
- Mieux vivre avec notre enfant de la grossesse à deux ans, INSPQ, 2015, pages 148-151
- Peripartum breastfeeding management for the healthy mother and infant at term, revision 2013, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, clinical protocol #5
- Nourri-Source 1-866-948-5160 – 514-948-9877
- La Ligue La Leche 1 866 ALLAITER (1 866 255-2483)
- Association Québécoise des Consultantes en lactation IBCLC
You can share this article without further permission, provided it is used exclusively in its entirety and in contexts where the “International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes” WHO is respected. The text of Marie-Caroline Bergouignan, Lactation Consultant IBCLC, was sponsored by Momzelle inc. This statement is considered an integral part of the text and therefore must be part of the broadcast.