Your baby will be here before you know it. You may have already started writing your birth plan, gathering your supplies, and getting the baby's room ready. Now is also the time to start putting your breastfeeding success plan in action.
In some ways, breastfeeding is an instinctual art, but in other ways, it is a learned skill that takes time and space to master. Have you ever looked in a breastfeeding book and the images looked blissful? Well those women have mastered breastfeeding. It takes time and lots of practice to master something. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Have you ever looked at a yoga book and thought that the poses looked easy? What happened when you tried the poses for the first time? Did you wobble and topple over? Right! We all do. The woman doing yoga has mastered the poses. She practiced and practiced for months and maybe years before she got the confidence up to have someone photograph her for the book.
It’s the same with breastfeeding. It looks natural and easy, but it is a learned skill that requires perfect practice to master. This type of mastery requires patience and persistence.
Here are 7 tips to help you cultivate a healthy breastfeeding relationship with your baby and establish an abundant milk supply.
1. Prepare Now
It is paramount to prepare for breastfeeding before giving birth. Get educated by taking childbirth and nursing classes, reading books, watching videos, checking out nursing blogs, even better yet, spending time with nursing moms and learning from them.
La Leche League (LLL) meetings provide a great opportunity for in person real world learning. When you go to LLL meetings you will see the brand new mom fumbling around with their newborn, the more experienced mom of a 6 week old, then there’s the seasoned mom nursing a 6 month old, and the expert mom who is nursing a toddler. Each phase is different and presents new rewards and challenges.
Another reason I recommend going to LLL meetings while you are pregnant is because you will get to know the leaders before you have any breastfeeding issues or vulnerabilities. If you are already on first-name basis with each other, then it is way easier to call the LLL leader and ask for advice than it will be to ask a complete stranger to come to your house, and sit with you while you learn how to nurse your newborn.
2. Create a Nursing Sanctuary
As you create your nursing sanctuary keep in mind that you need to be comfortable and that everything you need is within arm's reach. You need a comfortable chair to sit and rock in. Gather lots of comfy pillows to support your low back, arms, and hold the baby in a good position while you nurse. You will need a small table to hold your gallon of water, healthy snacks, a few good books, your healing salve, your phone, etc.
You will be spending a lot of time here so plan it accordingly. I tell my clients that they might need two nursing stations, one in the living room with people and another one more private in your room or in the babies room. One aspect of creating a sanctuary is creating a physical space. Another aspect is clearing space in time. Take things off your calendar, and create social space. After the birth, clear your agenda and cultivate a nursing relationship with your baby, give yourselves enough time to get skin to skin, meet each other, and figure this whole nursing thing out. This time passes so quickly and if you don’t carve it out for yourself, the time will be filled with other less important things.
3. Gather Nursing Clothes
This is not essential, but it is nice to have clothes that fit you well and are designed for you to nurse conveniently and discreetly. Nursing in public was never an issue for me personally, but it can make some people uncomfortable. Honestly, I did not care if someone saw my breast. I was more stressed out about the love handles that stuck out! So, a few nursing bras, nursing tanks, and button up blouses are really nice to have on hand.
4. Identify Role Models and Experts
Cultivating a nursing relationship with your baby is your primary focus as a new mom who wants to nurse successfully. Often times, all you need to do is connect with your baby and nursing goes smoothly. But this is not always the case. Sometimes, you need to seek advice from an expert. Those women who are trying to solve all their nursing problems alone feel alone.
Not that long ago, women regularly sat in circles with other breastfeeding women. Women learned to nurse from their mothers, grandmothers and aunties. Ask yourself, who do you know that has experience breastfeeding? Seek out mentors, role models and experts to help teach you the art of breastfeeding. It takes a village.
5. Prioritize Nourishment
Your body is amazing! It can grow your baby, birth your baby, and it can feed your baby. But if you want your body to perform the way you want it to then you need to nurture it! Listen to your body what is it saying? Feed me, water me, move and stretch me, and relax me.
If you want to have copious amounts of milk then you must eat appropriately. Breastfeeding moms need more calories than other women. Think of it like this: a non-pregnant woman should get about 2,000 calories a day. A pregnant woman 2,500 calories, and a breastfeeding mom about 3,000. You’ll need even more calories if you are exercising, tandem nursing, or nursing multiples. Please do not go overboard with this, though. Keep it simple and get 3 solid meals and have a few healthy snacks sprinkled in throughout your day.
Admittedly, the challenge is having healthy food on hand that is easy to prepare. Meal planning is essential now, more than ever. Here are some tips to help you keep your pantry and fridge stocked with good food:
- As a baby shower or blessingway gift you can ask people to bring frozen meals that can go directly into the freezer to be eaten after the birth.
- You could have a friend organize a meal train for you.
- There are meal services like Mike’s Mindful Plate that make incredibly delicious and wholesome meals and your friends, and family can buy meals for you ahead of time and all you have to do is pick them up.
If you are cooking for yourself, I recommend cooking your biggest meal in the morning when you and your baby are in good spirits. As the day wears on the stress builds, and in my house it peaked at dinner when everyone was tired and hungry. Cooking early is a great way to have food all day and avoid the stress at dinner time.
You already know this, but seriously, hydration is essential. Your breast milk is 87% water. And as soon as you get your baby latched on to your breast, your mouth is immediately dry! You will need at least a gallon of water a day. You can drink to satisfy your thirst then drink a little more just to be sure you are getting enough.
6. Get Support
New mothers should be nurtured mothers. It takes a village to grow a child and it takes love and support take care of nursing moms. Please, take the help when it is offered to you. People really do want to help with the house, laundry, shopping, cooking, and yes, they want to hold the baby while you get a quick shower.
Your partner can be incredibly supportive. Simple things like them believing in your ability to nurse, holding the baby while you get into a better nursing position, burping the baby, bathing the baby, and of course changing diapers. Actions like these go far and are greatly appreciated.
7. Stay Steadfast
During the first week, newborns typically loose weight. Then, around days 5-7, they start gaining weight. They should be back to their birth weight at 2 weeks. As far as diapers are concerned, once your milk is in, you should see 6-8 wet diapers and 4-6 quarter size bowel movements that are seedy and the color of mustard.
If you are concerned about your milk supply, then seek help from a lactation consultant, take breastfeeding herbs and go back to the basics. And ask yourself these questions:
- Am I getting enough skin to skin time with my baby?
- Am I eating enough high quality foods?
- Have I had enough water today?
- What does my baby look like?
- How many wet and dirty diapers are you getting?
Don’t give in to the fear and the nay sayers! Nursing can be so rewarding and it can be so challenging too. Most women who stop nursing do so because they lack the support, don’t have realistic expectations of just how often babies nurse, and probably the number one reason is because they think or are told they are not making enough milk.
You can do this! Just remember to let your love and your milk flow!