Is Breast Always Best?

Lactation Lessons From An Expert

Updated April 22nd 2022

What does “breast is best” really mean? And is it true? I recently sat down to be interviewed by Megan Pearson at The Fertile at 40 Podcast to talk all things lactation.

Megan and I quickly discovered that we shared many similarities in our breastfeeding journeys. We were both experiencing painful feedings, we both had a gut feeling that something else was going on and we both lacked the support we really needed.

We sat down to discuss:

  • What I think about the saying “breast is best“⁠
  • How new parents can set themselves up for breastfeeding success⁠
  • How older women can support themselves in the breastfeeding journey⁠
  • What foods can help with milk supply⁠
toddler taking a photo of her parents
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com
We talked about how pain isn’t normal

A big misconception around breastfeeding is that it’s supposed to be painful. Breastfeeding should be enjoyable and comfortable, not painful; no matter what your mother-in-law says. A painful latch means we can improve something.

In the first few days/week your nipples might be tender. Mild soreness or tenderness can be normal provided pain goes away after a few seconds of your baby being latched, the pain doesn’t last the entire feeding, doesn’t show up after the feeding has ended and there are no concerns over milk supply or weight gain.

If you’re dreading feeding or pumping due to pain or if you’re holding your breath while your baby latches, there’s a reason for your pain and you deserve to get skilled support. If someone tells you pain is normal or dismisses your concerns, that’s a red flag to find someone else knowledgeable in lactation.

We talked about milk supply

Removing milk could be by your baby at a feeding or by a pump or by hand expression. What’s most important to consider is that the milk removal is effective. If milk is removed ineffectively, milk will be left behind in the breast. When milk is left behind, the body adapts and slows down milk production. When your baby is effectively removing milk because they have a good latch and you’re still concerned about your supply, you may start considering galactagogues.

There are foods and supplements (and medications) that can increase milk supply. These are called galactagogues. While there’s many products out there claiming to boost milk supply, it’s important to know galactagogues are not a “quick-fix”. Galactagogues will not stimulate a let down nor will they help empty the breasts. They need to be combined with an effective latch and frequent milk removal.

Grab my free video guide to what might be hindering your supply here.

We talked about skin to skin

Enjoying time skin-to-skin with your baby releases oxytocin which is the hormone that helps your milk let-down. In addition, this provides comfort and a safe space for your little one. Skin to skin helps regulate your baby’s body temperature and reduces stress in both your baby and you. A lower level of stress helps support milk production. Your baby is biologically wired to want to be close to you.  

You do skin to skin immediately following birth during the “golden hour” and can also do skin to skin in a warm bath after you’re home. This is another great environment to breastfeed your baby. Allow any attempt or opportunity your baby takes to breastfeed during skin to skin. The more often they are at the breast, the more opportunity to increase your supply.

We talked about support

This can make all the difference when it comes to reaching your breastfeeding goals. You need to be informed and supported. You deserve to work with someone skilled in lactation. The average pediatrician or nurse is not. You deserve the time and attention it takes to find the root of why you’re struggling.

You can listen to the full episode HERE

If you have questions when it comes to feeding your baby, join Breastfeeding Mavens. My free community where you can connect with other moms who are feeling just like you.

References:

Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The breastfeeding atlas (6th ed.). Manchaca, Tex.: LactNews Press.

Weaning: my personal experience weaning a toddler (part 2)

Part 2

Updated March 30th 2022

If you haven’t had the chance to read part 1 of my journey yet, read it here.

When I weaned my son, I didn’t tell anyone I weaned him. Here I am, a lactation expert, helping people solve breastfeeding challenges, encouraging natural term weaning and I was feeling guilty for weaning my child. I felt guilty for doing it even though I know all breastfeeding journey’s come to an end for different reasons.

Some would consider weaning a 17 month old extended breastfeeding. The World Health Organization currently recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months at which point solids are introduced and breastfeeding should continue alongside the solid foods until 2 years of age or the child decides to wean.

The global average age of weaning is 4. Many children in other parts of the world breastfeeding until this age or later. Here in North America, there is societal pressure to wean by age 1. Somewhere along the lines, the recommendation of at least 12 months, became “end at 12 months”. So by some standards, my son breastfed for a long time and by others, he was weaned early.

The days after he weaned, I went through an entirely new experience. Post weaning depression is feelings of sadness, irritability, feeling tearful or depressed after weaning. It’s thought it’s due to the shift in hormones and the reduction in prolactin and oxytocin after weaning. The more gradual the weaning process, the less likely you are to experience these emotions.

Even though my weaning process was slow, I did experience bouts of sadness, grief and some tearful moments. It’s a big change in your feeding relationship. Breastfeeding is truly that, a relationship. It’s so much more than just nutrition. So when this relationship comes to an end, it’s still a very difficult time

Weaning isn’t a linear process either. Because breastfeeding is a relationship, there will be times when your infant is upset, in pain, or needing closeness and they’ll want to breastfeed.

Here are a few suggestions if you’re feeling like you are ready to wean

Weaning suggestions for a toddler over the age of 12 months:

  • Start by dropping one feeding per week – e.g. you drop only the morning feeding for an entire week and see how that goes for you
  • Set boundaries – for example: we only breastfed in this chair, while mommy sings this song etc
  • Offer a distraction – snack, drink, toy, game, change of scenery etc
  • Hold space for big emotions – expect them to be upset and provide that connect with lots of cuddles, hugs, kisses and 1:1 time
  • Layer in new things before sleep – an extra book, a drink of water, a new game, a new song, an extra song, bouncing, rocking etc
  • Expect it to take time; the gradual weaning process can take months
  • It’s not a linear process. If they are teething, sick, upset, hurt – breastfeeding provides comfort, they may want to go back to the breast

If you’re needing to wean from a pump or wanting to just wean during the day and breastfeed in the mornings and at night and are needing some guidance, my on-demand class, Weaning With Love, has the answers!

woman breastfeeding her toddler under the tree
Photo by willsantt on Pexels.com

References:

Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, January 13th). Weaning techniques. Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/weaning-techniques/

Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, January 15th). Sadness and depression during (and after) weaning. Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/depression-and-weaning/

Pearson-Glaze, Philippa. (2021, February 25th). How to stop breastfeeding. Breastfeeding.Support. https://breastfeeding.support/how-to-stop-breastfeeding/

World Health Organization. (2020, August 24). Infant and young child feeding. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding#:~:text=WHO%20and%20UNICEF%20recommend%3A,years%20of%20age%20or%20beyond

Weaning: my personal experience weaning a toddler

Updated February 22nd 2022

Part 1

If you’re just finding me now, welcome! My name is Alex and I help breastfeeding moms have a calm and confident fourth trimester and breastfeed with ease. I am a lactation expert. My passion is helping parents breastfeed. I love working with families to support their infant feeding goals. I do this because I had a hard time myself.

