While picking out onesies and car seats can be easy, thinking about feeding your baby might get overwhelming. At Memorial Children’s Hospital, new moms are encouraged to breastfeed if they can because there are so many benefits to both baby and mom, said Emmy Ettl, an RN and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at Memorial.
Are you thinking about breastfeeding? Here are 8 things you should know.
1. Start thinking about breastfeeding during pregnancy
Just because you don’t have a baby yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start thinking about breastfeeding. Ettl suggests pregnant women, especially new moms, talk to their OBGYN or midwife and take one of the breastfeeding classes offered at Memorial Hospital.
2. New moms should expect to breastfeed as soon as possible after delivery
When babies are born at a Beacon Health System hospital, the baby is placed right on the mom for skin-to-skin contact, Ettl said. Usually, a baby resting on mom’s skin will move to the breast and latch on. The first feeding should happen as soon as possible after delivery and definitely within an hour, Ettl said.
“Babies are really eager (to nurse) right after delivery and then they get sleepy right after, so if we can get to that first feeding, that reinforces that habit,” Ettl said.
3. You can talk to a lactation consultant after delivery
If you weren’t able to go to a breastfeeding class, don’t worry; lactation consultants at Memorial Hospital and Elkhart General Hospital meet new moms after they’ve given birth if they plan on breastfeeding.
“We really want to make sure all moms know about breastfeeding,” Ettl said. “They should feel strong tugs, they should feel big swallows. Then we tell them what to expect down the road too.”
4. Babies can communicate that they’re hungry without crying
At Beacon Health System, new moms are encouraged (but not required) to keep the baby in the room at all times so that they can learn their baby’s hunger cues while there are nurses and lactation consultants around, Ettl said.
“Usually they’ll put their fist to their face or they’ll turn their face and open their mouths wide,” she said. Crying is a late hunger cue, so Ettl encourages new parents to learn hunger cues and feed their new baby when baby is hungry.
5. Breastfeeding babies drink more than formula-fed babies
“Breast milk is digested in about an hour, so breastfeeding babies do drink more frequently,” Ettl said. “They go through growth spurts so there will be days when the baby wants to feed all the time.”
At first, moms have colostrum, and babies only need about a teaspoon at a time. After the first day of life, moms should nurse an average of 8 times in a 24 hour period, but it’s not unusual to feed up to 16 times in a day. As baby gets older, the tummy will gradually expand and baby will feed more.
That doesn’t mean that babies will feed on a set schedule, though.
“Babies do what they call cluster feeding,” Ettl said. “They may wake up and eat every hour for 4 hours and then sleep for 5 hours. Always watch for the baby’s hunger cues and feed when the baby is hungry (rather than on a schedule).”
6. It’s very unlikely that you don’t have enough milk for your baby
One of the most common concerns new moms have is making sure they’re producing enough milk for baby, but Ettl said only a small percentage of moms have milk supply problems.
“Some moms worry about having enough milk but it’s usually not a problem,” Ettl said.
The best way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk is to keep track of baby’s diapers and the baby’s weight. If everything is progressing normally, then there is usually no issue with the milk supply.
7. If you are having a milk supply problem, it needs to be addressed immediately
“Sometimes if a new mom gets busy, she could have a temporary dip in her supply,” Ettl said. “They can get it back up if it’s been a day or two (of supply issues). If a new mom waits and calls after three weeks, then it’s a little harder to get back up.”
If mom is regularly feeding baby when baby shows hunger cues, then the specialist will start looking into other causes. One of the most common causes of milk supply issues is baby using a pacifier too early.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until breastfeeding is well established—usually a month— before introducing pacifiers. Frequent nursing without pacifiers for the first few weeks of life establishes a strong milk supply for mom, Ettl said.
8. If a new mom needs support, just ask
Lactation consultants are always a phone call away if mom is concerned about milk supply, pumping breast milk or taking a certain medication while breastfeeding. Ettl and the staff at Memorial encourage moms with questions about everything from sore nipples to balancing work and breastfeeding to give them a call.
Moms who want more mom-to-mom support can take advantage of support groups at Memorial Hospital was well, Ettl said.
“We offer it twice a week. All the new moms get together and talk,” Ettl said. “Getting that mom to mom support is huge.”