By Wendy Eson, DC(DONA), ICCE, IBCLC
Hi! Here I am! Maybe the way I came into this world was just the way you had hoped, or maybe it wasn’t the way you at all pictured. But, here we are together – a duo, a team, a perfect pair.
But perhaps it doesn’t feel that way to you. You’ve spent the last several months “reading all the books” and yet, somehow, you still are unprepared. You’ve been asking yourself, “How can this be?” The books you’ve read about breastfeeding have come highly recommended, the websites you’ve perused are written by lactation consultants and are “evidence-based.” And yet, you look at me and appear a little unsure of yourself. Don’t worry! I HAVEN’T read the books, but I do have innate skills to help me breastfeed. I do know that I need to eat often. Listening to my tummy tells me every 1 ½ to 3 hours. Sometimes I cluster feed (evening is a great time for this!) and you may think eating is all I do.
To help you feel more confident, here’s what I think you should know about breastfeeding:
- When I start to feel hungry, I seem to find myself pulling my hands to my mouth, making “smacking” sounds with my lips. If I’m feeling real adventurous, I’ll even thrust out my tongue! If you catch me at this point, I’ll be most happy at being placed at the breast. Seems if you wait too long with me, I can get fussy and agitated and hard to settle. Patience is not a virtue of mine at this point.
- When you place me to the breast, use whatever position is comfortable for you and me. I know you read all about the cross cradle hold and the football hold, but use what works best for you. I’ll probably like to have the support of a small pillow under my body (at least for a little while). What I do know is that when I’m tucked in real nice and close to you, it feels best. I like to have my chin in deep to your breast with my nose tilted up. And because I care about you too, it’s best if I don’t just have the tip of your nipple in my mouth. I’m sure that hurts (I’ve seen you flinch many a time when I do this!) and from my perspective, I get much less milk. It’s a no-win situation for both of us.
- To encourage me to open wider, stroke the upper part of my top lip with your nipple. This usually does the trick. When I do open wide, bring me in nice and deep to the breast. This helps me get past the nipple and onto the areola. This shouldn’t hurt you and I’ll get more milk!
- Now that I’m latched, it’s your job to make sure I’m doing my job. Listen closely. You should be able to hear me swallow. Sounds like a soft “puh-puh.” I’ll tend to have lots of swallows in the beginning, and then slow down as I get full. If you don’t hear a lot of “puh-puh” sounds, try to keep me awake! I can be a trickster at this age and act like I’m eating, when I’m not. See, I’m full of surprises. Stroke my arm, tickle under my chin, compress your breast to move the milk toward me. If I don’t respond to this, most likely I am done. Here’s a hint: if I’m too warm and toasty, I’ll catch a nap. Undress me to my diaper for feeds and keep me on the cooler side as it might help keep me active.
- One place I love to be is lying between your breasts, skin-to-skin. This is a comforting place for me, but when I start getting hungry, you’ll know for sure, as I’ll start actively looking for the breast. I am becoming a little explorer!
- Offering me both breasts is ideal, but sometimes I’ll only eat from one, and I’ll tend to feed less actively from the second breast. As long as you heard lots of swallows from me and I was eager and active during the feed, I should have done a good job at transferring your milk to me. Don’t worry about timing the feeds. I don’t know how to tell time yet, so I’m less concerned about this than the books or websites you’ve been reading or what that app on your phone says. Remember, I can be a trickster… I can be at the breast for a LOOONG time and not have eaten. Swallows, swallows, swallows. If you’re not hearing frequent, numerous swallows or if I’ve been particularly sleepy at the breast, you may need to use a breast pump to help move the milk from your breasts.
And if you or I need some assistance in all this, there’s plenty to be had. I heard that there are lactation consultants and other people who want to support us in almost every community!