My journey was filled with challenges, dismissal from care providers and a lot of hard work.

I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I understood it might not come naturally at first but I did not expect to have the challenging experience I did. I had just about every nursing struggle you can think of. While I didn’t have them all we struggled with: 

  • Incorrect latch due to Tongue tie and Lip tie 
  • Low Supply issues 
  • Cracked nipples 
  • Blisters 
  • Plugged ducts 
  • Mastitis 
  • Immense pain

It was incredibly challenging. I tried to work it out on my own for the first week or two but I knew I needed help. I saw a few lactation consultants and they were able to help us get the tongue and lip tie released but I did a lot on my own.

So much so that the more I discovered, the more I realized I was passionate about breastfeeding and lactation and helping others so they didn’t have to feel like I did.

It took 10 weeks to resolve our issues for me to reach my goal of exclusive breastfeeding. It was fairly smooth sailing from then on. Sure we went through the distracted feeding stage, starting solids, a baby learning to crawl and what that meant for breastfeeding but not anything that was truly making it difficult.

So when my period returned at 10 months postpartum, I started to experience a new chapter of my breastfeeding journey…aversion.

Every month, 3-4 days before my cycle would start I would begin to experience these feelings I could only describe as irritation. My son would latch and immediately I felt uncomfortable in my skin. It was like an itching sensation and at the same time incredibly irritating. After those days passed, things were back to normal.

©2022 Motherhood Blooms Lactation

This is a common phenomenon called breastfeeding aversion. It can happen at any time. Before your monthly menstrual cycle is a common occurrence. This happened monthly for me but only lasted 3-4 days.

Around 14-15 months, I had been experiencing breastfeeding aversion every month for 6-7 months. I used distraction techniques to manage the aversion. I would watch or read something on my phone, sing a song in my head, rub my knee, scratch my leg etc. I did this because I knew it wouldn’t last. My son was feeding 3-4x per day which was upon waking, before nap and then before bed so it was easily manageable for me.

When 15 months starting approaching 16 months, the aversion didn’t go away once my period came. I thought it was a bit odd but figured maybe an extra day or two and it would go away. That didn’t happen. Every day at every feeding I was feeling my skin crawl. I was irritated, my mood would shift and I had the urge to remove my son from the breast. I continued to try and distract myself because I so desperately wanted to breastfeed my son until he wanted to end on his own terms.

As each day passed, I had a decision to make. My son was nursing less often but he still wanted to breastfeed. I wanted to breastfeed him but my body was physically telling me otherwise.

There was one night where I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time I began the weaning process. My heart was breaking for the change in our relationship that was about to happen but I knew it was the right thing to do for my mental health.

There was one night where I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time I began the weaning process. My heart was breaking for the change in our relationship that was about to happen but I knew it was the right thing to do for my mental health.

Alex Wachelka, Motherhood Blooms Lactation™

I began with night feedings. He was waking once or twice (at 15 months) and I would nurse him back to sleep. The night I decided to wean him, when he woke, I offered him a sip of water from a straw cup (I introduced a straw cup early on). I picked him up, rocked him and then sat down in the nursing chair and just let him lay in my arms. The motion of rocking in the nursing chair put him back to sleep. Weaning does not guarantee your baby will not wake in the night as they wake for so many other reasons!

After a few days of this, changing his settling techniques to something other than nursing, I moved to the first feed of the day. My son was eating solids 3x daily with snacks at this point (now 16 months) so when he would wake in the morning, I got him ready for breakfast right away.

No offer of breastfeeding. This was the method that was going to work for me. At night time, I actively set the boundary he would not nurse. This would give me a longer stretch without him at my breast. For the daytime, my choice was don’t offer, don’t refuse. This meant if he signed for milk, tugged at my shirt or actively tried to breastfeed, I would allow it but I wasn’t going to offer.

This method doesn’t work for everyone. Some people DO want to offer at certain times and set boundaries at others. Every parent has their own unique situation and feelings around weaning their baby. Some toddlers nurse as often as newborns so the method of “don’t offer, don’t refuse” wouldn’t accomplish anything because your child would feed all day!

©2022 Motherhood Blooms Lactation™

He dropped the morning feeding almost immediately. The naptime and before bed feedings took a few weeks. I layered in new things to our routine and used different ways of soothing him to slowly remove breastfeeding.

It took a little over 2 months from the time I began weaning my son to when he actually weaned around 17 months. I chose mother-led weaning when I wanted it to be baby-led. I wanted my son to be able to choose. I did not want to make that decision for him but my body was telling me otherwise.

My supply was low at that point because he wasn’t feeding often (it was meeting his needs) so I just allowed my body the extra hours and would check in with my breasts for areas of firmness or engorgement. Because I chose a gentle weaning process, I didn’t experience any issues with engorgement or plugged ducts or pain.

Gently weaning, when it’s possible to do, is the most beneficial for the both of you. There are big emotions when weaning (more on that coming) and taking your time through the process is supportive for the both of you.

Are you thinking about weaning and not sure how to begin?

Wondering how to wean from night feeds only? Or maybe how to wean from the pump? Or how to stop completely?

Then my on-demand class Weaning With Love is for you!

References:

Hetzel Campbell, S., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Melissa A. Morns, Amie E. Steel, Erica McIntyre, Elaine Burns, “It Makes My Skin Crawl”: Women’s experience of breastfeeding aversion response (BAR), Women and Birth, 2022, ,ISSN 1871-5192,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2022.01.001.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871519222000014)

Starting Solids: a bittersweet milestone

Updated February 1st 2022

Starting solids is such an exciting milestone! Your baby has reached a new developmental stage and they are about to try foods other than breastmilk or formula for the first time. This milestone can also bring a lot of questions, worry and overwhelm. Questions about which foods to start with, baby-led weaning or purees, allergens, and more. This also brings a change in your feeding relationship which can make it bittersweet.

I am asked about starting solids all the time so I’m going to answer some very common questions I get around starting solids.

When can I start solids?

There’s so much different information on this one! You might hear anywhere between 4-6 months. 30 years ago 4 months was very common. There are many pediatrician’s out there providing outdated information to families so I am here to provide you with the current evidence.

The general recommendations from the World Health Organization as well as the Canadian Pediatric Society and the AAP is that breastmilk should be the exclusive form of nutrition for babies in the first 6 months of life. After 6 months, solids (also called complementary foods) can be introduced with breastfeeding continuing alongside for up to 2 years or when the child is ready to wean.

