Many people expect that breastfeeding will come naturally and easily. While in some ways that may be true, it is a skill that you will master with practice and support. With time, patience and education, breastfeeding can become a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both mom and baby.
Research shows that breastfeeding is beneficial in multiple ways, from saving infant lives and aiding healthy child development to saving money and reducing waste (breastmilk is package-free, after all!).
In our birthing centers at Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Franklin Medical Center, our lactation experts aim to make nursing a healthy and meaningful bonding experience.
Kimberly Congden, program manager of Lactation Services and Parent Education at Baystate Medical Center, shares her top tips for expectant and new moms.
5 Tips for Expectant and New Moms
1. Use the skin-to-skin technique
Hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth. Let your baby explore and crawl to the breast in the first hour after birth; it’s amazing what they already know to do! Even drops of colostrum (early breastmilk) every few hours will sustain your baby for the first day.
By the second night, you will begin to see increasing wakefulness. Your baby may “cluster” feed (often at night) and may be fussy at times. Many mothers feel that cluster feeding happens because the breastmilk isn’t in yet and the baby is starving. Actually, it is just normal newborn behavior.
Skin-to-skin can help to calm your baby. Limit visitors and nap when your baby naps during the day, so you are rested for the nights of cluster feeding. Know that cluster feeding is temporary and lasts for only a couple of weeks.
2. Be consistent
Frequent attempts at breastfeeding are important.
The more you nurse today, the more milk you'll have in two days. Nursing frequently in the first few days will help to ensure a bountiful milk supply for the future. Even though you might not see much initially, you will help to make sure that you have plenty of milk when your baby needs it.
3. Create a relaxing environment
Relaxation helps milk to flow. Try to ensure that you are able to be comfortable and relaxed when you breastfeed to ensure the best possible milk supply.
Make yourself a "nursing nest" when you go home. Find a comfortable spot in your home where you can set up pillows, blankets, a book, a water bottle, the TV remote, and whatever else you need to be settled in for a nursing session.
4. Remember the 3 P’s
If you start to become overwhelmed, keep it simple. Remember the 3 P’s, the keys to a successful breastfeeding experience.
- Practice: People are rarely good at a skill the very first time they try it.
- Patience: Take a deep breath. Remember that people are mammals, and we are meant to do this! There is of course a learning curve for getting comfortable feeding your baby, but the system was designed to work and has functioned for mothers and babies for a very, very long time. Chances are it will function for you just the same if you trust your body and your baby.
- Persistence: Keep trying! Don’t hesitate to ask for help! Lactation specialists are here to help.
5. Educate yourself and do what feels right to you
Learn all you can about breastfeeding while you are pregnant and take a prenatal breastfeeding class. You can learn the basics at Baystate Medical Center and BFMC as well as online. Your OB nurses and providers will help you stay committed to learning techniques after birth.
Once your baby is born, you can join the free virtual breastfeeding groups at Wesson and The Birthplace. You can meet other breastfeeding mothers and ask a lactation consultant any new questions that pop up.
Not everyone will be supportive of your feeding decisions. Remember that this is your body and your baby, and you have to feed in the way that is the most comfortable for you and your baby. Do what feels right to you.
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