Breastfeeding is an extraordinarily rewarding experience, but there’s often a learning curve for both mom and baby. It may be natural, but it’s not always easy.
If you’re a new mom struggling to breastfeed, talk to your pediatrician. They can refer you to a lactation consultant, who is clinically certified to assist in lactation and breastfeeding. Many can offer services in-home or from a medical practice.
Melissa Willette of Legacy Lactation is a local lactation consultant who graciously agreed to answer our questions on the basics of breastfeeding.
Q: What do you want every mom to know before she starts breastfeeding?
The most important thing and statistically proven to improve breastfeeding is an education class before birth. A good class will be several hours long, help you understand normal newborn weight loss, make you familiar with your local breastfeeding resources, and learn the basics of breastfeeding.
Q: How soon do I start breastfeeding?
Immediately after birth, have skin to skin time. Let your baby “bob” around on your breast or chest. Once you see them bobbing, move baby to whichever side you choose. Latch baby.
Q: How do I latch my baby?
Hold baby by neck or shoulders, not by their head. Aim your nipple toward the baby’s nose. Have the baby’s bottom lip touch first, then the top. Once you have a good latch, you can increase the amount baby consumes by doing compression on your actively feeding breast. This is firm compressive pressure closer to chest wall—not the nipple—and will make a big difference in the first few days postpartum.
Q: How do I make milk?
Your body starts creating colostrum while you are pregnant, and the first portion of milk development is completed by 20 weeks. When your baby is born and the placenta has been delivered, the drop in progesterone and increase in the citrate and sodium in your breasts start the next phase of lactogenesis. The placenta leaving the body triggers this next phase and the baby nursing facilitates its development. Remember, milk is held in reserve in the breast in very small amounts, then when baby starts to suckle, your body actively makes the milk.
Q: Do the foods I eat affect my supply?
What you eat is fine! You can change breastmilk some, but not a lot. What goes through your intestines and your body helps your body make milk, but your milk is not made of what you eat.
Eat when you’re hungry. Drink when you’re thirsty. Try to eat as well as you can, but if you slip and have ice cream, it’s OK!
Q: How much milk does my baby need?
Each baby is different, but on average, a newborn consumes 5 to 7 milliliters per feed on day one. Day two will be approximately 10 to 15 milliliters per feeding. Days 3 and 4, approximately 1 ounce per feeding, and days 5 and 6 will be 1.5 to 3 ounces. Babies do not eat every 2 to 3 hours until they’re 3 days old.
Q: What is the best breastfeeding pillow?
Your bed pillow at home! You don’t need the others, but you can you buy them if you want to. Breastfeeding pillows are entirely dependent on your body structure and you may not even need one for very long.
Q: What is the best way to store breastmilk?
You can save breastmilk in proper containers at room temperature for up to four hours, in the fridge for five days, a regular freezer for six months, and in a deep freezer for a year.
Q: Any common breastfeeding myths you hear a lot that you’d like to debunk?
That there are so many foods you can’t have while breastfeeding. Total myth! There are more can’s than can’t on your list. It’s OK to have alcohol or caffeine while breastfeeding as long as it’s in moderation. Pumping and dumping is a very rare need. The best place to find information on medications and breastfeeding it the Infant Risk Center, which is based in Texas.
MELISSA WILLETTE, FNP-C, IBCLC, has worked in women’s obstetrical care for more than 20 years. Since 2018, she’s owned Legacy Lactation, where she supports moms through lactation, pre- and post-natal classes, support groups, and home visits.
JENNA MICHAEL is Charlotte based writer and mother to four. Her work has appeared on Charlotte Smarty Pants and Bliss Fit LLC.