Breastfeeding can be a challenge for some in the first few weeks home with baby. As a new mom, you’ll get lots of advice from family and friends. Although well-intentioned, misconceptions can poorly impact the breastfeeding relationship between a mom and baby.
As part of our Bump in the Road: Facing the Fears of Motherhood series, we asked moms just like you about their top fears going into motherhood. Walking into the new world of breastfeeding was one of them. On my journey to become a lactation consultant, I’ve learned several foundational truths about breastfeeding. Here are a few that every mom should know.
Breastfeeding Truths Every Mom Should Know
1. Breastfeeding provides lifelong benefits to your child
Breastfed babies have lower rates of asthma, allergies, eczema, and diabetes type I & II, even as adults. Breastfed babies also have fewer cases of lower respiratory infections like RSV, fewer ear infections, fewer cavities and other orthodontic issues, and fewer cases of childhood cancer.
2. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended through 6 months
The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourage 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. That means only breastmilk with no additions—no cereal, no formula and no added water. Solid foods like purees are recommended to start at 6 months with continued breastfeeding through 1 year or longer until it is no longer mutually desired by mom or baby.
3. It’s not normal for breastfeeding to hurt
Many moms report nipple pain in the first few days after delivery. However, any pain or nipple damage after that are signs that the baby’s positioning or latch need to be fixed. If breastfeeding hurts, get help as soon as possible from a breastfeeding expert called an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). If you need breastfeeding help, you can call the hospital where you delivered, WIC, or your pediatrician’s office to find an IBCLC.
4. Breast size has nothing to do with milk production
Breast size is determined by the amount of fatty tissue you have. Milk production is dependent on glandular (milk producing) tissue—very different from fatty tissue! I have seen A cups make a full milk supply for their baby.
5. Most mothers can make an abundant milk supply
Most moms can make everything their baby or babies need by feeding on demand. Low milk supply is much less common than you may expect. When it happens, it is usually due to the baby not feeding enough. Your milk supply can be increased with help from an IBCLC.
6. Nighttime feeds are important
Babies have tiny stomachs that have to be refilled frequently. It is normal and even good to feed the baby during the night since the milk making hormone, prolactin, is at its peak during the night. Night feeds support a robust milk supply and ensure the baby is getting what he or she needs.
7. Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep
Sleep is precious to exhausted moms with newborns. One study found that parents who exclusively breastfeed their babies got an average of 40-45 minutes more sleep per night than parents of infants given formula.
8. Breastmilk is made on a supply and demand basis
You don’t need to wait for your breasts to feel full to feed your baby. Milk is constantly being made; you can put the baby to breast anytime and there will be something for him or her to drink. The rate milk is made is dependent on how much your baby drinks. If the baby starts drinking more from the breast, that triggers your breasts to make more milk. If the baby starts drinking less from the breast, then you will produce less milk. If you want to increase your supply, increase the demand by putting the baby to breast more frequently.
9. You can tell if your baby is getting enough milk
What goes in has to come out! You can count your baby’s pee and poo diapers to determine if he or she is getting enough milk. You can also listen for audible swallowing as your baby drinks. Babies should go to the breast 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. Each feed should last 20-30 minutes (10-15 minutes each side.)
A baby that is breastfeeding well has a strong cry, alert and content periods, and a mouth that looks wet. Babies should be fed any time they have hunger cues including the following: fists moving to mouth, head turning to look for the breast, becoming more alert and active, sucking on hands or lip smacking, or opening and closing mouth. Crying is a late hunger cue. Feeding the baby at earlier hunger cues prevents crying and distress.
10. It’s your right to breastfeed your infant in public
Did you know as a breastfeeding mom you have certain rights? All 50 states have laws that allow nursing mothers to breastfeed in any private or public space. There are even laws that allow mothers to take breaks at work to pump.
11. It’s OK if your breastfeeding journey looks different from another mom’s journey
Some moms choose to feed only from the breast. Others do a mixture of breast and bottle feeding breast milk. Some moms choose to switch to formula. At the end of the day, it’s most important that your baby has been fed and is loved and cared for.
No matter your feeding journey, you are an amazing mom. Don’t walk your journey alone; find friends and professionals who will support you as you accomplish your goals.
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