Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different. Whether you will be a new mom or have your fourth baby on the way, here are five lactation tips to help you navigate your breastfeeding journey with your newborn!
1. Learn As Much As Your Can During Pregnancy
With so many resources out there, it can be difficult to find the ones that truly want to help you as a new mama! Here are some great resources to start with:
WIC is a program dedicated to helping new moms learn and practice good nutrition for themselves and their children. They also have tons of resources for breastfeeding moms! In addition to their online information, your local WIC clinic can offer you help in other ways, such as providing a breast pump and/or supplies, peer counselor support, prenatal breastfeeding classes, and more.
If you have ANY questions at all about breastfeeding, pumping, nutrition, or supporting your baby in different stages, this is an amazing resource to check out! Not only does it go over the basic information you’ll need to make this a successful transition, but it also talks about the not-so-glamorous parts of choosing to nurse your child. For a new mom struggling with breastfeeding, it can be easy to forget that all of these emotions you are feeling are normal! Use the topics found on this site to ease your worries and remind yourself just how amazing you are doing!
If breastfeeding is completely new to you (or maybe you just need a refresher), taking a breastfeeding course can help! There are many online options that you can take advantage of from the comfort of your home. Depending on the course, topics range from the composition of breastmilk to dealing with engorgement. Or, you can opt for an in-person class in your community! Talk to your doctor to find out what options are available to you. Whatever route you decide to take, make sure that your course is hosted by a qualified individual, such as a lactation consultant or registered nurse.
As one of the largest milk banks, The Human Milk Banking Association of North America helps moms donate their extra breastmilk to support infants in need. This is a great resource if you want to put your extra pumped milk to good use. On the other hand, infants who don’t have access to breastmilk are still able to receive it. First, a donor mom is screened to make sure they can be a donor. You will also need to get a blood test done as well as get other information from your doctor. Then, once you have been screened, you can start donating breastmilk! If you are considering this resource, check out their website to find a member milk bank near you!
Having people to lean on during this transition is essential, and a supportive mom community is a great start! Learning about other moms' personal experiences can teach you a lot about breastfeeding. For example, the link above takes you to a breastfeeding support group (I am actively on) where you can join other moms to chat, ask questions, make connections, and find support. Additionally, in my blog post about the challenges of a new breastfeeding mom, I share some lactation tips and ways you can prepare for this new part of your life!
2. Seek Lactation Support From an IBCLC or Lactation Counselor
Both an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) can be a great resource! Although they both help moms with breastfeeding, they serve different purposes.
For example, an IBCLC provides a medical point of view on breastfeeding. They bring more clinical experience to the table and can be especially beneficial for moms who have a difficult breastfeeding situation.
On the other hand, CLCs have a holistic approach to breastfeeding. They are still trained professionals in this field and provide support to new mamas so they can successfully breastfeed. There are also many different types of lactation consultants who can help you!
No matter which approach you like best, both specialists can help with any lactation problems you run into, including clogged ducts, undiagnosable pain, or latching problems.
Breastfeeding can be hard on new moms, and you can face unique challenges with each individual child! This is why I offer lactation services to help moms with common troubles such as flange sizing, share lactation tips, and direct them to resources to help make this as easy as possible!
3. Learn Your Baby’s Cues and Desires
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if your newborn could just tell you what they need? Many moms struggle with deciphering what their newborn needs or dislikes, all while learning their cues.
There are some common signs that your baby uses to show you that they are hungry. These cues can look a lot like this:
- Moving their fists to their mouth
- Turning their head to look for the breast
- Starting to become more active and/or alert
- Opening and closing their mouth
- Sucking on their hands
However, if you are still navigating those cues to understand what your baby needs, take time to bond with your baby as this can be extremely helpful for you!
Bonding has loads of mental health and developmental benefits as well. One way that you can practice bonding with your baby is through skin-to-skin contact. This method can help bring mama and baby closer and also benefits breastfeeding! Skin-to-skin can help stabilize the baby, build up your milk supply, and allows you to release hormones to help with your own stress (which can affect breastmilk supply).
You can also bond with your baby in other ways. For example, simply talking or singing to them can be a bonding experience! Just remember that it’s okay if you don’t feel a strong bond with your baby right away… this can be developed over time!
4. Learn About Different Breastfeeding Methods
No matter your situation, there is a breastfeeding method that can work for you!
For example, many moms choose to exclusively nurse at the breast or exclusively pump. But, did you know that there are other methods you could consider as well?
A combination of breastfeeding and pumping gives you the best of both worlds. It allows you some flexibility throughout your day, especially if you are a working mom who still wants to nurse when you’re home! On the other hand, you could decide to combination feed (combo feed), which is feeding your baby breastmilk and formula. While this is a great option to use from time to time, breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for the baby.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you consider all of the pros and cons. All of these are exceptional choices for new moms, and it’s all about finding what works for you!
5. Get Support For Yourself
Between pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum, you have gone through a ton of changes! All of these can cause disruptions to your health. Whether you are trying to maintain hormonal balance, build good nutrition habits, or need support for your mental health, you are an important part of your breastfeeding journey!
It’s just as important for mom to be healthy and happy as it is for baby! Make sure that you are eating throughout the day and maintaining enough calorie intake to support yourself and your breastfeeding infant… You really are eating for two now! Nutrition.gov has many tips on how you can support your breastfeeding journey through nutrition.
Additionally, sleep is vital! We are always reminded to get enough sleep and rest… While this may be easier said than done, being well-rested can have a major impact on your hormones, stress levels, and overall health.
Finally, make sure that you get support from your partner, medical provider, family members, and friends, especially if you are battling with your mental health. Not only can mental health affect your ability to breastfeed, but breastfeeding can also be the cause of some of your mental health struggles! There are resources available to help you during this difficult time.
Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety are very real disorders that thousands of moms face. They can make connecting with your baby harder, which can lead to a decrease in oxytocin, breastfeeding complications, and feeling astray from your newborn. If you think you may be experiencing these emotions, please ask for help! There are many people who want to support you during this trying new stage of motherhood.
Preparing For Breastfeeding is Key
With so much excitement surrounding your new baby, taking time to prepare can help you feel at ease. But honestly, you can never truly be ready for breastfeeding because every experience is unique! Motherhood is all about learning on the job, and having resources to fall back on can make breastfeeding that much easier.
As a mom myself, I can understand that breastfeeding can be confusing. Just remember that you aren’t alone. It may take some time, but you and your baby can figure this out!
Breastfeeding your newborn is something special that you can continue to look back on for years to come. This is an experience that only you will have! This is why I love creating personalized breast milk jewelry… Every mama’s story is empowering! Whether you want to remember the challenges you overcame, the pain you felt, or the sweet bond you have created with your child, breast milk jewelry can help you cherish these fleeting moments and remind you of your strength. If you want to learn more about my custom jewelry, head over to my website!
Written by Lizadela of The Empowered Mama