Breastfeeding

The Beginners Guide to Breastfeeding

There are many decisions to make when you have a baby. What their name will be, where they will sleep, who will care for them when you return to work, etc. One of the biggest decisions you make is how you will feed your baby. Will you be breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a little bit of both?

The decision to breastfeed your baby is a big one, and I’m sure you’ll want to get all the information you can to have a successful breastfeeding journey.

As a mom of 4, ages ranging from 11 years to 9 months, I have breastfed them all. Now, I’ll admit, I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the years. I had no idea what I was doing with my first, and had a huge lack of support as well. Because of that lack of support and knowledge, I stopped breastfeeding my first by 4 months. Check out Breastfeeding: All The Things I wish I knew

Each child, I was able to breastfeed longer, and I learned some of the mistakes I was making along the way. By the time I had my third baby, I was a registered nurse, working on labor and delivery. I’ve helped hundreds of mamas with their first latch and learned even more on positioning and latch.

I’m now working on becoming a lactation consultant so that I can further assist other mamas on their breastfeeding journey.


Breastfeeding

Why choose Breastfeeding?

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a baby be fed breastmilk exclusively for the first 6 months of life. This means that the baby should not receive any other foods or fluids (except for Vitamin D) for the first 6 months after birth, unless medically necessary.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that a baby be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life as well. They also state that after the first 6 months, that a baby should receive foods that are safe and nutritionally sufficient while continuing to breastfeed up to age 2 or beyond.

Low rates of breastfeeding contribute to more than $3 billion a year in medical costs to mother and baby(CDC).

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding for both mom and baby

Baby

  • Contains antibodies that fight off viruses and bacteria
  • Reduces baby’s risk for illnesses and diseases.
  • Promotes healthy weight gain and helps to prevent childhood obesity
  • Protects against allergies and eczema
  • Reduces the risk of SIDS

Mom

  • Can help lose weight after delivery.
  • Helps your uterus contract after delivery, which in turn helps reduce bleeding.
  • Lowers risk of depression.
  • Reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer

You can read more about the benefits of breastmilk from Parents

Breastfeeding

How to get started with breastfeeding

The great thing about breastfeeding is that you don’t need much to start, just a good knowledge base. It’s a good idea to take a breastfeeding class before your baby arrives. Here is a great one I recommend if you’d like to take one online.

Tips for Success in breastfeeding

SO how can you make sure you have a successful breastfeeding journey? Here’s a few tips to get you started:

  • Stay Hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day.
  • Make sure you’re comfortable and relaxed.
  • Don’t force a schedule on your baby . Let your baby nurse on demand and for how long they want. Enjoy the bond.
  • Invest in a good hospital strength pump.
  • Massage your breast while you nurse or pump for more efficient emptying and to prevent clogged ducts.
  • Empty your breasts frequently. Whether you’re using a pump or nursing baby at the breast, don’t go too long without emptying.
  • Meet with a lactation consultant early on to insure you have a good latch and answer any questions you may have.
  • If baby is also taking a bottle, make sure to pace feed.
breastfeeding Facts

FAQ About Breastfeeding

When will my milk come in?

Ok, so lets clear up some confusion. Milk production begins in the second trimester of pregnancy. Your body begins to make colostrum, which is the thick, yellowish liquid, that you see right after birth. It’s full of awesome antibodies and nutrients for your newborn and is easy for their little tummies. Some women may see their breasts leaking during pregnancy. It’s completely normal.

Your milk changes 2-5 days after birth. Your body says, it is now time to FEED the baby and it goes from the yellow think fluid to that white milk you’re used to seeing. This change is signaled by your placenta detaching from your uterus and being delivered.

How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?

The best way to track nutrition input is through the amount of wet diapers your baby is having. This includes bowels (poopy) as well. In the beginning, the aim is to have at least 6-8 wet diapers per day. The amount of wet and bowel diapers needed, will change over time.

You should also hear your baby swallowing, which will sound like a “kah” sound. Remember, if at any point you have concerns about your infant getting enough milk, speak with your child’s pediatrician and an IBCLC.

My baby constantly wants to nurse, does that mean he’s not getting enough milk?

There are so many reasons your baby wants to nurse. They nurse because they’re hungry, sleepy, hurt, need comfort, etc. Oftentimes, when your baby wants to nurse constantly, they’re entering a growth spurt or going through a developmental leap. During these growths and leaps, babies tend to clusterfeed.

