We’ve all heard the benefits of breastfeeding, but for many new moms, the thought can be overwhelming. “Many new moms believe they don’t have enough breastmilk,” says Aliza Sternberg, an NJ-based lactation consultant at Latch on to Me. “They worry babies aren’t getting enough milk and feel a lot of pressure to breastfeed and like failures if they can’t.”
We asked lactation experts for their best advice to make breastfeeding easier for new moms. Here’s what they shared.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
There are many health benefits that come with breastfeeding for both you and baby, but one of the biggest perks is the bonding. “We all know about the reduction in breast cancer rates, the decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes and the fact that nursing your baby helps you lose weight after birth,” says Kristin Cavuto of Smart Mama Lactation Consulting in NJ. “What many don’t know is that nursing parents get more sleep and have a reduced risk of postpartum depression and anxiety.”
BEFORE BABY ARRIVES
“Take a prenatal breastfeeding class, attend a La Leche League meeting in your local community and have a good reference book on hand such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to turn to in case you have questions,” says Dana Lauducci, a private practice lactation consultant at Branchburg Lactation.
THE ELUSIVE LATCH
Getting your baby to latch correctly is often the most stressful part of breastfeeding for new moms, but it doesn’t have to be that way. “I tell my clients that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt—not even a little,” says Sternberg. “When it hurts, there’s something wrong: bad latch, positioning isn’t ideal or there’s something going on in baby’s mouth, such as a tongue tie. Get help early. There’s no need to suffer.” In some cases, a tongue-tie may be resolved with therapy, but if it persists, a simple surgical procedure called a frenectomy may be recommended.
At first, your newborn will most likely want to feed every hour—this is what helps build your milk supply. Cavuto says new moms don’t need to alter their eating habits in a major way, and that you’ll recognize the cues when baby’s hungry and when she’s finished. “You don’t need to eat special foods or refrain from eating your usual favorites in order to make good milk for your baby,” says Cavuto. “Barring very serious medications and street drugs, there’s nothing that’s going to hurt your milk. A cup of coffee or glass of wine is fine while breastfeeding—just don’t go overboard.”
Remember that what you’re doing is natural and acceptable. Many stores and public places have designated breastfeeding areas. Bring a cloth or shawl if you’d like extra privacy. You can prevent leaks by feeding frequently, using nursing pads and applying pressure to your nipples when you feel the let-down at an inopportune time.
Breastfeeding is recommended through baby’s first year. When you’re both ready, you can decrease the number of feeding sessions, starting with baby’s least favorite feeding. Depending on the age of your baby, you can substitute breastfeeding with either a bottle or a drink from a cup.
And remember, even if you try to breastfeed and decide it’s not for you, that’s okay. Sternberg recommends lots of skin-to-skin contact as another way to bond with baby. “It’s so important to be able to enjoy your baby,” says Sternberg. “Breastfeeding shouldn’t be stressful and if it is, it’s okay to do what’s best for your family.”