Sheryl Jesin

Fitness, food, family, fun and more!

Top 10 Ways to Get Breastfeeding Off To a Good Start

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Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I am often asked by moms-to-be what they can do to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy and what they can do during the early days and weeks to ensure that they are able to breastfeed.   While breastfeeding is certainly natural, it is not always easy.   Here are my top 10 tips to help breastfeeding get off to a good start:

  1. Attend a La Leche League (LLL) meeting (or two, or three or four!) during pregnancy - Going to a meeting can be a great way to meet other breastfeeding moms who live near you.   You will hear what it’s really like in the early weeks, and you will learn from the experiences of other moms.  Your group leaders can also be a great resource to you once your baby is born – either via email or phone.
  2. Buy a good baby care or breastfeeding book – Two great books are Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book or LLL’s Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I found both books full of really useful information about breastfeeding specifically and about taking care of a baby in general.  What I like best about both books is that they empower moms to trust their own mothering instincts and listen to their babies.
  3. Have minimal medical interventions during labour and delivery – Interventions such as c-sections, forceps or vacuum delivery, episiotimies, epidurals and IV lines can all lead to a more difficult recovery during the postnatal period for a mom.   In addition, a natural birth reduces the likelihood that the baby will have to be separated from the mom after birth.  This is very important, as immediate skin to skin contact for an hour after birth has been shown to increase the likelihood of successful breastfeeding.
  4. Hire a birth and/or post-partum doula – Having a doula at birth can enhance bonding between a mother and her baby. This can lead to more positive interactions between mom and baby and can assist in establishing a strong milk supply.   A post natal doula can assist with things that need to get done around the house so that a mom can rest and focus on feeding her baby.   Some doulas also have breastfeeding experience and can help if problems arise.
  5. Know where to go for help -  After birth, have phone numbers handy for your LLL leaders or an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
  6. Keep your baby skin to skin for the first hour and delay the new born exam – Babies are quietly alert during the first hour after birth.  Babies who are kept skin to skin for the first hour are likely to latch on, and likely to latch on well.  They also are more likely to have stable and normal heart rates, blood pressure and temperatures.  Studies have shown that babies who are kept skin to skin for the first hour are more likely to breastfeed exclusively longer.
  7. Keep visitors to a minimum during the first couple of weeks – Everyone wants to see a newborn, especially well-meaning family members.   However,  moms need their rest so that they can recover from birth and meet the demands of a new baby.  It’s best to keep visitors to a minimum so mom can focus on two things:  getting sleep and feeding the baby.   If visitors do come over, let them bring over a meal or two, or help around the house.
  8. Keep your baby close during the early weeks and feed often – Feeding your baby on demand is crucial during the first few weeks to establish a strong milk supply.  By keeping your baby close at all times, you can respond to early cues of hunger, rather than waiting for full out crying.  You can’t feed your baby too often, and the more you breastfeed, the more milk you will make for your baby.    C0-sleeping can be a great way to ensure your baby feeds often at night without disturbing your own sleep too much.
  9. Surround yourself with other moms that breastfeed – It’s great to have friends who are currently breastfeeding their babies, or who have breastfed in the past.   They can be a wonderful source of information and encouragement. Sometimes just hearing how someone else is dealing with an obstacle or problem can provide you with enough inspiration to overcome your own difficulties, should they arise.
  10. Don’t give up! The first few months are hard.  I think of the first three months as breastfeeding boot camp where you put in the hard work, and then after that you reap the benefits.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

41 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to Get Breastfeeding Off To a Good Start

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  6. I wish I would have had this nice, concise list when I started breastfeeding! It certainly wasn’t easy, but with the support of some great friends, we’re working on a 7-month-strong breastfeeding bond, and it feels great! I will definitely be forwarding this list on to my preggo friends in search of information : )

    Happy Carnival!