Solids are suggested when your baby is about 6 months old because their digestive system is much further developed to digest the new foods. Most of your immune system is within your gut. This also means their immune system is ready to handle other foods and protect their body against pathogens. The advice of 4 months old is very outdated. If your pediatrician recommended your baby start solids at 4 months because of weight gain concerns, connect with a lactation consultant. Starting solids will not correct a breastfeeding issue.

How do I know if my baby is ready?

While 6 months is the general guideline, it doesn’t mean that when your baby turns 6 months, they are magically ready for solids. All babies are different. Few babies are ready sooner than this and some are ready slightly later than this. This would also include babies born prematurely. We want to use their corrected age for beginning solids.

This is why it’s important to be watching your baby for cues he or she is ready for solids. These cues include:

  • Shoulder and neck muscles are strong enough for good head control (we want baby to be able to turn their head side to side without it flopping over)
  • Baby can sit up relatively unassisted 
  • Tongue thrust reflex is gone (this means they won’t automatically push food out of their mouth and ensures they can safely swallow food)
  • Baby can grab objects and bring them to their mouth
  • Greater interest in foods the family is eating (this alone does not indicate readiness)
  • May open their mouth if food is coming their way
  • You can still begin solid introduction if your baby is displaying the above sign of readiness but still does not have any teeth
Should I start with Baby-led weaning?

Baby-led weaning also called baby-led feeding, is a method of self feeding. This method helps babies learn to self-feed and explore their foods. This method of feeding also ensures the baby paces the feeding themselves and allows them to listen to their own hunger cues. Babies are very intuitive eaters and we want to continue to develop that when they begin solids. Allowing them to self feed really helps encourage this.

Purees was the gold standard of food introduction for a while and still a preferred way to begin for some. With puress, to encourage self-feeding, you can preload the spoon and allow your baby to pick it up and insert it into their mouth themselves (see below image).

If you are using the baby-led weaning approach, foods are generally offered in large strips until your baby develops the pincer grasp around 8-9 months. This is where they can use their first finger and thumb to create a “claw crab” and pick up smaller pieces o food. As a general rule, if you can squish the food between your fingers means it’s soft enough for your baby to mash with their gums. Because remember, your baby does not have to have teeth erupted to start solid foods.

Do I need to pump when my baby is having solids?

The short answer is no. As your baby gradually begins to consume more solids, they will slowly begin to consume less breastmilk and the feeding intervals may increase.  This can be a bittersweet moment for some. You baby is reaching a new and exciting milestone and at the same time, it’s going to change your breastfeeding relationship. Provided you continue to nurse your baby on demand, your body will gently down regulate your supply to match your baby’s needs. Yes, over time, breastmilk will be replaced with more solids. This may mean your baby now eats every 3 ½-4 hours instead of every 3. Each baby is different but continuing to follow your baby’s cues will mean your supply will adapt. Babies breastfeed for many reasons beyond nutrition. They will continue to nurse for food but also comfort, if they are sick, tired, upset etc.

If you’re also formula feeding, you may notice over time you need to make up smaller bottles or change the frequency of the bottles. Always follow your baby’s lead.

To learn everything you need to know to feel confident about starting solids grab a spot in my on demand class.

  • Includes all of the above as well as
  • How to introduce foods
  • What foods to start with
  • How to introduce allergens
  • The difference between choking and gagging
  • Danger foods
  • And more including lifetime access to the class and the e-book so you can go back and rewatch

Grab a spot in my on-demand class

References:

Canadian Pediatric Society. (2021). Feeding your baby in the first year. Caringforkids.cps.ca. Retrieved from: https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/pregnancy-and-babies/feeding_your_baby_in_the_first_year

Hetzel Campbell, S., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Infact Canada. (n.d). Complementary feeding: Starting solids. InfactCanada.ca. Retrieved from: http://www.infactcanada.ca/Complementary_Feeding_-_Starting_Solids.pdf

Newman, J., & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s guide to breastfeeding. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. 

World Health Organization. (2020, August 24). Infant and young child feeding. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding#:~:text=WHO%20and%20UNICEF%20recommend%3A,years%20of%20age%20or%20beyond

4 Signs Your Baby’s Latch Might Not Be Ideal

Updated December 7th 2021

How are you supposed to know if your baby has a good latch when the most common thing you hear about breastfeeding is that it can hurt? While it’s common to hear this because yes, some people do have painful experiences, breastfeeding should not hurt. There should never be a time where you’re tightening up your body, bringing your shoulders to your ears or holding your breath in anticipation of the latch. If you’re experiencing that, your baby does not have an optimal latch.

What’s more important to me than what a latch looks like is how it feels. I ask every parent I work with how the latch feels. The latch could look pretty good from the outside but if you’re in pain, or uncomfortable or it’s causing damage to your nipples, then it’s not a good latch and something needs to be adjusted.

I spent weeks breastfeeding a baby with a painful latch. The latch was shallow so not only did it hurt but he was hardly removing any milk which wasn’t allowing my body to create a full milk supply. I know how frustrating, defeating and uncomfortable it is to nurse a baby with a less than ideal latch.

So let’s go through some of the most common reasons your baby’s latch might not be ideal.

1. You are in pain

Breastfeeding should be enjoyable and comfortable, not painful; no matter what your mother-in-law says. A painful latch means we can improve something. In the first few days/week your nipples might be tender. Mild soreness or tenderness can be normal provided pain goes away after a few seconds of your baby being latched, the pain doesn’t last the entire feeding, doesn’t show up after the feeding has ended and there are no concerns over milk supply or weight gain.

If you’re dreading feeding or pumping due to pain or if you’re holding your breath while your baby latches, there’s a reason for your pain and you deserve to get skilled support. If someone tells you pain is normal or dismisses your concerns, that’s a red flag to find someone else knowledgeable in lactation.

2. Your nipples are coming out pointed

When your nipples come out of your baby’s mouth as a different shape, this means the nipple is not reaching to where it should. Your baby’s tongue needs to lift the nipple and draw it all the way to the back of their mouth. When this doesn’t happen, the nipple is being compressed against the roof of your baby’s mouth (the hard palate).This is likely causing you pain and creating a white compression stripe on your nipples. Sometimes you may have a pointed nipple, like the tip of a pencil, in which case you should also reach out for specialized support.

If your nipples are not coming out rounded, it’s very likely your baby has a shallow latch. Why they have a shallow latch needs to be determined by a lactation consultant. It could be their positioning at breast, it could be related to their oral function or something else.

3. You don’t hear or see any swallows

Seeing or hearing your baby swallow is one of the signs your baby is getting milk. They may not be swallowing because they have a shallow latch. A deep latch is required for your baby to be able to remove milk. A shallow latch can reduce the amount of milk they are able to drink.

