Aug 16, 2023
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish and bond with your baby.It is a skill that mother and child learn together. To help you navigate this incredible experience, we have compiled 10 essential tips for successful breastfeeding.
1. Educate yourself
One of the most crucial steps in preparing for successful breastfeeding is to educate yourself. Seek out reliable resources that provide evidence-based information on breastfeeding (we provide some here). Attend breastfeeding classes, complete Stillie's breastfeeding assessment, join support groups, and consult with certified lactation consultants. These experts can guide you through the process, answer your questions, and provide valuable tips for a smooth breastfeeding experience. Remember, knowledge is power, and the more you learn, the more confident you will feel.
Embracing skin-to-skin contact with your baby directly after birth and beyond offers numerous advantages in fostering baby's well-being and the breastfeeding process. Facilitating immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and supporting mothers to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth is a practice followed by hospitals that are part of the Baby-Friendly Initiative. There are various advantages to skin-to-skin contact, including:
calms and relaxes both mother and baby
regulates the baby’s heart rate and breathing, helping them to better adapt to life outside the womb
stimulates digestion and an interest in feeding
enables colonization of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria, thus providing protection against infection
stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering (UNICEF).
Skin-to-skin contact also provides benefits for babies in the neonatal unit, in that it:
improves oxygen saturation
reduces cortisol (stress) levels, particularly following painful procedures
encourages pre-feeding behavior
assists with growth
may reduce hospital stay
improves milk volume if the mother expresses following a period of skin-to-skin contact, with the expressed milk containing the most up-to-date antibodies.
3. Learn proper latching
Proper latching is essential for successful breastfeeding. It ensures that your baby is effectively extracting milk and prevents nipple soreness. Here is an excellent video by the Global Health Media Project that explains how to properly attach a baby at the breast.
4. Master the art of hand expression
Hand expression is a valuable skill that can come in handy throughout your breastfeeding journey. It allows you to express milk from your breasts using your hands, providing relief, and helping your baby latch. To practice hand expression, find a quiet and comfortable space. Gently massage your breasts to stimulate milk flow. Use your thumb and fingers to compress the breast tissue, starting from the outside and moving towards the nipple. Experiment with different techniques and positions to find what works best for you. Hand expression can also be useful for collecting colostrum before the baby is born or relieving engorgement.
5. Recognize your baby's hunger cues
Understanding your baby's hunger cues is essential for responsive breastfeeding. Hunger cues are the signs that your baby gives when they are ready to eat. These cues include:
Rooting: The baby will move their head and open their mouth, searching for the nipple.
Sucking on hands or fingers.
Making noises: The baby may make soft cooing sounds.
Moving their arms and legs in kicking motion.
Alertness: The baby is awake, alert, and responsive.
Crying: usually a ate sign of hunger
It's important to be attentive and responsive to these cues, as feeding on demand promotes milk production and helps establish a strong breastfeeding relationship. By recognizing your baby's hunger cues, you can ensure that they are well-fed and content. If you have any concerns about your baby's feeding, you should consult with a lactation consultant or pediatrician.
6. Learn the signs that baby is getting enough milk
It is also important to know the signs that your baby is feeding well. These include: your baby has a large mouthful of breast, it doesn't hurt you when the baby feeds (although the first few sucks may feel strong), your baby rhythmically takes long sucks and swallows, your baby finished the feed and appears content and comes off the breast on their own. Other signs your baby is feeding well are: your baby gains weight steadily after the first 2 weeks (it's normal for babies to lose some of their birth weight in the first 2 weeks), they appear healthy and alert when they're awake, they product wet and dirty diapers.
7. Establish a breastfeeding routine
While feeding on demand is important in the early weeks, establishing a breastfeeding routine can provide structure and predictability for both you and your baby. Start by offering the breast at regular intervals throughout the day (every 2-4 hours, counted from the start of last feeding). Pay attention to your baby's hunger cues and aim to feed them before they become too hungry or fussy. A routine can help regulate your milk supply and ensure that your baby is getting enough nourishment. However, it's important to remain flexible and adapt the routine as your baby's needs change; for example, when cluster feedings occur with growth spurts.
Breastfeeding requires a calm and relaxing environment for both you and your baby. Find a quiet space where you can comfortably nurse without distractions. Dim the lights, play soothing music, and create a peaceful atmosphere. This will help you and your baby relax, promoting a better breastfeeding experience. Remember to take deep breaths and stay present in the moment. Creating this serene environment will enhance the bonding experience and make breastfeeding a more enjoyable and peaceful time for both of you.
8. Maintain a healthy diet and hydration
A nutritious diet and proper hydration are vital for successful breastfeeding. Focus on consuming a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid excessive caffeine, as it can affect your milk supply. If you have any dietary concerns or restrictions, consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who specializes in breastfeeding nutrition.
9. Seek support and guidance when needed
Breastfeeding can sometimes be challenging, especially in the early days. Don't hesitate to seek support and guidance from healthcare professionals, lactation consultants, and support groups. Reach out to your healthcare provider for any breastfeeding concerns or difficulties you may encounter. Lactation consultants can provide personalized advice and assistance tailored to your specific needs. Support groups, such as La Leche League, offer a supportive community of fellow breastfeeding parents who can share their experiences and provide encouragement.
Lactation Credentials: An Overview
It is important that you understand the credentials that people supporting breastfeeding parents have in case you seek additional support. Here is a breakdown of various credentials within the area of lactation:
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC): the most esteemed credential in the field of lactation; Stillie recommended go-to resource
Requirements: 95 hours of lactation-specific education, completion of 8 college-level health professional courses (equivalent to 24 academic credits), participation in 6 health-related continuing education courses, accumulation of 300-1000 clinical practice hours, and successful passage of a criterion-reference exam.
Certified Breastfeeding Specialist: comprehensive knowledge but no clinical practice required
Requirements: Completion of a 95-hour lactation-specific education program, without a clinical hour obligation.
Certified Lactation Counselor: fundamental expertise but no clinical practice required
Requirements: Successful completion of a 45-hour course, devoid of any clinical hour prerequisites.
Insight: Certified Lactation Counselors are equipped with fundamental expertise and are not mandated to fulfill clinical practice hours.
Certified Lactation Educator (CLE): considered entry-level practitioners
Requirements: Completion of a 45-hour program offered by a university, with no clinical obligation.
10. Embrace the journey
Breastfeeding is a unique and beautiful journey between you and your baby. Embrace the experience and cherish the moments of connection and nourishment. Remember that each breastfeeding journey is different, and it's important to celebrate your achievements along the way. Be patient with yourself and your baby as you both navigate this new chapter together. Trust your instincts and have confidence in your body's ability to provide for your little one. Embrace the challenges and joys of breastfeeding, knowing that you are giving your baby the best start in life. Take time to rest, nourish yourself and get sleep whenever possible. Accept help from family and friends.
Successful breastfeeding requires education, support, and perseverance. By following these 10 essential tips, you will be well-prepared for your breastfeeding journey. Remember to stay informed, seek guidance when needed, and practice self-care. Above all, embrace the unique bond that breastfeeding creates between you and your baby.