Cluster feeding is when a baby feeds several times within the normal window of 2-3 hours. You may nurse your baby and within minutes of finishing and putting them down, they’re showing signs of wanting to nurse again.

This is a completely normal and needed. Cluster feeding lets your body know that it needs to up its milk supply for your baby.

How often do I need to breastfeed?

In the first couple of months, your baby will typically nurse 8-12 times in a 24 hr period. That’s about every 2-3 hours. If you find that your baby is going on 3 hours without eating, you may need to wake them up to nurse them.

How long can breastmilk stay in the refrigerator?

According the the CDC, breastmilk that was just expressed, can be placed in the refrigerator up to 4 day. If placing it in the freezer, it’s best to keep it no longer than 6 months, although 12 months is acceptable. Freshly expressed breastmilk can also stay at room temperature (77 degrees F or cooler) for up to 4 hours.

You can read more about breastmilk storage from the CDC.

Does my baby need water during the hot months when breastfeeding?

The short answer is No. Our breastmilk is made up of 88% water. Breastmilk supplies all the hydration your baby needs. So if your baby is exclusively breastfed, even in those hot months, there is no need for additional water.

Once your baby turns 6 months and starts solids, you CAN introduce water to your baby, but no more than an once. But again, it’s not even needed.

You can read more about giving your infant water from Kelly Mom.

I just found out I’m pregnant. Can I continue breastfeeding?

Typically, you can continue breastfeeding while you’re pregnant. Because of hormones, you may experience a decrease in your milk supply *insert sad face*. But once baby has been delivered, your supply will come back and you can tandem nurse.

Remember to speak with your OB or Midwife. In some cases, it is NOT safe for a mama to breastfeed while she’s pregnant. This is usually due to some underlying medical condition that can put mom in a high risk pregnancy.

So, once you find out you’re pregnant, talk with your doctor to make sure it’s safe to continue for you and for baby.

How can I increase my milk supply?

The bigger question here is, why do you think your milk supply is low? Is baby gaining weight? Are they having enough wet diapers? If so, your supply is likely fine.

I get it. You’ve been in those support groups, and you’ve seen other moms post their “stash”. You’ve seen the pics of how much they pump in one session. You’re comparing their baby’s rolls to your baby’s lack thereof. Stop. Say it with me: Every baby is different. Every breastfeeding journey is different.

There are some instances where your supply might take a dip, like when your period starts, you start birth control, or you get pregnant. All of these are due to hormones. (If you need help deciding on a non-hormonal birth control check this out–> Choosing The Right Birth Control: 11 Best Methods You Need To Know).

Know that if you are pumping and nursing, your pump will not always be as effective at emptying your breast as your baby. So while you may not get a ton of milk with the breast pump, your baby is likely full when nursing from the breast.

A normal output to pump after nursing your baby is 0.5-2 oz combined. If you are pumping to replace a missed feed, a normal output is 2-4 oz combined.

Where can I find help for breastfeeding?

There so many resources around you to get help with breastfeeding. You can contact your local hospital, since many of them have lactation classes. You local La Lech League tends to have meetings and support groups.

If you don’t have somewhere you can go locally, you can get help virtually as well. There are tons of Facebook groups that offer amazing breastfeeding support. There are also many IBCLCs that offer support through online video chats as well!

The Last Thing You Need to Know about breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do for your baby. Any amount of breastmilk you can give your baby is beneficial. Whether you nurse for 1 week or 1 year, you are doing something amazing.

Remember, that there are so many resources out there for you when you need help. Regardless of your choice to breastfeed, I’m here to support you!

Don’t forget to share this information to other expecting moms that plan to breastfeed! Subscribe for more content and to stay up to date on new things to come and exclusive offers.

You may also like:

Breastfeeding Terms: A Glossary of useful terminology

Breastfeeding: All The Things I wish I knew

Pumping: Maintaining Your Milk Supply When You Return to Work

Additional Resources:

breastfeeding guide

8 thoughts on “The Beginners Guide to Breastfeeding”

  1. I really like when you said “Every baby is different. Every breastfeeding journey is different.” that is so true!! These are great tips for breastfeeding.

    1. It’s so hard for us to not judge our journey based on how another mama is doing, or how well, or bad we did with a child before. Gotta remember our body hit the reset button. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Yes! I’m on baby number 4 and breastfeeding, and I’m always learning new things! Even as a nurse that is constantly helping new mamas breastfeed, the learning never stops. Thanks for stopping by!

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