If your baby is not swallowing, they are not removing milk. This could be due to your supply or it could just be because of their latch. This will not only affect their weight gain and growth but will also negatively impact your supply and may lead to a reduced production and require supplementation. Hearing a baby swallow sounds like a soft “K” sound. When looking for swallows, you can watch their chin, jaw and ears. When they move rhythmically, milk is being swallowed. Here’s a video of what swallowing looks like.

4. Baby’s chin is not touching your breast

Or their nose is pressed into your breast. Their chin needs to be against the breast for a deep, effective latch. If their chin is not, it’s likely a shallow latch which will also be painful and reduce milk removal. For your baby to get a deep latch, they need to “lead with their chin” as you’re bringing them to the breast. This allows their chin to touch the breast first which encourages a wide latch.

Keeping your baby very close to you (touching tummy to tummy) will help their chin to touch the breast as they open their mouth to latch.

Why might this be happening?

Your baby’s latch could be shallow for several different reasons. It could just be how their body is positioned and some small adjustments can make the difference. Baby’s born prior to 37 weeks can have some challenges coordinating the suck-swallow-breathe pattern babies need to eat. Sometimes babies have physical restrictions such as lip ties, buccal ties or tongue ties that are affecting their ability to get a deep latch. Sometimes babies have tension in their bodies from delivery or oral restrictions. Sometimes low muscle tone can affect a baby’s ability to latch. All of these situations require the skilled support of a lactation consultant to help you get to the root of the problem and then provide you solutions.

To recap, if you’re in pain and/or your nipples are a different shape after feeding and/or your baby isn’t swallowing much during feeds and/or their chin isn’t often on the breast, they likely do not have an ideal latch. It’s best you work with a lactation consultant to pinpoint exactly what’s going on so you can get tailored support specific to you and your baby.

If you have questions, join Breastfeeding Mavens. My free community where you can connect with other moms who are feeling just like you.

References:

Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

La Leche League International (LLLI). (2021). Pain: General. Retrieved from: https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/pain-general/

Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The breastfeeding atlas (6th ed.). Manchaca, Tex.: LactNews Press.

5 Tips to Boost Your Milk Supply

Updated October 29th 2021

Are you catching yourself comparing what you produce to someone else online? ⁣⁣Social media is filled with with images of collection bottles filled to the caps and bags upon bags upon bags of frozen milk. It’s no wonder you’re comparing yourself and feeling bad.

⁣⁣Most of what you see is either an over production or from some who exclusively pumps or is false and it’s days upon days worth in one image⁣⁣. What you produce depends on numerous factors including the time of day and how relaxed your body is. The average breast milk production for an infant over 4 weeks old is 3-5oz combined total from both breasts. This means if you were to pump in place of a feeding, you would pump somewhere around this number, again, from both – combined! The average breastmilk fed infant drinks about 25-30 oz per day. That’s over a 24 hour period.

Your baby’s appetite will fluctuate just like yours does. Some days more and some days less⁣⁣. Some people produce more for their baby because their baby eats more. Your baby is their own person with their own needs.

There are of course, times where you may not be producing enough. Usually you would be working with a lactation consultant to determine the root cause of your low supply. This is a topic I cover quite often with clients. You’re not alone if you’re concerned about your supply. So, I’ve put together a few of the top suggestions I provide to clients.

Optimal Latch

More importantly than what a latch looks like is how it feels. I ask every parent I work with how the latch feels. The latch could look pretty good from the outside but if you’re in pain, or uncomfortable or it’s causing damage to your nipples, then it’s not a good latch and something needs to be adjusted.

A good latch should feel comfortable. You should feel a gentle tugging/pulling/stretching sensation. If you’re feeling anything other than that, the latch should be assessed by a professional. This includes compressing (nipple comes out squished) pinching or pain.

An optimal latch means your baby is able to drink milk so watching your baby for swallowing is a great sign they are getting milk. If they are drinking milk, it means milk is being removed from the breast which is ultimately how milk supply works. The more often milk is removed, the faster it is made (which means an increase!).

This short video explains the reason an effective latch can help support milk production.

Skin to skin

This is probably the most underutilized tool when it comes to increasing milk production. Spending time skin to skin means having your baby in a diaper on your bare chest. You can wear a bathrobe and just open it or be completely shirtless. Whatever you choose, you should be undressed from the waist up. Your baby should be in just a diaper. If it’s a little cool you can keep a light blanket over you both, making sure not to cover your baby’s head.

Enjoying time skin-to-skin with your baby releases oxytocin which is the hormone that helps your milk let-down. In addition, this provides comfort and a safe space for your little one. Skin to skin helps regulate your baby’s body temperature and reduces stress in both your baby and you. A lower level of stress helps support milk production. Your baby is biologically wired to want to be close to you.  

You can also do skin to skin in a warm bath. This is another great environment to breastfeed your baby. Allow any attempt or opportunity your baby takes to breastfeed during skin to skin. The more often they are at the breast, the more opportunity to increase your supply.

Relax and Reduce Stress

It’s hard being a parent whether this is your first baby or your third. Having a baby changes your life and creates stress on your body. Your body is physically stressed due to a lack of sleep and just everyday life. Your body can also be nutritionally stressed. There are key vitamins and minerals you need more of when you are postpartum and lactating.

This stress can impact your body’s ability to produce milk. I like to encourage my clients to find a few relaxing activities and techniques to incorporate into their day. Most of these don’t take more than 5 minutes so very easy to fit into a busy day spent caring for a small person. These techniques and activities could include aromatherapy, journalling, deep breathing and meditation to name a few.

©2021 Alex Wachelka, Motherhood Blooms Lactation™ | All Rights Reserved.

Hand Expression

Hand expression is a valuable skill for all lactating parents to have. It is not cost prohibitive because all you need is your hands! It’s been shown that hand expression increases breastfeeding rates when compared to pumping at 2 months postpartum.

Hand expression is useful in the first 24 hours after birth as it can help assist with the transition from colostrum to copious milk production (your milk “coming in”) and assist with colostrum collection. Hand expression is also useful when working to increase supply because you can use this technique after your baby feeds at the breast or after you pump.

To learn more about hand expression and how to perform this technique, click here. I wrote an entire blog post dedicated to the subject!

Feed on Demand (aka Responsive Feeding)

If you have a newborn, your baby is experiencing hunger for the very first time. They had 24/7 access to nutrition via the umbilical cord in utero. It’s normal for them to want to feed every 1-3 hours. Often, it’s on the lower end of that.

Newborns eat frequently and the best thing you can do for your milk supply and breastfeeding is to feed them on demand. This is known as responsive feeding and essentially, is feeding your infant whenever they cue they are hungry.

