Patience and practice are keys to meeting your baby’s needs (and your own) while getting your breast-feeding routine off to a good start.
As a new mom, you probably have numerous questions about breast-feeding and the challenges it can present. The reality is that first-time mothers often lack the support and the knowledge they need. My 40 years in pediatrics have provided me with a wealth of information on this topic, but for this column, I’m turning the reins over to my wife, Marthaa La Leche League leader and lactation consultant who logged a total of 19 years breast-feeding our eight children. Here are her top practical breastfeeding tips that help new mothers successfully breast-feed.
1. Get connected early
Immediately after birth, baby will be placed skin-to-skin onto your chest and tummy. This is a crucial part of getting started the so-called sacred hour when the mother and baby get psychologically and physiologically wired together. Research and experience have shown that healthy, alert newborns in this safe, secure place naturally move toward the breast, locate the nipple and self-attach. It is important to not rush this first interaction: Relax and let baby lick and mouth your nipple, then settle in for his first suckle. A 2013 study by Dr.Raylene Phillips at Loma Linda University showed that newborns who have uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with their mothers for at least an hour immediately after birth are far more likely to successfully breast-feed.
2. Get your hormones working for you
This early bonding and breast-feeding help both you and baby build up a high level of attachment hormones. These hormones are highest in the first 10 days of breast-feeding, just when mothers need all the help they can get to care for their babies. This breast-feeding relationship is mutually beneficial you give baby your milk and baby gives you an injection of feel-good hormones that help you bond with your newborn. Oxytocin, the milk-making hormone, also helps mothers feel content and peaceful, which is why veteran moms call breast-feeding a natural tranquilizer. As a final perk, frequent early feedings give baby big doses of colostrum, the super milk produced in the first few days after birth, which is especially high in nutrients that boost the immune system to help protect newborns from viruses and bacteria. It also has a laxative effect that encourages the passage of meconium, the baby’s first stool.
3. Get a professional start
Most hospitals have lactation consultants who can help you teach baby how to latch far enough onto the areola, where the milk ducts are located. The two magic phrases of latch-on are wide-open mouth and the lower lip flip. It’s important to be sure baby’s lower lip isn’t pursed tightly but rather open like a little fish. If your baby tucks in her lip, gently pull it out with your finger.
4. Prepare a nursing station
Set up an area in your home as a nest for you and baby with a rocker or chair that features arms at a comfortable height to support your arms; a few pillows; a footstool; and a table to hold the things youll want, such as something to read, nutritious snacks and a glass of juice or water. Arrange the station in your favorite room in the house, and have soothing music ready.
5. Make smart milk
Breast-feeding mothers do not need a low-fat diet; they need a diet consisting of good fats. You are feeding a developing child, and a growing baby’s brain is 60 percent fat. One of the most important fats in baby’s growing brain is DHA, which comes from some types of seafood. The best sources are wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and omega-3 supplements. Hundreds of scientific studies reveal that the more omega-3s mommy eats, the healthier mommy and baby become. We routinely check the DHA of a mother’s milk by testing a drop. If it is low in DHA, the prescription is Go fish! This important science finally gives us a clue to one of the primary causes of postpartum depression (PPD)an omega-3 deficiency. Breast-feeding mothers who have low levels of the fatty acid in their diet will pass their omega-3s to their baby to help grow his brain. Baby gains an omega-3 sufficiency while mommy is left with an omega-3 deficiency, which is a root nutritional cause of PPD.
6. Use a baby sling
Baby-wearing and breast-feeding are perfect partners. Some babies breast-feed better on the move because movement organizes their body systems. It’s also hard for baby to resist his favorite cuisine when it is just inches away. And because baby-wearing allows for discreet breast-feeding, it makes travel easier. Baby slings are best for breast-feeding.
7. Sleep close to baby
Most of our breast-feeding mothers place their babies to sleep in a bedside co-sleeper, which we believe is the safest and most breast-feeding-friendly sleeping arrangement. While baby and mother have their own sleeping surfaces, each are within easy arms reach for feeding and comforting.
8. Working and breast-feeding
It’s interesting that most Fortune 500 companies now provide lactation lounges for working mothers to pump their breast milk. These companies have found an economic advantage: Breast-feeding mothers tend to miss fewer days of work because breastfed babies typically get sick less often. The Affordable Care Act approved in 2010 requires employers to provide a private location (not a bathroom)so mothers can express their milk for one year following their child’s birth. Most states have additional breast-feeding laws that provide further protection for nursing mothers. For more information, see: dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/
Health benefits of breast-feeding
- Less depression
- Less osteoporosis
- Less breast, uterine and ovarian cancer
- Faster postpartum weight loss
- Cognitive boost
- Healthier heart, skin and immune system
- Fewer intestinal upsets and infections
- Leaner body, less diabetes
According to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations, breast milk is treated the same as liquid medication when carried through security checkpoints. Whether flying with or without children, parents are allowed to carry on quantities greater than 3 ounces. In addition, ice packs and empty bottles are allowed.
Breast milk, formula and juice are inspected at the checkpoint, but you and your infant or toddler wont be required to taste or test any of these items. Liquid exemptions of more than 3 ounces may be tested for explosives, and containers opened during screening. TSA encourages packing your carry-on with only as much formula, breast milk or juice as needed to reach your destination. Liquids and gels that include breast milk, baby formula or juice are also allowed in luggage that is checked with your airline.
Frozen items are permissible if they are in a frozen state at the checkpoint. In addition, cooling liquids or gels used for infant/child or medical exemptions are allowable in a frozen or partially frozen state. Canned, jarred or processed baby food and gel- or liquid-filled teethers are allowed in carry-on baggage.
Keep these tips in mind when traveling with an infant or toddler and carrying these items:
- Liquids, gels and aerosols in your quart-size and zip-top bags should be kept separate.
- Purchase 3-ounce containers for storing and carrying on liquids.
- Officers at the security checkpoint should be notified of these items.
- When reaching the X-ray, present these items for additional inspection.
Martha Sears, RN, and Bill Sears, M.D., are the parents of eight children and theco-authors of 25 books, including The Breastfeeding Book.