When I was pregnant, I was not one of those people that read all the books and took all the classes. I prefer to take things as they come, and I feared that over preparing would make me more anxious than I already was about becoming a mom. One of the things I was least worried about was breastfeeding. I was reassured by my midwife that there’d be support in the hospital and I would be fine. Looking back, I wish that I had done more research and signed up for a breastfeeding class.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know — and what I didn’t know was anything about breastfeeding. Since humans have been doing it since the beginning of time, I figured it’d be easy. And for some people, it is. It might have been for me, too, if I’d had the knowledge I needed to make it work. By the time I realized that I needed help, I was three days into parenthood with a baby that wouldn’t latch. We ended up supplementing with formula (which isn’t the end of the world), but it was completely preventable if I’d been armed with the right information.
If you can find breastfeeding classes in your area, they’re a great resource. A local hospital or health center may offer them for less money if you’re finding them to be too costly. My health center has a Baby Cafe USA group, where nursing parents can drop-in and chat with a lactation consultant and meet other parents who are nursing. Pregnant women often stop in and ask questions before they have their babies. And, when all else fails, there are always tons of resources online that can help you meet your breastfeeding goals.
Here are some helpful things that I would have learned if I’d have take a breastfeeding class instead of stubbornly thinking I was too smart for that.
1. Feeding Cues
How can you tell if a newborn is hungry? You’ll learn about rooting, fist sucking, and lip smacking, among other hunger cues.
2. Positioning & Latching
3. Supply & Demand
Did you know that breastmilk works via supply and demand? That means the more you put your baby on your boob, the more milk you’ll produce! It’s why, if you supplement with formula because you’re worried you’re not making enough milk, you’re actually less likely to produce enough.
4. How Often A Newborn Should Feed
When I inquired about my daughter’s lack of feeding, the nurse told me, “when she’s hungry, she’ll latch.” That was incorrect information and by the time we found out the truth, our baby had lost too much weight and we couldn’t go home.
5. What The Heck Cluster Feeding Is
Cluster feeding is a curse from the devil, is what it is. But I was wholly unprepared to have my baby latched onto me for 18 hours a day. Once I learned that she was working to bring in my milk and prepping for a growth spurt, it made it easier to deal with.
6. How Much Milk A New Baby Needs
Newborns have very small tummies. They don’t need much milk, though if you give a new baby a bottle of formula, they’ll suck the whole thing down because their instinct is to suckle. But even if your milk hasn’t come in yet, that’s okay. Newborns don’t need an entire bottle worth of milk right away.
7. How To Tell If Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk
Unlike with bottles, you can’t measure how much milk your baby is taking without pumping (and even then, pumping isn’t necessarily an indicator of how much milk you make.) But there is a way to know if they’re eating enough. Hint — it has to do with their diaper output.
8. The Benefits Of Skin-To-Skin Contact
Hanging out topless with your baby is really good for both of you, and not just because it can get really hot if you delivered in July. Skin-to-skin helps with supply, latch, bonding, comfort, and a whole host of other things.
9. When To Start Pumping
Should you pump right away? Well, maybe not if you want to avoid having an oversupply, which sounds like a good thing but can actually be really challenging.
10. When To Introduce A Bottle
Although it’s tempting to let someone else help you with the feeding, there’s something called nipple confusion, and it’s beneficial to wait several weeks before giving your baby a bottle (though that isn’t always an option, of course.)