These early hungry cues include your baby starting to open their mouth and smacking their lips. Your baby will begin rooting and turning their head. They will begin to increase their movement (arms and hands moving) and start to become more vocal to eventual crying if they are very hungry. Crying is a late sign of hunger. It’s actually a distress signal and it can make for a very frustrating and difficult time trying to latch them. You baby will need to be calmed first before trying to latch them.

Feeding an older baby should follow the same principle. As soon as they let you know they are hungry, feed them. Spacing out feeding or deliberately waiting can signal to your body to slow down milk production which can begin to reduce your supply.

As you’ve realized if you’ve read this far, there is no quick fix for milk supply. And if something does claim to boost your supply overnight, it’s likely not backed by evidence. Yes, while there are people who claim a certain food or drink boosted their supply almost overnight, they likely just needed more calories and were a little dehydrated.

If you’ve tried everything on this list and checked out the associated links for more information but still find yourself struggling, connect with a lactation consultant. You deserve to work with someone skilled in lactation. The average pediatrician or nurse is not. You deserve the time and attention it takes to find the root of why you’re struggling.

Cheers to a confident breastfeeding experience!

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Five Signs Your Baby Has A Good Latch

Updated September 21st 2021

How are you supposed to know if your baby has a good latch when the most common thing you hear about breastfeeding is that it can hurt? While it’s common to hear this because yes, some people do have painful experiences, breastfeeding should not hurt. There should never be a time where you’re tightening up your body, bringing your shoulders to your ears or holding your breath in anticipation of the latch.

More importantly than what a latch looks like is how it feels. I ask every parent I work with how the latch feels. The latch could look pretty good from the outside and meet some of the below criteria but if you’re in pain, or uncomfortable or it’s causing damage to your nipples, then it’s not a good latch and something needs to be adjusted.

A good latch should feel comfortable. You should feel a gentle tugging/pulling/stretching sensation. If you’re feeling anything other than that, the latch should be assessed by a professional. This includes compressing (nipple comes out squished) pinching or pain.

So, what can you look for to know whether or not your baby has a good latch?

1. You are not in any pain

Breastfeeding should not hurt. While it’s quite common to experience pain or hear horror stories of painful nursing, it means the latch could have been improved. Some slight discomfort and tenderness (similar to when you were pregnant) can be normal and temporary in the first week or two but pain should always be addressed. You should never feel like you need to tough it out or suck it up.

Breastfeeding can and should be a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Sometimes, it might hurt just on one side. In that case, it’s likely just how your body or your baby is positioned. Some simple adjustments such as reclining your body and turning your baby’s body completely towards yours can help.

2. You baby’s chin is touching your breast

Your baby’s chin should be touching your breast to help get a deep latch. While their chin is against the breast, their nose is free to breathe. This is important to ensure the coordination of “suck-swallow-breathe” and ensures the nipple reaches all the way to the back of the mouth.

Having your baby’s chin touching your breast should also create a pain free latch. When the latch is too shallow, the nipple is compressed against the hard palate making feeding quite uncomfortable. Another giveaway that the nipple is not far enough back into the baby’s mouth is if your nipples are coming out in a different shape than when they went in. Sometimes they look like a tube of lipstick where part of the tip is flattened. Misshapen nipples are one sign you should get breastfeeding support.

3. Their bottom lip flanges outwards

Their bottom lip should flange (or fold outwards) and the top lip is neutral or only slightly flanged. If the top lip or bottom is curling under (folding in on itself) this is a sign to have the latch evaluated by a lactation consultant.

A flanged bottom lip allows your baby to get a deeper latch by fully drawing the nipple all the way back to the soft palate. If the bottom lip does not flange outward, you can gently try and flip it outward while your baby is latched with the pinky finger of your free hand. If this won’t work and the latch is painful or your nipple is being compressed, unlatch your baby and try again. You can unlatch your baby by inserting the tip of your finger into the corner of their mouth to break the seal they have on the breast.

4. You can see or hear swallowing

When a baby has a good latch, they are able to transfer milk from the breast. This means, after sucking, they swallow. If they are latched shallow, your nipple will compress against their hard palate. Not only will this hurt, but it can also reduce the amount of milk they remove. If they are not removing much milk, they wouldn’t swallow as frequently and over time, it can reduce your milk production.

When a baby is drinking milk, their swallows sound like soft “kah” sounds. You can also see the swallows happening. Their jaw moves down and briefly pauses when the milk is being swallowed. Swallowing is also a clear sign they are getting milk.

5. Milk is not spilling from their mouth

If your baby has a good latch, their tongue and lips create a seal around the breast. This seal does not allow any milk to leak or spill from the corners of their mouth. If milk is spilling, it could mean their position needs to be adjusted slightly. Sometimes this could means your baby is having a hard time creating or maintaining a seal meaning the function of their tongue might need to be assessed. Sometimes due to weaker facial muscles milk spilling can also happen. This is why it’s an important sign to ask for help from a lactation consultant. If there’s no milk spilling or leaking, you are comfortable and the criteria above are met, there’s a good chance your baby has a good latch.

As mentioned above, when a baby has a good latch, they are drinking milk. When they drink enough milk each feeding, they feel content afterwards. Noticing your baby is more relaxed after a feeding is another good sign they are content. Falling asleep after a feeding (and after a period of actively swallowing milk) is another sign your baby is content after a feeding.

All that said, if your baby is content after a feeding BUT that feeding was causing you pain or discomfort, then the latch should still be evaluated by a lactation consultant.

A final word

You will always know your baby best. You should never doubt your instincts. If something doesn’t feel like it’s right, reach out for help. You can find a lactation consultant within your community or work with one from anywhere in the world, online. I do offer virtual consults.

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Taking Care of Your Nipples While Breastfeeding

Why does breastfeeding hurt sometimes and how to care for your nipples

Updated August 17th 2021

Let me start this by saying you do not need to toughen up your nipples or do anything to prepare them for breastfeeding. If your experience is anything like mine, you received unsolicited advice from well meaning friends and family as soon as you shared the news of your pregnancy. The advice might not have anything to do with your goals around how you want to feed your baby.

I didn’t grow up seeing other people breastfeed in my family. My mom breastfed my siblings and I for short periods of time. Her struggles included painful latches and mastitis. Ultimately, she didn’t have access to the support she needed. Others told me about their cracked nipples and to expect it to hurt.

While it’s common to experience some nipple pain or discomfort during the first few weeks breastfeeding, this does not mean it’s normal. It’s actually a myth that breastfeeding has to hurt. Breastfeeding should be pain free and comfortable. A comfortable latch feels like gentle tugging and/or pulling. Nipple pain is an indicator that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. 

Breastfeeding, while a natural way to feed a baby, doesn’t always feel natural at first. It comes with a learning curve. It takes time for both you and your baby to get the hang of it. Think about it like driving a car or riding a bike. There was a time you didn’t know how to do this. Someone helped teach you and as you practiced and learned, you got the hang of it. Now, it’s second nature but it didn’t start out that way.

