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While expecting my first child, a friend (name withheld to protect her well-intentioned soul) told me that breastfeeding would be an amazing experience. Her take on it went something like this: “It’s so convenient. You’ll save so much money. And, of course, there are all of the health benefits for you and baby.”  After hearing this, I was all in.

Fast forward to Newborn Day 5 and things were not all sunshine and rainbows in my breastfeeding world. I called on a (ahem… more honest) friend for support. She laid down some additional truths that went something like this: “Breastfeeding is awesome… but it can be hardly that at first. Some babies don’t latch right away, and it’s easy to get discouraged when sleep deprived. It is not exactly pain-free either (hello, chapped nipples)… and sometimes there are supply issues at the beginning and down the road.”

Can you say ‘nailed it’?

Then she added, “Don’t worry. It will be fine. You just need to be prepared — the right tools, the right position, the right snacks, and a lot of patience… you’ll be fine.”

She was right. I’d be fine. And if you are staring down the starting line of breastfeeding a wee one, you will be fine too, as long as you are prepared. To help, here’s everything you need, and everything you need to know to get over the humps (pun intended) of breastfeeding. Think of it as Milk-Making 101. Class is in session.

The Milky Way

Every woman is different, but generally, milk comes in by the time baby is five days old. Before that, a mother’s breasts will produce colostrum. Colostrum is thick concentrated milk that gives baby immunity to the germs in their surrounding environment. Breastfeeding baby, whether nursing or by hand expressing to give to baby, within the first hour of birth will help ensure that she gets all the benefits of the colostrum. As mom’s body gets the signal that baby has been born (after about 2-4 days), her milk will come in.

The Right Tools for the Job

They say with the right tools and motivation, anything is possible. This is true for breastfeeding. Here’s the short list of what to have on hand:

  • Nursing bras and tops for easy baby to breast or pump to breast access
  • Nursing pillow to help position baby for the perfect latch
  • Milk-boosting snacks and teas to help increase your supply
  • Hospital-grade breast pump to express milk
  • Newborn bottles to feed baby expressed milk as needed
  • Nursing pads to save clothes from leaking breasts

When the Going Gets Tough…

Say it with us… “The tough ask for help.” Contact your pedestrian with any questions or concerns, but here’s a quick run-down of common breastfeeding roadblocks, and what to do should you face them.

Trouble with Latching
If you’re having trouble getting baby to latch on and are still in the hospital, ask for help. Most hospitals offer the support of a lactation expert who can assist in finding the right hold for you and baby. If you’re home and struggling, ask your pediatrician to help connect you with a lactation consultant. She might recommend a good nursing pillow to help position baby at just the right angle.

Feeling Unsure That Baby Is Getting Enough Milk
It is common for a new mom to feel like her baby isn’t getting enough milk. As general guidelines, a new baby should be feeding about 8-12 times per 24-hour period. Other things to look for are signs that baby seems content after feeding, gaining weight as expected, and producing wet diapers that increase in “heaviness” over those first few days and weeks. Her stool should also transition to a yellow color and have a loose and seedy texture by day five.

Not Producing Enough Milk
Should you discover that you are not producing enough milk, there are a few things to try. Encourage baby to latch on frequently to signal to your body that it’s time to make more milk. Keep in mind that pumping does not always send those same signals to your body.

Mamas can also try milk-boosting products like the Lactation Teas, Cookie Bites, and Lactation Bars from Milkmakers. Milkmakers Lactation Teas, available in Original, Coconut, and Chai Spice Flavor, are infused with nourishing herbs like oat straw, nettle and fennel — ingredients shown to help support a healthy milk supply. The teas are also dairy-free, preservative-free and fenugreek-free to keep everyone’s belly comfortable.

Milkmakers Lactation Cookie Bites (available in Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Salted Caramel, and Oatmeal Raisin – yum!) are made with oats, Brewer’s yeast, and flaxseed, while the Lactation Bars (available in Chocolate Chip and Mixed Berry – double yum!) contain oats, almonds and flaxseed to help boost mama’s milk supply. All are lactation consultant recommended, and offer mom a healthy snack when she needs it most.

 Producing Too Much Milk
Just as some moms may have a low milk supply, sometimes the opposite rings true and breasts become engorged and uncomfortable. Should this happen, try pumping every two hours to relieve some of the pressure and “hardness” of the breast, which will also make it easier for baby to latch on. Massaging the breasts and using cool compresses (frozen veggies or cold cabbage leaves work well) on the breasts may also help reduce swelling. Over time, your breasts will find the right supply and demand balance for you and baby. Until then, nursing pads will save your clothes from messy leaks.

Sore Nipples
Like you’ve heard, breastfeeding can come with a fair bit of nipple pain due to the baby not taking mama’s nipple deeply enough into her mouth. Every baby and mama are different, but for many, the most comfortable breastfeeding position requires the baby to have the entire nipple and part of the breast in her mouth so that the nipple reaches the far back part of the baby’s mouth where the palate is soft. It takes practice. In the meantime, soothe sore, cracked nipples with a few drops of breastmilk to moisturize cracked nipples. Lastly, don’t forget to air them out. Allow nipples to fully dry between breastfeeding or pumping sessions to help move along the healing process.

Add in loads of patience, and you and baby will be breastfeeding pros in no time. Class dismissed.

The information contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. Always contact your doctor so he or she can provide the best treatment options based on the individual facts and circumstances of you and your baby.