What to Expect When You’re Breastfeeding
You’ve waited so long to meet her. To kiss her downy head and count her toes. You’re in love! And it’s the best kind—baby love. And the best part is, your baby loves you, too! You’ve heard about the benefits of breastfeeding but feel like you have nothing but breastfeeding questions.
Your pediatrician can help, but often a trusted mom or group of moms, or a lactation consultant, is your best resource for answering these breastfeeding questions. In the meantime, pull up a cup of coffee….or perhaps some mother’s milk tea, and check out these common questions about nursing babies.
Is my baby gaining enough weight?
Every mother worries that their baby is not gaining enough weight. Well, unless you’re one of those Moms whose baby has rolls of adorable chub on their legs and arms. But especially in the first eight weeks, most Moms worry about this one.
Talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you have. Often, they will weigh your baby before and after one feeding to see how much milk they are getting. The best defense against this worry is trusting nature and arming yourself with support and information. Schedule an extra appointment with your pediatrician to make sure you can cross this worry off your list (or to learn what to do about it if your baby isn’t gaining enough).
To Schedule or Not to Schedule
This is a heated topic of debate. All you have to do is type in “should I schedule my baby’s feedings” to see the raw emotion displayed all over every mom blog and in the comments on articles written by pediatricians.
Many moms feel their milk supply increases when the baby nurses vigorously, and feel carefully scheduled feedings help to this end. They also feel their sanity is preserved when they know how much time they have between feedings to do things like take a shower or get some work done. Or sleep. Many other moms feel like their milk supply increases when baby nurses often and that their postpartum depression decreases when they hold baby often and focus on meeting their baby’s needs whenever their baby is hungry. The debate doesn’t end there. “Babies grow up emotionally more healthy when they’re fed on a schedule,” some say. “No,” others say, “babies grow up more stable emotionally if their needs are met through frequent feedings.” There are good points on both sides and, like most heated debates, the answer lies somewhere in between.
Work with your lactation expert and pediatrician to make sure your breastfeeding questions are answered, your baby is nursing well and is gaining weight. As long as your baby is feeding often enough to gain well and feel satisfied, it’s up to you if you want to feed your baby on a schedule or not. Most very young babies need to eat every 90 to 120 minutes, so don’t let anyone tell you that you must wait longer. Also, you will learn when your baby is hungry. When a baby is hungry, he or she will suck on their fists or turn their head from side to side, looking for milk. These are the signs of a hungry baby. Follow your instincts. Don’t let anyone, scheduler or not, tell you not to feed your baby if you feel your baby needs to be fed.
How do I know if I have enough milk?
Every mom worries about this! Some moms pump milk excessively to increase milk supply—this results in baby getting a firehose of milk every time they try to nurse. If your baby doesn’t have a medical condition, doesn’t need a tongue-tie procedure, and is latching properly, provided you are in good health your baby’s demand will determine supply. The more your baby nurses, the more your body supplies. It’s a Mother-Nature-orchestrated supply and demand cycle.
There are very helpful supplements that increase milk supply if you do realize you do not have enough milk. Most are herbal. Talk to some mom friends, browse Le Leche League and Kelly Mom, and talk to a lactation consultant for more information, answers to your breastfeeding questions, and for recommendations.
What is latch and how do I know if my baby is latching properly?
A lactation consultant is going to be your best friend to determine if the baby’s latch is right. “Latching” is such a personal thing that the best advisor is going to be someone who has helped hundreds of women assure that the miracle of breastfeeding is running smoothly. Other moms can also be helpful and answer breastfeeding questions, but remember that every mom is different so a proper latch is going to vary a bit from mom to mom, and other moms’ advice can sometimes be confusing.
There are wonderful resources online that you can start with before contacting a consultant. A wonderful online resource is Kelly Mom. Check out their article on latching resources and proper latch here.
As this Kelly Mom article mentions, a proper latch is effective and comfortable. The baby is getting milk, and you’re not in constant pain (though it may hurt the first two weeks).
Why won’t baby latch on?
Every Mom will discover the few holds which allow baby to latch on easily. Here are a few common holds moms and lactation consultants swear by (WhatToExpect).
The cradle hold.
Baby’s head is laying on the crook of your elbow. You are using the opposite hand to guide your breast to the baby’s mouth, cupping and slightly compressing your breast.
The crossover hold.
Same as above but with your opposite hand under baby’s head instead of baby resting in your elbow crook. It gets your arm out of the way when you guide yourself to your baby.
The football hold.
This one is great just because it’s so different. If cradle and crossover aren’t working, try football hold.
You are lying on your back and Baby is laying tummy-to-tummy with you. This one is a favorite of many moms of newborns because it’s very easy for baby to latch on from this position. They don’t have to turn their head to latch on so it’s very comfortable and relaxing for both baby and mom. Because baby is laying on their tummy, it also really helps with acid reflux and can make feeding more comfortable. It also uses the assistance of gravity to hold baby against you and is great for distracted or fussy nursers.
What if baby still won’t latch on or hold a latch?
If you are still experiencing trouble after checking out the resources and trying the tips above, consider that baby might have a tongue tie.
Some signs of tongue-tie (listed by La Leche League) are as follows.
A baby may:
- Be unable to latch at all.
- Be unable to latch on deeply, causing nipple pain and damage.
- Have difficulties nursing, making a clicking sound as he loses suction.
- Splutter and choke when coping with fast-flowing milk.
A mother may experience:
- Pain during feeds with damaged nipples. Her nipple may be compressed or distorted into a wedge shape after feeding
- Engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis
For a complete list of signs a baby might have a tongue tie, please see this resource.
Dr. Spinnaker is very experienced in diagnosing and treating tongue ties. We can provide a free evaluation for moms struggling with nursing.