Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Breastfeeding 101: Resources, Tips & Information For New &Soon-to-be-Moms

After giving birth to my son, I knew I wanted to nurse him; however, I knew very little about it.

I just assumed it was easy.

But then I spent a week in the NICU with a baby that wasn't very interested in eating & I was exposed to a world I never knew existed...

The world of the nursing mom.

My initiation into this world wasn't easy. Seven days after his pre-term birth, Ezra was eating & gaining weight, but it only came after days of pumping & feeding it to him through a bottle & pouring the rest into a feeding tube.

If your experience is anything like mine, I beg you to not give up!

I now have a healthy, chubby breastfed baby & you can too.

Below, I want to share my personal experience, tedious research & favorite resources for new moms- lets face it, being the provider of your baby's sole food source can be intimidating.

If you have to return back to work, I still encourage you to breast feed. I know many determined women, including a nurse who works 12 hour shifts, who are still breastfeeding & pump at work routinely. It takes effort but breast milk is worth it.

Breastfeeding 101 would be a thick book, so naturally I cannot fit it all here, but I will provide as much insightful help as I can.

Why Breastfeeding?

The Women's Health Organization released an excellent article on all the benefits of breastfeeding for mom & baby. Click here for the whole list.

Top Ten Reasons to Breastfeed:

1). Baby can digest breast milk easier than formula. Formula has cow proteins in it, which is harder on their stomachs.

2). Studies show IQ levels are actually increased in breastfed babies.

3). Breastfeeding releases oxytocin in the mom's system & provides skin-to-skin contact, warmth & comfort for baby, which increases bonding for both mom & baby.

4). Breastfeeding reduces the risk for obesity, diabetes, asthma, respiratory infections & other diseases/ illnesses in baby.

5). It also reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer & type 2 diabetes in moms too!

6). It's convenient (no prepping, bottles, heating required) & you can pump if needed.

7). It changes as baby changes to meet his/her needs & it's always the right temperature.

8). Infants get sick less often.

9). Moms burn an estimated 500 extra calories per day & baby weight comes off easier!

10). It's cheaper. Formula costs an average of $1500 per year.


As a new mom, I recommend meeting with a lactation consultant. Since Ezra was in the NICU, I was provided with two lactation consultants & a speech therapist, who all offered great tips & tremendous support for me.

But most moms don't have that offered to them- they have to take the initiative.

I personally would refer you to Amey Clark, IBCLC of Babymoon Inn. Click here to contact her. Also a labor & delivery nurse, Amey is a wonderfully supportive lactation consultant, with plenty of experience & insightful tips!

If you have specific questions about breastfeeding, Kellymom.com is a well-researched site for nursing moms.

Also, Pediatrician Dr. Sears has an informative website for nursing women.

I reference specific articles from both sites throughout this post as they are quality sources for you.

Lastly, if your milk supply were to decrease, or you are suddenly unable to nurse due to medications, etc., Eats On Feets is an organization that connects nursing mothers to other nursing mothers for donor milk. Like them on Facebook to post & comment.

Six Basic Terms You'll Hear

Let down- this term literally means the milk coming down from the glands so baby can eat.

Latch- babies need a proper latch on the nipple when nursing, which I describe below.

Single side feeding- feeding on only one side per feeding. This works for us but can decrease your milk supply so beware. There are benefits though to single side feeding. For instance, your milk typically gets fattier after a few minutes of a feeding & this can ensure a baby gets that fattier milk versus switching to the other side beforehand.

Cluster Feeding- babies will sometimes want to eat very often, or cluster feed, for a period of time. Ezra does this at night before he hibernates for the night. It's also common at growth spurts, like I mentioned above.

Colostrum- the liquid gold you'll produce when baby is first born- a few days old.

On Demand Nursing- allowing baby to eat whenever they give hunger cues, like hand in mouth, whimpering, etc.

10 Things You Need to Know About Nursing

I didn't know what to expect when I first breastfed. I wish I'd known the following ten things:

1). You will first produce colostrum for the first few days, which is known as liquid gold because of the nutritious benefits & antibodies for baby's protection. Baby's stomach will be so tiny that this colostrum will be enough.

2). Breastfeeding may be frustrating at first as you & baby adjust to one another & find a rhythm. It may also cause you contraction-like cramps the first few feedings because it is helping to shrink your uterus to its' proper size.

Ouch! But this too shall pass :) Don't give up! Nursing can be frustrating but it is also strangely beautiful and sweet. I will never forget the first time Ezra latched.