  7. LLL saved my breastfeeding career when I had trouble with my first. I faced all the initial hurdles you talked about, having a traumatic, emergency c-section and being separated from my baby for a period of time. LLL saved me when we couldn’t get a good latch and things seemed hopeless. You’ve got an awesome list here – lots of future mamas would benefit greatly by reading this one :)

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  9. Great list! I will second #7 — if we’d had visitors those first couple weeks, I would not have been able to be as topless as I needed to be to get started breastfeeding! And having my wise and wonderful midwife/lactation consultant come visit us postpartum and reassure us that everything was fine was such a boost after our hospital experience was so obnoxious.

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  12. I agree, especially wiht #7. I always felt so self-conscious when visitors were around, and would usually leave the room (didn’t NIP until 2 months). And I definitely think the doula is a good idea. I’ve thought about becoming a post-partum doula, and I’ve heard it’s a good idea for moms with other children too.

    • Yes – I think the lifestyle of a post-partum doula is easier than a birth doula if you have little kids. With a birth doula you are always on call and can be out of the house for lengthy periods of time.
      And I agree – it can be hard to get used to nursing in public with the first baby. Now that I’m on to my second, I nurse anywhere and everywhere! Lol!

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  15. @Lauren — We had visitors, but also had a sign taped to the front door: “Mom and Peter are both learning how to breastfeed. If you can’t handle the sight of a full breast, visit later!”
    @Sheryl — Great advice! I’ve bookmarked this to pass along to friends who are planning to breastfeed.

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  17. Love this list! I think we’ve got a really similar mindset in starting off breastfeeding )I wrote a post just a bit ago that hits a lot of the same points). Major love for the LLL inclusion! LLL has had a major impact of my breastfeeding and mothering, and I love seeing all the good that can come from mother-to-mother support.

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  21. Great list! I totally agree, especially with preparing ahead of time by reading, attending LLL meetings, and having researching resources (lactation consultants in particular) so that you have a number to call at a moments notice if problems arise. Having support and a plan helped me SO much through my breastfeeding challenges!

  22. Great list!
    I wish I had a pump for my stalled milk after my c/s but am so glad I’d attended a meeting at a breastfeeding center and got assistance on day 3. (We nursed until age 3 after 2 days with a little formula – never give up!) But, with baby #2 (an HBAC), my milk came in right away, and the pump is dusty after 7 mos! :-)

    I’d also add to make sure your diet is low-sugar and to keep lots of probiotic foods and/or supplements on hand to keep up good gut flora and avoid yeast!

  23. Such wonderful, concise pointers. They should be kept as a reminder list for every expectant mother. #5 was SO important for me – my LC was my angel for the first 5 days of Kieran’s life, and several other LLL leaders and LC’s were helpful after that!

  24. I agree with the others – a great list full of really good advise! I think the first born is always harder to initially feed due to concerns of ‘are they getting enough’ etc…by the second I had mastered it :-) I would have to add that breastfeeding makes you very hungry and thirsty – it is so important to eat a balanced diet (and remember breastfeeding burns so many calories) and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

  25. I struggled a lot with bfing my son. It tuns out he was tongue tied and I have Renauds Syndrome. I am trying to learn about how to be successful this time around. I have a doula for my birth and will have one after for help at home, as well as help with nursing.

    I was able to nurse for 4 to 6 months with my son… But it was so increadably painful. I had a LC and she tried to help but I ended up needing to pump most of the milk. It was too stressful and painful and not good for me or my son to go through the drama of a nursing session if I was in tears each time. So I pumped, did more skin to skin time while feeding him my milk in a bottle, and this worked until I dried up. I drank the tea and took fenugreek and dried up by 6 months. :(

    I am eager to try again this time around. I am optomistic now that I am aware of my own medical issues. I will take B 12 and try using heat. I will also assess my daughters tongue for any issues.

    I need to find a LLL group near me and go.
    Can I bring my toddler? Even if he doesn’t BF?

    • Sounds like you went through a lot and really did all that you could so that you could breastfeed your son!
      I hope things go a lot more smoothly for you the second time around. Sounds like you are already doing a lot to prepare.
      You definitely can bring your toddler to a LLL mtg, whether he is nursing or not! I hope that you enjoy the meetings!!

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