Are you a new mom who just can't figure out the ins and outs of breastfeeding? We tapped into our in-house Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS) Katie Roy, BSN, RN for her best tips on breastfeeding.
The most important part of your breastfeeding journey is patience – patience with yourself, with your body, and with your baby. Breastfeeding is a different experience for every woman, and for every child. There are physiological, structural, emotional, & hormonal components that all affect the process, and on any given day, or even any given feed, one or all of these factors come together.
Whether this is your first baby, or your fifth, whether your baby is 3 hours old, or 3 years, this journey can ebb & flow, and change as dramatically as a baby grows. So be kind to yourself, be patient with your baby, know that time is on your side. A newborn’s latch may take a long time – five minutes may feel like an eternity, and it may even take weeks for you to adjust and learn from each other (their brain’s are so new, and the stimuli and sensations are so intense).
An eight month old may seem more motivated by his solids than your breast, and as distracted as a squirrel, popping off every time someone speaks. It can all be frustrating, and daunting, and exhausting. If you need to put that beautiful baby down safely and take a walk, and three deep breaths, that is your right and your responsibility to both yourself and that babe. THREE DEEP BREATHS, for yourself, and your children.
Be proud of your body, it is always listening. Self-confidence goes a long way. If you’re hard on yourself, if you’re feeling insecure about your body and it’s abilities, that influences and triggers stress hormones, the opposite of that relaxation hormone Oxytocin. Babies are emotional sponges, uninhibited by racing thoughts and busy lives, they can feel tense when we are tense, and relaxed when we relax. Oxytocin, the “love hormone”, activates milk letdown. It is released when we hug or have an orgasm. So tune into that frequency of pure love, take those three deep breaths, smile deeply, find a sense of gratitude and then put that baby to breast.
2. Assess milk supply and feeding patterns
Before addressing increasing milk supply we must address assessing milk supply. Breasts change dramatically in shape, fullness, intensity in let-down sensation, and leakiness, all in the normal course of breastfeeding as your body adjusts to and learns your baby’s needs. Babies' needs also vary with age, growth spurts, time of day, mental developmental milestones, sleep patterns, among a myriad of other reasons – all affecting your supply.
If your baby is gaining an appropriate amount of weight for her age as confirmed by the pediatrician, if your baby has regular wet diapers and healthy, regular poops, and is meeting his or her milestones, your body is likely producing everything your baby needs. One last disclaimer about assessing milk supply – pumping is a totally different physiological process for your mind and body and what you pump does not necessarily reflect what your baby consumes while breastfeeding. Your hormones, your letdown, the baby’s effective and efficient latch & suck, all likely produce more milk during a feed than pumping.
So now to increase supply that has been evaluated as “low” with the support of a qualified healthcare professional or lactation consultant. Assess your baby’s latch, you are encouraged to involve a pediatric healthcare provider or lactation consultant if you suspect your baby is not latching well. Nipple soreness, cracking, bleeding, these are not normal and should be addressed and supported and may be related to conditions affecting proper latch such as tongue-tie, or even ineffective placement and positioning.
If latch is not an issue, there are feeding patterns that can help stimulate your body to increase supply. Increased demand increases supply.
- Increase feeding frequency for a period of time, then gradually titrate the timing to space it back out once your supply has adjusted.
- Keep the baby awake and alert during feedings, and remember you are NOT a pacifier, and you need sleep too.
- Speaking of sleep – exhaustion can affect the body as well, so taking a few days to relax with your baby and lounge around breastfeeding and caring for yourself may help to hit the reset button.
- You can switch the baby back and forth at least twice on each breast each feed.
- Breastfeed exclusively if you have been supplementing with formula.
- Decrease the amount of solids if the baby is over 6 months old and eating as well.
- Add pumping into your routine to help signal the body to increase supply.
- Talk to your lactation consultant or baby’s provider about galactagogues, natural supplements or prescriptions that help stimulate breast milk production
- Lastly, and most importantly, being relaxed, present, grounded, and comfortable all help to support a healthy breastfeeding experience for you and your baby.
