Be prepared for a learning curve with your breastfeeding journey. There is a lot to learn. So much of it I didn’t learn until after my baby was born, so don’t be surprised if you’re surprised by what you discover. Some fun facts:
· The first fluid produced by the breasts is a thick, concentrated form of breastmilk called colostrum. This dense milk is the first thing your baby will consume if there are no barriers to breastfeeding. It can even be expressed and collected before the baby is born. Colostrum serves many functions, such as lining the stomach and protecting against infection. Breastmilk comes in within a few days after the baby is born.
· Breastmilk does not come out in one stream, but through many holes similar to a showerhead.
· The composition of breastmilk at the end of a feeding (hindmilk) contains more fat than the milk at the beginning of a feeding (foremilk). The fat content is important as it aids with lactose digestion.
· Breastmilk can be removed with a pump or by hand expression. If you begin collecting milk for later consumption, your body will automatically adjust to make more. Breastmilk production is directly related to how much is being expressed, whether by breastfeeding or other means.
· You can drink, in moderation, while breastfeeding. There is a very small amount of alcohol that transfers into the breastmilk; not enough to cause any harm or alarm. As a rule of thumb, if you’re okay to drive, you’re okay to breastfeed.
My recommendations for beginning breastfeeding:
· Figure out how to get your baby to latch properly. A shallow or misplaced latch can lead to painful breastfeeding and an unsatisfied baby. Look up instructional videos. Do not underestimate the importance of this. You basically have to squeeze your breast into a panini sandwich, maneuver your nipple deep towards the upper back of the baby’s throat until you feel like you’re gagging them, and the baby’s lips need to be wide but sealed around your entire areola, all the while holding the baby and yourself in a suitable position. It requires about five hands to pull off a successful latch, but it’s something you’ll soon learn to do with your measly two hands and a nursing pillow.
· Feed on demand. That means, breastfeed your baby whenever they show signs of hunger. Don’t worry about keeping on a certain schedule and don’t be concerned if they seem more hungry than usual at times. Multiple feedings in a short period of time is called cluster feeding, and there can be many reasons for this – for example, they could be growing or they could be preparing for a longer period of sleep, or maybe they are teething or simply want some comfort. Any of these reasons are okay. Feeding or expressing often is the key to keeping your supply up.
· Don’t use a pacifier or formula for the first several weeks, if you can help it. This allows you to establish a communication pattern between you and your baby, and you will have a better sense of when they are crying out of hunger versus when they are fussy for a different reason.
· Don’t switch breasts in the middle of a feeding. Allow the baby to feed on one side until they indicate they are satiated. This ensures that the baby is getting the benefits of the fatty hindmilk. After burping, you can offer the second breast, though they often won’t need more until the next feeding, in which case, you begin on the fuller breast.