Your beautiful baby has finally arrived and all the anticipation is over, now what? Once your baby is placed onto your chest, you may have envisioned that this beautiful, bonding moment will naturally progress to breastfeeding and that both you and your baby will instinctively know what to do. However, for many it doesn’t come that easily. Especially if you experienced any interventions, an epidural or cesarean, there may be some challenges to navigate when it comes to breastfeeding. Trained and experienced in birth and postpartum care, your doula will play an important role not only in your labor and birth by providing physical, emotional, and informational support but after birth as well, especially in establishing breastfeeding. A doula will stay close by and help new parents recognize hunger cues from baby, establish a proper latch to avoid pain during feeding, and teach you the best breastfeeding positions to ensure a comfortable, enjoyable and successful nursing experience for both mom and baby.
As a doula and your BFF, that is Breast Feeding Friend, I have a few words of advice for new mamas as they begin their journey with breastfeeding. First, thank your body. Your body just grew, sustained, and birthed your precious baby; it’s strong, smart and capable. Be confident in your body’s ability to continue to sustain and grow your baby. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help it out along the way. Don’t just feed yourself; nourish yourself. Just as your baby deserves the best, so do you. Fuel your body with healthy, nutrient dense foods, including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay hydrated. I know as a new mom getting use to working off a newborn’s sleep schedule it can be temping to survive off coffee and easily accessible, sugary snacks, but your efforts will be much more rewarding if you take the time to properly tend to your body’s needs. Not to mention, what you eat slightly changes the taste of your milk so eating a wide variety of foods will introduce your baby to new flavors and make them more apt to trying new foods when they’re old enough.
Next, build a support team because it’s going to take persistence. Sometimes it takes grit to stick it out and work past any challenges you might face. Whether it’s a partner, friend, family member or hired help, build a team to help, answer questions and encourage you. It’s so helpful when you can relate to someone who’s been there, experienced the same or similar issues and come out the other side. Speak to a professional if you have any serious concerns such as any persistent pain, fever and flu like symptoms, or fear that your supply isn’t meeting your baby’s needs. Chances are, any issues you experience can be easily identified and remedied. Enlist the help of your partner or family member with bottle-feeding when you need rest or your time is required elsewhere. There are many ways your support team can help you succeed.
In addition to being noisy, the womb is also tight on elbow room. If done safely and correctly, swaddling can help new babies feel more secure when lying in their own sleep space (i.e. a crib or bassinet). It can also help prevent Baby’s startle reflex from waking him up prematurely. Note: A swaddled baby must always be placed on his back to sleep, and must have room to move his legs freely. Make sure to get in plenty of free movement and tummy time during baby’s awake periods. You should stop swaddling when baby shows signs of rolling, if not sooner.
Lastly, test the advice you’re given! Pregnant and new moms seem to be a target for unsolicited advice, and while usually well meaning, this can often leave new parents feeling confused, frustrated or defeated. If you want to make the best decisions for you and your family you need the best available information. This is
why I emphasize and practice evidence-based care. Make sure claims are factually backed by data or from reliable, reputable sources before you accept them as true and apply them. In doing this you will both protect and empower yourself as a mother and your breastfeeding experience. Let’s practice evidence-based care and begin your breastfeeding journey on the right foot by debunking five common breastfeeding myths:
You won’t be able to produce enough milk with small breasts. It was widely thought that women with small breasts do not create as much milk as those with larger breasts. The size of your breasts depends on the amount of fat tissue present, not the amount of milk ducts and milk producing tissues. If you’re on the smaller side don’t worry, women of all shapes and sizes are capable of having a healthy milk supply to feed their baby.
It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt. Yes, there is some pain and discomfort within the first week of breastfeeding, but if pain persists it is likely an indicator that something is wrong, usually improper latch. If you are continuing to experience pain while you nurse, you should contact a breastfeeding consultant or professional in your area to help you correct any feeding issues.
Pumping is a good way to know how much milk you produce and how much your baby is eating. All women are different, and even those with a generous supply may not respond well to pumping. If you want a more accurate way to measure how much your baby is eating you can weigh your baby directly before and after a feeding and compare the difference. Babies are great at getting exactly what they need from mom. You can rest at ease as long as your baby continues to gain weight and reach their milestones.
You should not feed your baby if you are stressed or sick. There’s a lot of suspicion that if your attitude is sour, your milk will be too, but this is simply not true. On the contrary, when your baby nurses, endorphins and oxytocin are released which are natural mood boosters. Breast milk also has an amazing supply of antibodies, immunoglobulin, enzymes, and white blood cells, which protect your baby and boost the immune system. You can safely feed your baby through a cold, flu, and even mastitis.
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