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Mother breastfeeding baby

Breastfeeding: Practical advice for getting started and being successful

Between all the new moms who have been coming to my office lately, and the fact that I just had another little one myself, I’m definitely in new-mom mode. There are so many changes to deal with and skills to master as you help get this brand new life off to a good, healthy start. One of the most important — and difficult — is breastfeeding.

In one of my past blog posts on advice for new moms, I mentioned that getting started breastfeeding can be really tough. Many new moms strive to breastfeed, but very few realize that it requires a lot of patience and perseverance.

Getting started

I’ve heard people compare first two weeks of trying to breastfeed to running a marathon with all the hurdles right up front, and it’s true! If you can hang in there and make it to the two-week mark, chances are you will be able to breastfeed successfully.

I often show my new breastfeeding moms this article, which does a good job of showing how every single day of that first week will bring its own challenges. It walks you through step by step, and encourages you to take the process not just one day at a time, but even one feeding at a time. Whenever it doesn’t go well, just take a deep breath, and try again.

Show me the milk!

Most of my newly breastfeeding moms say they don’t know if they are making enough milk. They often want to SEE the milk, and know exactly how much milk baby is getting. While this can make you feel better, it’s usually not necessary. Lots of my moms want to pump and feed expressed breast milk (EBM) for this reason. But think about how many extra steps that is. It takes a lot more time and effort to pump, and bottle-feed EBM, especially for middle-of-the-night feedings! If you’re not willing to get up and pump in the middle of the night, your supply will suffer. You know baby is getting enough milk if he or she is satisfied after nursing, and making enough wet and dirty diapers.

Also, you probably will notice that pumping feels different than nursing. That’s because your baby is way more efficient than your pump and is able to get two to three times more milk from your breast. So, pumping just to see how much milk you’re making isn’t going to answer the question.

Pumping breast milk

Sometimes you’ll need to start pumping early to help stimulate your supply, especially if baby is sleepy or having trouble latching. For moms returning to work, start pumping after the first morning feeding about two weeks before you go back. If baby is only nursing on one breast, then pump the other. This can help relieve engorgement that has built up overnight, and will steadily stock your fridge/freezer with milk without over-stimulating your baseline milk supply.

You need to pump whenever baby is taking a bottle, with the goal of getting about as much milk the baby is drinking. So if baby will drink three 4-ounce bottles while you’re gone, you should try to pump three times and get 12 ounces. This will help keep your supply matching baby’s needs.

The faster you can set up, pump, and get back to work, the more likely you are to pump when you need to, and not skip sessions. Here are some tips to help:

  • There are some pump attachments that are discreet, and allow you pump with your shirt on. No one will ever know you are pumping.
  • Get a pumping/nursing bra to make things easy and hands free. Maybe even eat or get some work done while you pump.

You can do this!

Bottom line, breastfeeding is best, and can be easy and very rewarding once you and baby get the hang of it. It takes dedication and work to get your supply and technique established, and then to maintain. Pumping can be tricky and stressful all by itself. Take it one day at a time, even one feeding at a time. Ask for help, early and often. You can do this!