For all of the focus on schedules and nutrition, certain key insights about breastfeeding sometimes get less attention. Here are nine things that nursing moms should know.
Your breast milk doesn’t look like milk.
Don’t panic if you see a thick, yellowish flow when you begin nursing. This first milk, or colostrum, is the nutrient-dense food that will sustain your newborn for their first few days. When people reference milk “coming in” two to five days after delivery, they’re referencing a whitish, thinner fluid that follows.
Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally for you or the baby.
Perfecting your breastfeeding technique can take time. Here are some quick breastfeeding tips:
- Find a comfortable position and a quiet spot away from distractions.
- Babies have a sucking reflex but sometimes need some latching guidance. Make sure your baby’s mouth is open wide and that it’s around as much of the areola as possible.
- Follow your baby’s lead. They may want to feed from one breast or both. Did they take a snooze mid-meal? Try switching to the other breast. Increasing milk flow in the opposite breast may help waken your baby.1
- Massaging your breast toward the nipple can direct milk flow toward your baby’s mouth.
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin. This is a beautiful time for cuddling, bonding, and releasing the love hormone oxytocin.2
Pumping can take practice.
If you’re like many new moms, you may want to start pumping your breast milk at some point. Maybe you’re going back to work or want to let others share in the feedings. Whatever your reason for pumping, give yourself time to get the hang of it. There can be a learning curve, so try to start practicing pumping a few weeks beforehand if you have a deadline, such as a job return date.
You may need to increase your milk supply.
In most cases, your body will produce as much breast milk as your baby requires, but there are times when you may need to increase your milk supply. Some common factors that can influence your milk production include:
- Not breastfeeding enough
- Supplementing with infant formula
- Insufficient latching, which makes it difficult for your baby to get enough milk, so less milk is removed
Breast milk production follows a supply and demand process. The more milk you remove from your breasts, the more you’re likely to produce. The above factors can trigger your body into thinking that not as much milk is needed, so it won’t make as much. The result? Decreased milk supply. How to increase milk supply? Here are some tips:
- Check that your baby has a mouthful. Make sure your baby is latching correctly. When they suck and remove milk from the breast, they’re getting nutrition and helping maintain your milk supply.
- Breastfeed regularly, as your baby demands it. If you miss a session or are supplementing with formula, try to pump or express your milk often in between feedings to help keep your milk supply coming. Do your best to empty the breasts completely.
- Keep eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet that supports your overall health and wellness. And with your doctor’s OK, consider taking galactagogues, better known as lactations supplements. These are herbs such as alfalfa, fenugreek, and blessed thistle, which have been used historically to help boost breast milk supply.3
- Ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a lactation specialist who is specially trained to help new parents manage breastfeeding issues.
Don’t worry about your bust going bust.
Many women worry that breastfeeding will make their breasts sag or shrink once they wean, but this isn’t true. The Aesthetic Surgery Journal reports that breastfeeding has no impact on breast shape. A high body-mass index (BMI), large prepregnancy bra size, and smoking are some of the real culprits.
Breastfeeding sometimes affects your love life.
From sore nipples to leaking during intercourse to reduced vaginal lubrication—breastfeeding can indeed interrupt your sex life. Sex may be different, but it can still be pleasurable. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Eat well, but don’t worry too much.
Sure, you’re responsible for manufacturing your baby’s food, but don’t let that stress you out. Instead, simply follow a well-balanced diet, including a couple of daily servings of high-quality protein. Opt for fatty fish like salmon two to three times a week to build up brain-nourishing DHA (a healthy fat) in your breast milk. You can also supplement your nursing with DHA-rich formulas.
Leaking breast milk results from hormones and your milk supply normalizing. Sometimes milk may drip from the breast opposite the one being used, and sometimes just thinking about your baby can cause leaking. Use a cloth breast pad insert in your nursing bra to absorb drips, and change it often to avoid chafing.
Breastfeeding can help ease stress.
Breastfeeding can be an amazing way to relax and bond with your baby. It may take a while for you and your little one to become nursing pros, but once you’ve found your groove, you’ll be putting your feet up and letting the peaceful hormones flow.
Nursing may be natural, but every mom is a novice when they begin. Take your time and be kind to yourself. With the right strategies, some trial and error, and a bit of patience, you have an increased chance of breastfeeding success.
All information on Enfamil.com, including but not limited to information about health, medical conditions, and nutrition, is intended for your general knowledge. It is not a substitute for a healthcare professional's medical identification, advice, or management for specific medical conditions. You should seek medical care and consult your doctor, OB-GYN, or pediatrician for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on Enfamil.com.