So why do some people experience pain?

As you’re working to practice the best latch, you might experience some nipple pain or tenderness along the way. Sometimes it’s a mild soreness or tenderness due to hormonal shifts. This usually fades with time provided there are no underlying issues. If you have any pain or discomfort whether mild or not, you should work with a lactation consultant.

The most common cause of pain I see, is from a shallow latch. When a baby latches to the breast they need to take in not only the nipple but some surrounding tissue as well. They use their tongue to draw it all the way to the back of their mouth, where their soft palate is. When the latch is shallow, the nipple is pressed against the hard palate which creates pain and can change the shape of your nipple immediately after a feeding. It may appear squished or compressed and be pointed or look similar to lipstick.

The shallow latch might be due to suboptimal positioning in which case it’s a quick fix. Sometimes the shallow latch is because your baby cannot get a deep latch. This is usually anatomical meaning their tongue mobility is impaired (although there are other causes). This requires an oral evaluation and feeding assessment. If you’re struggling to get a deep latch despite your best efforts, always work with a lactation consultant.

Another very common cause for early nipple pain is due to your breast pump. Specifically, the wrong size flange. This is why it’s important to have your flanges sized by a lactation consultant.

If your nipples do become cracked (which is common if you’re nursing a baby with a poor latch) you can take steps to support healing while you’re waiting to see a lactation consultant.

How to care for your nipples while breastfeeding

If having a nipple cream makes you feel more confident about breastfeeding then please, use one. It’s important to use one that is food safe and therefore safe for your baby to ingest. Vaseline and petroleum jellies as well as mineral oil are petroleum bi-products and can irritate the skin and clog pores. Because of this, I strongly advise against these products.

Some nipple butters and creams also contain herbs and essential oils so it’s important to be mindful if you have very sensitive skin as this may cause a reaction. When too many creams or ointments are used on the nipples it can cause contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is itchy, red, inflamed skin on the breast, nipple and areola.

Your skin actually breathes and perspires through pores and this holds true for the sensitive skin of your areola and nipple. In addition, when something is placed on your skin, it’s rapidly absorbed into your skin. Another reason I don’t suggest petroleum bi-products.

Lanolin is another popular topical treatment. It is a thick ointment that comes from sheep raised for wool. Most parents I work with have already purchased this. Some parents have great success and for others, it does nothing to help with healing or pain.

There’s evidence that suggests lanolin is allergenic (can cause contact dermatitis) so it’s not my first choice for nipple care. The evidence also suggests it’s not that effective in healing damaged nipples.

Most nipple pain can be corrected by changing your baby’s latch and positioning. This does not mean all nipple pain can be corrected this way but this an important part of the puzzle. There are also those situations where the latch has been corrected but because of previous damage, your nipples are still very sore.

If at any point, the pain is too much or the damage is worsening, call a lactation consultant. You can pump or hand express to protect your supply and feed your baby with an alternative method such as cup feeding until you have your appointment.

What actually heals your nipples?

If you’re waiting to see a lactation consultant over nipple pain and need some relief in the meantime these are some of my favourites to use with clients.

Expressed breast milk. Human milk has properties that support wound healing. It protects against infection, it’s antiinflammatory and there’s evidence that demonstrates it works quickly. You can hand express a few drops directly onto your nipple and let it air dry as long as you don’t have deep open wounds. It won’t cause harm but healing a significant wound requires a different method (it shouldn’t be exposed) and a 1:1 assessment.

I also suggest the use of organic olive oil as it is antioxidant and antiinflammatory and it has some research to show it supports healing. It is also food safe so it’s ok to be left on your nipples. There’s no need to wipe it off before your baby feeds. Coconut oil has similar properties. There isn’t any clinical evidence that supports it use however, culturally, it’s used all over the world with similar results.

Another wonderful support for nipple healing is silver caps. Silverette caps are little caps to wear in between feedings over the nipple, in your bra. They have real silver in them. Silver is naturally antimicrobial and there is research that demonstrates they can help heal damaged nipples. They are not meant to be used in conjunction with creams but rather, just worn on their own.

If you just skimmed to the bottom for a summary, here it is:

  • Breastfeeding may not feel natural at first
  • Breastfeeding has a learning curve that everyone gets at their own pace
  • Your baby should draw the nipple all the way to the back of their mouth to create a comfortable latch
  • One of the most common reasons for nipple pain is a shallow latch
  • ANY pain is worth investigation with a lactation consultant
  • You don’t have to have different nipple creams and butters to successfully breastfeed but you can if it makes you feel confident
  • Anything that you do put on the sensitive skin of your nipple and areola should be food safe and allow your skin to breathe

If this was helpful but you’re wanting more…

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References:

Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Breastmilk Freezer Stash: Why you don’t have to have one

Or why you don’t have to have one as large as you think!

Updated April 2nd 2022

When I gave birth to my son and started breastfeeding, I felt like I was supposed to be storing milk. No one explicitly told me to do this. I just thought it was something you did. I saw other moms on social media storing loads of breastmilk in the freezer. So I thought I needed to be doing that to.

The problem though, was that my son was tongue tied and it was creating a low supply. I was pumping on top of feeding at the breast and my son was drinking it all! PLUS we needed to supplement with formula until my supply increased. Because of this, there was no way I was going to be able to save any milk. If you want to know how I turned my supply around, keeping reading.

My reality was though, I was going to be home for the next 50 weeks as I live in Canada so there really wasn’t a urgent back-to-work need for me to store milk. I did however feel societal pressures (largely from social media) and let’s be honest, a lack of proper prenatal education.

Having a freezer stash seems to be something on every new parents mind. I work with many parents who ask about freezer stashes in our first consult which is usually in the first 3 weeks after delivery even when these parents live in Canada with long maternity leaves.

Even if you’re returning to work quickly (to anyone in the US or anywhere with a short maternity leave) you still don’t need a huge stash⁣. You may be thinking there’s no way this applies to you and that you do in fact need a large supply in the freezer but I’m going to share with you why you may need less than you think.

Creating the stash

In order to create a freezer stash in the first place, and keep your baby exclusively breastmilk fed, you have to have an oversupply. Between 1-6 months old, a breastfed baby consumes an average of 3-5 oz each feeding. That’s it assuming they are eating 8-12 times in 24 hours. The volume does not need to go up because your body is constantly changing the nutritional composition! This averages to around 25-30 oz per 24 hours. To store milk on top of this, you need to be producing more than this number.

