August 11, 2022 by John Fernandez
Better Breastfeeding: Tips for Expectant and New Moms
You’ve stocked up on diapers, struggled to properly install your car seat and put together the crib. Now you’re anxiously awaiting the birth of your baby. But whether you’re a first-time parent or an experienced one, you may still have questions about another vital part of caring for your baby ― feeding.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, with Aug. 1-7 marking World Breastfeeding Week. Because of the many benefits to mother and baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and continuing with nursing even after solid foods are introduced.
While some expectant parents are determined to breastfeed, others are less certain. Yet, even among those with the best intentions, breastfeeding can be difficult, the experts acknowledge. “Many people believe that because breastfeeding is natural, it is easy and they don’t need to do anything to prepare,” says Grisel Gigato, a registered nurse and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) with South Miami Hospital, part of Baptist Health.
“The reality,” she adds, “is that it can be challenging. But with some education and support, you’ll likely be able to overcome any issues and give your baby the best start in life.”
There’s no debate that breastfeeding provides a baby with immunity to many illnesses, decreases the odds of repeated ear infections, lowers the likelihood of childhood obesity and diseases later in life and much more.
“For baby, it’s the perfect food,” says Anne-Marie Sawicki, a registered nurse and IBCLC with Boca Raton Regional Hospital, part of Baptist Health. “It has the perfect amount of calories, protein and fats, and gets the gut off to a good, healthy start.”
For mom, benefits include a risk reduction for premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
To have the best breastfeeding experience, lactation consultants throughout Baptist Health suggest taking these steps before your due date.
- Make sure your OB, midwife or other caregivers know that you want to breastfeed. Have a birth plan.
- Educate yourself. Read books and articles. Watch videos on breastfeeding. Attend a breastfeeding education class and/or make an appointment with a lactation consultant, particularly if you believe you may have a problem due to flat or inverted nipples, a previous breast surgery or a health condition.
- Gather breastfeeding supplies. A lot of extra equipment isn’t necessary, which is why many women talk about the convenience of breastfeeding. However, some basic supplies, such as a breast pump, storage bags, nursing bras and other items will help.
- If you are planning to work outside the home after your baby is born, check with HR about your company’s lactation policies. Make sure there is a clean, quiet, private place where you can pump and that you will have adequate time. In addition, you will need a place to safely store your milk.
The first days
- Immediately after birth, it is the mother/baby team’s goal to get your baby skin-to-skin with you for bonding and, potentially, feeding. “That magical hour after birth is really important,” Ms. Sawicki says. “As long as mom and baby are fine, we put them skin-to-skin. There is no pressure to breastfeed.” Even if the mother has had a C-section, if all is well, skin-to-skin contact can be initiated.
- Request that baby remain with you after delivery if everyone is healthy.
- Take advantage of lactation education while in the hospital. “We will come in and help you with technique or how to hand express milk. Some babies have to learn to coordinate their suck,” Ms. Gigato says. “We are there to help.”
- Understand that it can take several days for your milk supply to come in fully, but baby is getting nutrients from the colostrum, the first stage of breast milk that a mother’s breasts produce.
- Try to rest when your baby rests. This will help with milk production and recovery. And talk to your lactation consultant about when, or if, you should wake your baby to breastfeed.
Special circumstances or health issues
Special circumstances call for special measures. If baby has to go to the nursery or the neonatal intensive care unit, or the mother is having health issues, there could be a time of separation. The doctors, nurses and lactation consultants throughout Baptist Health will work closely with you to ensure appropriate feeding. Options are tailored to the individual. They may include things such as supplemental feeding systems, donor breast milk and more.
“It’s important to get help sooner rather than later if you are experiencing breast pain, engorgement or another problem. There’s no need to suffer,” Ms. Sawicki says. “There is support available through your OB, your pediatrician, lactation consultants in the hospital and community.”
Parents often question whether their breastfed baby is eating enough. The experts say that you should watch for adequate wet and dirty diapers, look to see that baby is latching well to the breast, listen for the sound of swallowing or gulping, and observe the baby to see if they are satiated (or milk drunk, as they say). When you visit your pediatrician for the first time after delivery, it’s a good opportunity to discuss the baby’s weight, feeding habits, how to adjust to growth spurts to come and more.
And remember, the consultants say, to ask for help, whether it’s someone to deliver a meal or to come do your laundry.
In addition to South Miami Hospital and Boca Raton Regional Hospital, the hospitals at Baptist Health that offer maternity services are Baptist Hospital, West Kendall Baptist Hospital, Homestead Hospital and Bethesda Hospital East. Click here for more breastfeeding information.