3. Store milk properly
The Quick + Clean:
Freshly expressed milk
Warm room (80-90°F) for 3-4 hours
Room temperature (61-79°F) for 4-8 hours (ideal: 3-4 hours)
Insulated cooler/ice packs (59°F) for 24 hours
Refrigerated Milk (Store in back of fridge)
Refrigerator (fresh milk) (32-39°F) for 3-8 days (ideal: 72 hrs)
Refrigerator (thawed milk) (32-39°F) for 24 hours
Refrigerator Freezer (less than 39°F) for 6 months
Separate deep freeze (0°F) for 12 months (ideal: 6 months)
The Nitty-Pretty Much Everything You Want to Know:
As with all things in life, start by washing your hands, prior to breastfeeding, prior to pumping, prior to handling and storing breast milk.
Breast milk can be stored in several ways, and done with proper care, it can maintain the magical immunological and nutritious properties unique to each baby’s needs.
It is essential to use containers from reputable brands made with food grade material specifically designed to store breast milk. Studies show that the material used, along with proper timing, temperature and handling all help to maintain the fat, protein, pre- & probiotic, immune enhancing, antibacterial and antioxidant components of breast milk (the magic!). Overall, tempered glass storage containers do seem to have an edge over the plastic options but this is not significant enough to toss all of your pumping bags and lug around mason jars!
Wash bottles and non-disposable containers with soap and hot water and allow to air or hand dry thoroughly. Research confirms that there isn’t a need to sterilize or boil as long as soap and hot water are used. The same applies to pumping parts.
Fresh is best – warm, freshly expressed breast milk is of the utmost quality, followed by refrigerated milk (stored properly), which is superior to frozen milk. Always use refrigerated milk over frozen first. Thawing frozen milk is ideally done in lukewarm water over a period of about 20 minutes or in the refrigerator for about 12 hours (I know, I know, who has the time?!). Never use your microwave. Electric bottle warmers have their place and many will tout them as a worthy investment, especially if you are exclusively pumping. Some warmers come with more cost-prohibitive price tags than others, but there are now wonderful social media based “buy nothing” communities replete with baby goods worth checking out.
Once thawed, milk should be consumed within 24 hours and should never be left out at room temp for longer than 2 hours.
Refreezing milk does not have much research to back up or discourage the practice, and many references will say “don’t”, but suffice to say you will likely lose some of the milk’s “magic” along the way. It is important to be gentle with yourself, and reasonable especially during this time of life, so know that saving precious sustenance after the baby decides to fall asleep instead of finishing her bottle may save you a piece of mind, and that matters too. Just be sure to follow the same thawing and consumption guidelines.
4. Treat sore nipples
Are you wincing every time your baby latches, feeling anything less than calm
and joy at the thought of your baby’s next feed, see redness, cracking, discharge,
or bleeding when you look at your nipples? These experiences are sadly more
common than not for first time mothers, mothers of six children and everyone in
between - and it is not normal or okay. It is your body and your baby telling you
that you need and deserve support and tools to remedy what isn’t working.
The crux of the situation is that by the time you have left the hospital (if that is the
setting where you birthed) you likely received breastfeeding advice from at least
three nurses, maybe a provider, two lactation consultants, and twelve family
members or friends. Most of which was contradictory and overwhelming.
So here are some pro tips to help live your best latched-life:
- Address the latch with a professional that feels right for you if you have access. Some insurance reimburse for lactation services. You can always reach out to one of our BINTO healthcare professionals to schedule a lactation consult.
- Different feeding positions will help to find the most supportive and comfortable latch for you and baby.
- Ice and lanolin or organic nursing balm (nipple cream) are your friend. Ice can be applied for a moment right before feeding to help with sensitivity. Used in moderation, applying nipple balm will help avoid cracking. Give your skin time to absorb the balm to avoid infection. Try BINTO's Nipple Balm made with natural ingredients (pro tip: we also love this for our lips).
- Exposing your breasts to air, not keeping them tucked into a bra as much as possible is also beneficial for healing and sensitivity.
- Balance. Even though you may be experiencing pain it’s important to always find a way that works for you (by baby, pump, or hand) to express from both breasts to avoid clogged ducts, infection, and decreased supply.
- Salt water (1/2 teaspoon/ 8oz water); a few drops of breast milk go a long way. Briefly soaking nipples in a fresh bowl of warm water and then thoroughly drying them after feeds is healing and cleansing. Applying few drops of breast milk is nourishing for the skin and is a natural antiseptic (magic!).
- Antibacterial ointments should be reserved to use with the direction of a healthcare provider.
All in all, just like supplement regimes, breastfeeding is a different experience for every body. We are here for you. Feel free to reach out to any of our health care providers for any specific questions you might have.