This would require pumping on top of feeding at the breast to tell your body to make more milk. This means washing, sterilizing and drying pump parts as well as bottles. In addition you may also need to be warming milk before feedings. You might be realizing at this point how much extra work it is to store milk on top of exclusively breastfeeding your baby.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do it, I just want to you think about your situation to help determine if you really need a freezer stash.

But what about the haakaa?

If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, that’s ok! The Haakaa is a brand name of a silicone pump. It can be used while your baby is feeding often for the purpose of collecting the milk let-down on the opposite side. While in theory, it sounds like a great way to collect milk for storage, I need to caution around this type of use. If there are concerns over your supply or your baby’s weight gain, the Haakaa (or other silicone pump) should not be used while your baby is feeding.

Because it is still a pump, there is a continuous suction that can remove beyond just the initial let-down. When the time comes for baby to feed on that side, you have now removed milk they need to eat to grow. If this milk is going into storage and not going back to baby, it can impact their weight gain. There’s some more info about this kind of pump here. It’s use, just like anything else related to your feeding journey should be individualized.

Creating a stash for back to work

Now, if you are returning to work after a short period of time (such as a few months) I highly recommend working with a lactation consultant. Ideally you’d want to work with them 2-4 weeks before returning to work to create a plan for collecting milk. Once you have 1-2 days worth stored, the pumping you’ll do away from your baby provides milk for the next day. I want to point out the 1-2 days worth is not 50-60oz because you’re still going to breastfeed your baby when you’re with them. The stored milk is to be used by the care provider while you’re away from your baby during the day. This could be 8-12 oz per day (keep reading to find out why).

And just like that, you don’t need to have 50oz in the freezer before returning to work! I hope you’re already feeling less anxious about creating a large supply.

⁣Tips & things to consider when creating a freezer stash: ⁣

If you’re returning to work or spending a long day away from your baby, you should plan for 1-1.5oz for every hour baby is away from you. So, for an 8 hour work day that’s anywhere from 8-12 oz which could be 2-4 feedings depending on your baby. This means you may only need to collect an extra 3-4 ounces (or one feeding) per day as you build your storage supply.

It’s helpful to freeze in 2-4 ounce portions as well as 1oz portions. Just like adults, a baby’s appetite is not the same day to day. Some feedings they’ll drink more than others. Rather than always freezing 4 oz and possibly having to (gasp!) throw some away, storing in smaller portions will reduce any waste.

The logistics:

In order to maximize and make the most of the milk you collect, consider thinking about the following questions:

Can you breastfeed your baby when you drop them off with the caregiver?

Can you breastfeed upon pick up?

Are you close enough to go breastfeed on your lunch?

Being able to do any one of these things would reduce the amount of milk you have to leave. Reducing the amount of milk you have to leave, reduces how much extra to have to pump and store.

The care provider should use paced bottle feeding to avoid over feeding. I hear many stories of parents who receive phone calls that their baby ate everything that was sent and to please send more. For a demo of what paced feeding looks like, check out my instagram reel below.

⁣If you live in a country where you have a longer maternity and parental leave, the longer you’re with your baby, the less need for a large freezer supply⁣.

But what if something “happens” ?

I hear this from parents all the time. They want milk “incase something happens”. In case something happens means different things to different people. If you’re having surgery for example, most medications are compatible with breastfeeding and once you’re alert after general anesthesia, you can safely breastfeed.

If you get sick, have a cold or are feeling under the weather you can safely continue to breastfeed your baby. Your body actually would have begun producing antibodies for your baby long before you even felt symptoms. You’ll feel rundown so I always encourage as much rest as possibly and drink plenty of fluids but there’s no need to have to have a supply in the freezer for a situation like this one.

If you’re still thinking about how this post started out and wondering what I did to increase my supply, you can get all the tools and techniques I used HERE.

I hope you’re feeling much less anxious now about having to pump and store large volumes of milk. Focus on feeding your baby first, not the freezer and work with a professional when it does come time to head back to work or be separated from your baby.

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References:

Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

14 Tips for Breastfeeding in the First 14 days

Updated October 3rd 2021

Breastfeeding can be completely unexpected. I encourage you to prepare in advance but you may still end up surprised by changes in your body or your baby’s behaviour. You may also come across unexpected challenges.

This is why I put together my top 14 tips for breastfeeding in the first 14 days. These are based on what I teach my clients and what I did personally (or wish I did!).

Don’t worry about schedules or routines in the early weeks. Newborn life is often unpredictable, just when you think you’ve figured them out, they reach a new milestone and change things up. Try to surrender and go with the flow, especially during the first few weeks. If you need a routine to thrive, try keeping some of the same activities daily.

These tips will help set you up for breastfeeding success.

Set up a breastfeeding station

A breastfeeding station can makes things so much easier and help facilitate a lot of these other tips. My recommendation is to have a “breastfeeding station” or a wheelaway cart that you can fill with a water bottle, healthy snacks and anything else you need while feeding your little one(s). It could be filled with wipes, burp cloths, a few diapers, cream and a onesie or two. You could also include breast pads, your pumps/extra flanges and a phone charger. Maybe you have some hair ties or headbands included to keep your hair out of the way. If you’re using a nipple cream add it to this cart.

No visitors

Setting boundaries for visitors or denying visitors is completely OK and can be very supportive for breastfeeding. This ensures you are always with your baby. This will help facilitate lots of skin to skin contact and help you learn their early hunger cues.

It can also reduce your stress levels. You don’t have to worry about anyone being around the baby or feeling like you need to be doing anything for these people especially if they are in your home.

Skin to skin

Spending time skin to skin means having your baby in a diaper on your bare chest. You can wear a bathrobe and just open it or be completely shirtless. Whatever you choose, you should be undressed from the waist up. Your baby should be in just a diaper. If it’s a little cool you can keep a light blanket over you both, making sure not to cover your baby’s head. 

Enjoying time skin-to-skin with your baby releases oxytocin which is the hormone that helps your milk let-down. In addition, this provides comfort and a safe space for your little one. Skin to skin helps regulate your baby’s body temperature and reduces stress in both your baby and you. A lower level of stress helps support milk production. Your baby is biologically wired to want to be close to you.  

You can also do skin to skin in a warm bath. This is another great environment to breastfeed your baby. Allow any attempt or opportunity your baby takes to breastfeed during skin to skin.

Rest

It’s important to rest after birth. Your body just went through an athletic event and you may have also had major abdominal surgery (a c-section is major surgery). You shouldn’t be trying to do anything besides resting and caring for your baby.

Plan ahead to have friends or family arrange a meal train for you. A general guideline that I love for postpartum is the 5-5-5 rule. Spend 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed and 5 days near the bed. This means you’re not cleaning, cooking, washing dishes etc. You are literally in bed, feeding your baby and spending time skin to skin with them. You can make trips to the bathroom (of course!) but there shouldn’t be anything on your to do list.