3). It'll take a few days before your milk actually comes in. Expect your breasts to get engorged & maybe painful when it does. I made my husband drive me to the nearest bra shop so I could buy bras in two sizes larger than normal. The engorgement will go down, so don't expect to have engorged, painful breasts the entire time you nurse. It fades after a few days as the milk moves into your glands!

And you may get lucky & not experience engorgement at all. If you are able to nurse within two hours of giving birth, this will help. I, unfortunately, was not able to & that probably made it worse.

4). There are ways to cope with the pain. Hot showers are not one of them. This can cause your engorged breasts to increase their milk supply, which will only hurt more. Try nipple creams and breast pads- they offered me temporary relief! Cold compresses & feeding baby every 2-3 hours will help too!

5). For newborns, the boppy or my breast friend pillows are VERY helpful for positioning baby to get the correct latch.

6). Baby & you will become in sync and breastfeeding does get easy & painless. Also, baby will develop a schedule. Expect to nurse 8-12 times a day for the first weeks. If you offer baby the breast whenever they are hungry, called on-demand nursing, you will establish a relationship of trust & better bond to baby. This isn't the time to create a schedule- that will come naturally later on.

I allowed Ezra to nurse on-demand & he sleeps through the night with little difficulty. Many of my friends that have allowed on-demand nursing have had the same good fortune as me. None of us created a schedule baby had to follow- we just followed our instincts. Feed them when they let you know they are hungry.

*Beware of the 3,6, and 12 week marks. These are growth spurts & all baby-led schedules may be thrown to the wind during these weeks!

7). You need a nursing cover if you are uncomfortable nursing in public. It really helps moms to have a sense of privacy while still being able to feed. I use mine ALL THE TIME!

8). Baby may prefer one side to another, or choose to nurse on one side, or both sides per feeding. Some babies nurse for five minutes per side, others upwards of thirty. Every baby is different! For instance, my baby's feedings only take ten minutes, while my friends' baby is forty-five minutes per time.

9). Buy a pump if you plan on returning back to work, or need a few hours away. The Medela Pump N' Style is a hospital grade, double sided, and very efficient pump. But it's pricy. I have the lower grade, single side Medela Swing, which still gets the job done.

Insurances now tend to cover pumps! Check out the link here for more information.

Pumping generally takes about fifteen minutes per side. I never get more than 2-4 ounces per side & find if I pump in the morning, my supply is better. Pumping isn't quite as effective as baby either so don't be discouraged!

Milk can be frozen 3-6 months. Once dethawed, never refreeze! Dethawed milk is only good for 24 hours. Also, always label your milk with a date.

If you'd like to donate spare milk you've pumped, remember to check out the Facebook Page Eats on Feets. Women donate milk to other women in need- it's wonderful!

10). Nursing can cause a bad case of the thirsties each time, so keep a water bottle nearby each feeding.

And an extra tip...

Once baby gets a little older, nursing necklaces are fun for baby to grab on to- I love the one I ordered from Etsy's shop Kangaroo Care. Otherwise, he grabs my hair!

Breastfeeding Basic Latch & Positions

I will save you the trouble of trying to understand me & refer you to the experts for proper latching & positioning.

Read this extremely informative & extensive article by Dr. Sears!

Common Questions

-What Happens If Baby's Digestive System Bothers Them?

Breast milk is easier to digest than formula but can still bother baby's immature system.

With Ezra, I started eliminating things from my diet to see what would help relieve him. Dairy is often the culprit & was with us too.

Also, I was prescribed a probiotic which helped him for the first couple of months.

But remember, your baby's digestive system is immature & will get better & your milk is better than formula.

-What if I have a low supply of milk?

Drink lots of water, eat protein packed snacks, hot showers on your breast, pump more often, try Fenugreek, & this recipe.

If that doesn't help, reach out to Eats on Feets to get donor milk!

-What if I have a fast let down?

I had a fast let down so Ezra sometimes chokes a little when he starts eating- it's typical & there are ways to avoid this, including leaning back while nursing, trying different positions & single side feeding. Kellymom.com has a great article on this particular problem.

- What if breastfeeding suddenly becomes painful again?

It could be an improper latch, baby biting down, thrush, clogged ducs, or mastitis. Dr. Sears also has great information on all of these issues on his site.

I just had a plugged duc that went away after a few hot showers, feeding often, and warm presses. Nothing so terrible I'd quit feeding!

But sometimes you will need to see a doctor to get a little help.

-What if I am told to supplement with formula?

Trust your body & baby's eating needs. I was told to supplement when we left the NICU but never felt right about it. Ezra was early but is already in the 50th percentile for height & weight. He chubbed right up.

But sometimes you may need too & that's ok too!

I hope this has helped in some small way. Nursing is rewarding so I encourage you to give it a try.


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