6 breastfeeding tips for first-time moms from Mayim Bialik
AAs a Certified Lactation Advisor (CLEC) for the past seven years, I often speak with women who have difficulty breastfeeding. I talk to women who can’t get their babies to the breast. I talk to women with breast infections. I talk to women who don’t know if their babies are getting enough milk, and I talk to women who don’t know how to deal with engorgement. I talk to women who love to breastfeed, and I talk to women who want to love it but don’t.
Do you know what’s amazing? Almost any issue faced by breastfeeding mothers can be solved over the phone with a little education and encouragement. Here are six tips that will change your life if you are a breastfeeding mom.
- Newborns breastfeed a lot. As many. I don’t want you to panic, new moms or women who have never had babies, but for newborns it is not uncommon to breastfeed every two hours. This stimulation of the breasts and nipples signals your brain to produce milk. This is how you establish and maintain milk supply: frequent feedings. Your breasts produce exactly the right amount of milk for your baby, as long as you let them suckle frequently and during long stretches. It’s crazy the first week, like you’re losing your mind. But it’s not forever, I promise. Let your baby nurse frequently, especially for the first three months. It’s normal.
- Look for pooping and peeing to get an indication of how much milk a baby is getting. So many women think their babies are not getting enough milk. This is one of the most common reasons women are afraid to breastfeed. Don’t panic. Your body is made to produce milk, and there is a good chance that you will have enough for your baby. Doctors can help you figure this out by weighing the baby frequently. Newborns should wet or poop a diaper about 6 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. The only way they can make diapers dirty is because of the milk you put in them. If they make diapers wet or full of poop at this frequency, the baby is getting enough milk.
- Sometimes the breasts hurt. In my training I was taught that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. For the most part, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt! Nevertheless! My experience with both of my sons is that breastfeeding hurt my nipples. Everyone has different levels of sensitivity, and the nipples can be sore or sore. This is normal, and will go away absolutely, within a few weeks in most cases. The pain when the baby is latched on and which goes away during a breastfeeding session is also something that I have felt. It goes away too; I promise! Pain throughout a feed indicates a problem with latching on and can also be an indicator of thrush (a yeast infection on your breasts, ouch!) Or other breast or nipple problems. Discomfort can be relieved by freezing your nipples before a breastfeeding session (yes, you heard that right!), Or by using a pacifier, which can be kept in the freezer so you can cool off between feedings. . It won’t last forever!
- You don’t need to pump. It takes 4-5 days for milk for the milk to pass from colostrum, which is what you make at first, to the milk we think of when we think of milk. For the most part, the vast majority of women do not need to supplement until the milk arrives. Keep breastfeeding and the baby drinks colostrum, and that’s all a baby needs. While working breastfeeding mothers may have to return to work, which may require a breast pump, pumping newborns often poses problems in establishing an appropriate supply for their bodies. Pumping can also introduce anxiety about the supply, which often leads to fears of not having enough. (Note: a baby is the most efficient milk extractor; a breast pump is not an exact measure of how much milk you even have!) If you can wait up to six weeks until as you express milk, so much the better. If you can’t, be sure to work with an advisor or consultant.
- You can’t spoil a baby. Skin-to-skin contact and holding a baby tight and carrying a baby in a sling rather than putting it in a stroller or crib are great for milk production. These things don’t spoil a baby. These are things we do to meet a baby’s needs, which are the same as their wants for the first year. Meet your baby’s needs. It doesn’t spoil them.
- Nothing is forever. The hormones of the new motherhood are designed to make you alert, attentive and oriented towards the well-being of your newborn baby. It is not your permanent hormonal profile; it is now. It’s not forever. It is so important to know that what you feel now is not forever: the exhaustion, the frustration, the resentment you might feel (towards your partner for example, or towards God for making you the one who has had to give birth) – these are temporary. The first six weeks are a train wreck in my opinion and in my experience. The first three months are a big milestone, and you can do it.
You are already a super mom. You’ll be fine. Go get help if you need it. Rest. Don’t overdo it. Try to take advantage of this moment. Slow down your brain. To breathe. You got this.
For National Breastfeeding Month, Grok Nation runs a series on nursing by our founder, Mayim Bialik, who is a Certified Lactation Educator (CLEC). For his past publications, see here.