The second set of 5 days is about resting and napping when you can. You can move into a different room or spend some time on the couch but you shouldn’t be trying to go out with your baby. The last 5 days near the bed is still about resting and not doing much. You are still focusing on skin to skin, breastfeeding and rest but maybe now you’re moving around the house a little more. The chores should be left to someone else.

Laid Back Breastfeeding

Make sure you are relaxed and in a comfortable position. I work with parents all the time who are breastfeeding in very uncomfortable positions putting unnecessary tension on their neck, shoulders and back. If you ever feel awkward holding your baby to nurse, switch it up and try a new position. Use as many or as little pillows as you need. Sometimes larger breasts need pillows or rolled towels for support. Do whatever works to make yourself comfortable. I often recommend the laid back position for a comfortable latch.

This position uses gravity to keep your baby on your body and stimulates their natural instincts to breastfeed. It pairs beautifully with skin to skin.

I also cover this position as well as many others inside my self study prenatal breastfeeding course called The Breastfeeding Before Baby Program.

Hydrate

Breastfeeding makes you thirsty! This is due to the hormone oxytocin which is released when your baby begins suckling. Drink to thirst. Keeping a water bottle on your breastfeeding station or a couple around the house will help. Enlist your partners help (or the help of a close friend or family member) to help keep them full for you. Each time you nurse, take a drink. Keeping hydrated is important.

Eat

Your hunger increases while breastfeeding. The average amount of calories required for milk production ranges from an extra 450-600 per day! It’s important to eat. It’s not the time to cut calories. Despite what you may have heard, there’s almost no foods that are off limits while breastfeeding. Instead of worrying about what kind of food you’re eating, focus more on replacing any junk with whole foods. Foods that are full of protein, fibre, and fat will help fill you up and keep your blood sugar steady. Whole foods (like veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, meats) are also great sources of vitamins and minerals your body needs for breastfeeding and repair after childbirth.

I love creating balanced smoothies because they are easy and can be consumed one-handed while breastfeeding. Here’s a recipe for a filling smoothie and here’s a breakfast cookie recipe I created.

Feed on demand

Your baby is experiencing hunger for the very first time. They had 24/7 access to nutrition via the umbilical cord in utero. It’s normal for them to want to feed every 1-3 hours. Often, it’s on the lower end of that.

Newborns eat frequently and the best thing you can do for your milk supply and breastfeeding is to feed them on demand. This is known as responsive feeding and essentially, is feeding your infant whenever they cue they are hungry.

These early hungry cues include your baby starting to open their mouth and smacking their lips. Your baby will begin rooting and turning their head. They will begin to increase their movement (arms and hands moving) and start to become more vocal to eventual crying if they are very hungry. Crying is a late sign of hunger. It’s actually a distress signal and it can make for a very frustrating and difficult time trying to latch them. You baby will need to be calmed first before trying to latch them.

No swaddle or scratch mitts while breastfeeding

Newborns need their hands to breastfeed. Their hands help them get organized and find the nipple. They also help by kneading the breast to assist with a let-down. When a newborn’s hands are covered at the breast, it can make latching and feeding more difficult.

The same goes for when a newborn is swaddled at the breast. To get a deep, comfortable latch, your baby needs to be very close to your body. In fact, they should be touching your body. A swaddle prevents them from being able to be optimally positioned for a good latch and effective milk removal. You can’t do skin to skin if your baby is swaddled.

The swaddle and scratch mittens should be removed at every feeding.

Learn how to hand express

Hand expression is a valuable skill for all lactating parents to have. It is not cost prohibitive because all you need is your hands! It’s been shown that hand expression increases breastfeeding rates when compared to pumping at 2 months postpartum.

Hand expression is useful in the first 24 hours after birth as it can help assist with the transition from colostrum to copious milk production and assist with colostrum collection. Hand expression is a valuable collection method even for someone with a pump because colostrum can get stuck in the tubing of a pump due to the small volume that is produced and it’s thick consistency.

To learn more about hand expression and how to perform this technique, click here. I wrote an entire blog post dedicated to the subject.

Have your pump flanges properly sized

Incorrectly fitting flanges can cause damage, make pumping hurt and negatively affect milk supply.

The flanges, also called breast shields, are the piece of the pump that actually goes on to your body. Your nipple should sit centered in the flange prior to starting the pump. It’s also important the pump flange is appropriately sized. Flanges are available in a variety of sizes. The difference between them being the diameter. Every body is different. The flanges that came with your pump may not be the ones that fit you. It’s best to measure the diameter of your nipple, add 3-4mm and purchase the flange size according to that new number. Your nipple should not rub on the sides of the flange. If it does, the flange is too small. If your areola is pulled into the flange or you see an air gap between the flange and your breast, the flange is too large.

For more information about your breast pump and the parts click here.

Use expressed milk to heal your nipples

Your own milk can be used to treat sore or damaged nipples. It’s a natural remedy to promote healing. I’ve seen it happen very quickly.

You can hand express a few drops right onto your nipple and allow it to air dry.

If you have deep cracks or open wounds, this method is not sufficient enough to heal them. It would also indicate something about the latch isn’t quite right. Connect with a lactation professional in this situation. Click on ‘book now’ under my services tab.

Prepare for safe sleep

Even if you’re not planning to co-sleep, prepare for safe sleep. It’s easy to fall asleep on the couch or in a chair with your baby and these are dangerous sleep environments.

It’s biologically normal for your baby to want to be held. It’s normal if they cry when you set them down. You are their safe space. They want to be close to you. Setting up a safe sleep space will help facilitate this as well as allow you both to safely get some sleep.

This means no pillows or blankets on the bed. No gaps around the bed that your baby could fall into. Your baby also cannot be swaddled.

Read more about preparing for safe sleep here.

Call a lactation consultant

It’s a good idea not to wait until you’re facing a challenge to call a lactation consultant. Many challenges and obstacles can be prevented when you’re informed about what to expect and you are supported in your decisions.

To recap…
  1. Set up a breastfeeding station
  2. No visitors right away
  3. Skin to skin
  4. Rest
  5. Laid back breastfeeding
  6. Hydrate
  7. Eat
  8. Feed on demand
  9. No swaddle or scratch mitts
  10. Learn to hand express
  11. Have your pump flanges sized correctly
  12. Use expressed milk to heal your nipples (unless they have open wounds)
  13. Prepare for safe sleep
  14. Call a lactation consultant

Join My Community!

Connect with other moms inside my free Facebook Group called Breastfeeding Mavens. It’s a great community of parents supporting each other. You’ll also receive support from me as well as access to exclusive free trainings on all things breastfeeding!

Click to Join

To learn more about The Breastfeeding Before Baby Program, click the image