As a new mom or a mom-to-be, we want things to be perfect for our new bundle of joy. We read books, go shopping, make registries for all of the latest and greatest baby gear, set up nurseries, buy clothes, and get advice (both solicited and unsolicited) from friends and family about their own personal experiences. It seems like everyone has an opinion these days, and it can be very stressful for new moms to sort it all out.
Because August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I would like to take the time to share some information regarding the topic of breastfeeding. Reading answers to these top five questions will provide you with breastfeeding basics and help take out some of the guesswork.
1. Why should I breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant feed, but why? Breast milk is perfectly matched nutrition, and our maternal bodies know what our baby needs. The components are easily broken down reducing the amount of gastrointestinal issues an infant may experience.
The benefits of breastfeeding are endless. Health benefits for baby include decreased risk for respiratory infections, ear infections, childhood cancers and obesity. Health benefits for mom include decreased risk for heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes and postpartum depression. Breastfeeding is also economical and environmentally friendly.
2. How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?
Our society is used to measuring things. We measure time, volume, money and weight. This makes it difficult for us to shift gears and allow our bodies to do the measuring for us. Because infants are small, they do not require large volumes of milk in the early days, and our bodies know this.
Around 16 weeks of gestation, our bodies begin producing colostrum, the first milk. When the baby is born, our bodies automatically shift hormones, causing an increase in milk supply. As the baby feeds, signals are sent to our brains telling it to make more milk. If a baby feeds 8 or more times in a 24 hour period, then the brain gets enough signals and will continue making milk.
Output also helps determine the amount of milk a baby is getting. During the first 24 hours, the baby will produce at least one wet and one dirty diaper. During the second day, the baby will produce two of each. On the third day, the baby will produce three of each. And after that, the supply increases, as does the diaper output to 6 to 8 of each.
3. What can I eat or drink to increase my supply?
Although it is important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, there is no magic food, drink or pill that will greatly increase a mom’s milk supply. Milk production is based on supply and demand. The more a mom feeds or pumps, the more milk she will typically make.
4. Which breast pump should I choose?
All breast pumps are not created equal! Both the reason for and frequency of pumping will drive your decision as to what pump you should choose. An exclusively pumping mom could benefit from a hospital grade double electric pump, but a mom that is rarely away from her baby may only need a manual pump or single electric pump. Ask your friends what pumps they have used and how they liked them. Read product reviews for the pumps as well.
5. Who can help me?
One reason moms may stop breastfeeding is due to lack of support. The good news is that lactation support has come a long way in recent years. Prenatally, I recommend moms attend a breastfeeding class to answer basic questions to help them feel more confident about feeding their babies when they deliver.
Peer counselors with organizations such as WIC are available in the community. This allows moms to ask questions in both a group settings and one-on-one. Support groups such as La Leche League and Baby Café are great places for expecting and new moms to get together to discuss breastfeeding through peer support.
Lastly, if you are still having difficulty with breastfeeding, seek the advice of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). These individuals have extensive knowledge regarding breastfeeding.
I hope this short Q&A helps guide you in the right direction on your breastfeeding journey!
Happy Breastfeeding Month!
About the Author
Amanda Clark Sterling is a lifelong resident of the MS Gulf Coast. She attended Gulfport High School, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and then the University of Southern Mississippi, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and became a Registered Nurse in 2005. After a year of medical-surgical nursing, Amanda found her niche in the world of maternity nursing. She has worked in all areas, including labor & delivery, newborn nursery, postpartum, and also at an OB-GYN office. In 2012 she became an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and has continued her work with mothers and babies in both the hospital setting and by forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization South Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition in 2017. The coalition’s mission is to promote and protect breastfeeding by providing support, advocacy, and resources for a healthier South Mississippi community. Amanda has been married to her husband Beau for 12 years, and they have two children, ages 10 & 6, who were both breastfed. Amanda hopes to continue helping many more moms and babies with their breastfeeding journeys in the future.