The Basics of Breastfeeding

Quick disclaimer: I’m not an IBCLC. I don’t have professional lactation training. I have only my own experience nursing 3 babies into toddlerhood: 15 months, then 14 months, and most recently 2 years. This post is about the basics of breastfeeding that served me in my early days of motherhood. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and was determined to succeed. I knew it was natural but challenging, and my two greatest tools were preparation and patience. Here are the things that helped me:
  1. I read La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding during pregnancy.
This resource is bomb! I used it as a reference book, but it’s easy to read cover-to-cover to familiarize yourself and get the tools in your mind beforehand. It also shares things you can do before birth to promote a positive and empowered birth mindset. I cannot recommend this breastfeeding resource enough!
  1. I took a breastfeeding class.
We were stationed overseas at the time of our first pregnancy, and the Fleet & Family Support Center (great resource to use for all you military wives out there) offered free classes for new parents.  Hospitals, doula organizations, and community centers also offer classes for mothers who wish to breastfeed and it’s easy enough to find ones that are free. If you can chat with an IBCLC or Certified Lactation Counselor to pose questions and increase your understanding you will increase your success tremendously.
  1. I requested an IBCLC in the hospital.
Even before birth, it never hurts to make appointments and ensure you have all the help you can get! IBCLCs are important when breastfeeding isn’t going well, to troubleshoot issues. But they’re also important when breastfeeding is going well, to ensure you have an ideal latch and are nursing as much as baby needs.
  1. I planned for skin-on-skin contact immediately after birth.
Skin-on-skin contact encourages breastfeeding (see the next point for how!). Apgar scores and vitals can be taken while the baby is on you, and all other stats (weight, height, etc.) can wait! Trust me, it’s worth it to have skin-on-skin immediately after birth if your and baby’s health is not in danger. There is no need medical reason to weigh the baby immediately after birth.
  1. I gave baby a chance first.
Babies have instincts to find the breast shortly after birth, and if left unhindered, they will latch themselves (Google the “breast crawl” – NSFW)! I let my son squirm around on my chest in search of the breast, and he found it on his own. In that way, his instincts were fostered and we were able to have a good start. You both have to learn how to breastfeed! This is a critical time for patience. They don’t just come out and look for the breast, you kind of have to let them discover it without getting in their way.
  1. I followed a specific approach to my latch.
Ok, here’s the meat of this whole post! This was my process whenever I latched my newborn for a feeding:
  • I held baby across my body with the opposite arm of the breast I was feeding him on, arm along his back and hand supporting his neck. This was to leave his head unhindered. It’s often hard to latch a baby while their head is in the crook of your arm.
  • This allowed for the ability of baby’s head to tilt back (as opposed to his jaw pulling down) and get a wider, deeper latch.
  • I would then make a “booby sandwich” and squeeze my breast slightly parallel to his mouth, like he was about to eat a sandwich. 😉
  • With this booby sandwich, I would brush the nipple on baby’s tip lip or nose to encourage him to open wide and reach his head upwards.
  • After latching, I’d ensure baby had fish lips – both top and bottom lips are facing out. If not, I would gently pull his bottom lip out.
  • While nursing, I’d make sure baby’s chin was buried but his nose was open. After let-down, I’d start to hear the “keh” sound of him swallowing. Success!
  1. I latched, re-latched, and then re-latched again.
If it ever pinched or hurt, I would try again as many times as it took to get a good latch. It’s really worth the effort to get a good, deep latch – your nipples and your supply will thank you! Except for a little soreness in the first few days, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. If it does, seek professional advice; don’t think it’s normal and just grit through the pain. Nobody wants that, and no one is benefitting from it, not even baby.
  1. I didn’t follow a schedule.
My babies always have access to the breast. This helped us establish a good supply and a good bond. Their stomachs are so small, they need to eat frequently; I don’t pretend to know what my baby is feeling, when he’s hungry, or when he “should” nurse. I’m fairly certain babies can’t tell time.
  1. I bed-shared.
This is a controversial topic (feel free to see my post from last week). Bed-sharing supported our bond and our nursing relationship. Baby always had access to the breast and nursed when he needed to because I was right there. Dr. James McKenna of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame often promotes infant arousal patterns in the presence of the mother. See here. Thanks for reading about breastfeeding! What made breastfeeding successful for you? Especially tips and good practices for breastfeeding at work (a situation I haven’t experienced). Please share so other moms can learn and we can get more mamas breastfeeding. If you’re a visual learner like me, watch the video below:

How does Marabou support women?

We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.

Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest. 

Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.

Start a Marabou Gift Registry!

With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.

Postpartum doulas for a first time mom

House cleanings for moms of multiples

Childcare for moms with older children!

Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.

More and more moms find they have to figure out postpartum alone. Is it any wonder why PMDs are on the rise? Or women are embittered by the journey of motherhood? We can change that by giving the gift of peace.