Breastfeeding Empowerment: 8 Best Tips for Your Success

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Breastfeeding your baby is one of the best gifts you can give your baby

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, LCCE, is an author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, doula trainer, and lactation counselor. Updated November 06, 2019

Medically reviewed by Meredith Shur, MD

There is a lot of focus on breastfeeding your baby these days due to the numerous physical benefits for the mother and baby or babies. What we know is that there are many women who would love to breastfeed but struggle. One of the reasons that many women struggle is the lack of preparation for breastfeeding.

This preparation falls into a couple of different categories. Here they are:👎

1.Prenatal Education

Being ready for breastfeeding means that you are understanding how breastfeeding works. This means that you need to learn some basic biology. You need to understand how milk is produced and delivered. You need to understand how your baby plays a part in the process. You need to know some basics about and how they play a part in successful lactation for some women. Attending a childbirth or breastfeeding class can really benefit you. You have the opportunity to ask questions and also learn many basic information.

2.Support for Breastfeeding

You will want to know who to call should you have a problem. This is true for small problems and big problems. One thing I often tell pregnant women is that if you call about a small problem, you’re likely going to prevent a much larger problem. My motto is to call early and often. Support for breastfeeding goes way beyond just knowing to whom you should reach out to for help.

You need to have daily support from your family and friends who are closest to you. This means that they may also benefit from breastfeeding education, but also a lesson in how to support a breastfeeding person. There are so many ways to bond with and help the baby that does not include breastfeeding. Be sure to have some ideas prepared to help your support persons feel close to the baby and not anxious about breastfeeding.


3.Here’s how to prepare your breasts for breastfeeding:

  • Expose both breasts to room air daily a few times each day.
  • Avoid soap to the nipple and areola; this causes dryness
  • Wear a good supportive bra during pregnancy -Promotes comfort
  • Allow breasts to air dry after showering and also during during the day if you are leaking colostrum
  • If leaking colostrum, you may want to purchase breast pads which may be either disposable or cloth. Never use a sanitary pad in your bra as the sticky area on them prevents air from circulating and may result in nipple soreness.
  • Have someone knowledgeable about nursing bras help you with the purchase of a well fitting bra
  • Be careful about underwire bras. If not properly fitted, the wires may place pressure on the ducts and cause a blockage of milk or localized pain

4.Get Your Nipples Checked

You may be concerned about how big or small your nipples are, this really has nothing to do with breastfeeding. What you do need to do is to have your nipples checked to see if they are flat or inverted.

You can do a quick self-test for flat or inverted nipples. Take your fingers and pinch just beyond the areola, the dark part of your breast. Does your nipple become erect and stand up? Does your nipple retract into your breast tissue?

Or does your nipple stay flat? If your nipple does not become erect, you may have a problem with flat or inverted nipples.

This is something that you can have your doctor or midwife help screen for at your next prenatal visit. This will not inhibit your ability to breastfeed but may require some special assistance as you and your baby learn to nurse those early days.


5.Get Screened for Hypoplastic Breasts

Hypoplasia or insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) is something that many people don’t notice until their baby is already born. When they try to breastfeed, they figure out there is a problem when the baby is not gaining weight. While this is a rare condition, there are some warning signs that you can look for before giving birth. If you have any of these symptoms, you may want to ask your doctor or midwife to screen your breasts for IGT: breasts that are significantly asymmetrical (one is larger than the other), your breasts are widely spaced, ​tube-shaped, or seem like empty sacs, you had no breast changes in early pregnancy, or you had no breast changes after birth. This may not mean that you suffer from IGT, but if you do, this will give you a chance to make a breastfeeding plan to see how you can try to get as much of a milk supply as possible or use alternatives like lactation aids, which may or may not include supplementation.


6.Talk to Your Plastic Surgeon 

If you have had a breast reduction or breast surgery, you may have insufficient glandular tissue as well, even if you did not have a pre-existing issue with hypoplastic breasts. Some of the newer techniques in breast reduction spare the tissue that produces milk. This means that not all breasts reductions are created equally.

If you happen to read this article prior to having a breast reduction, be sure to tell your plastic surgeon that you are interested in breastfeeding in the future and to do what they can to spare your breast tissue.

If you have had the surgery and don’t remember what type of procedure was done, you can request a copy of your medical records. Your doctor or midwife can help you sort through the records and figure out your best course of action.

Communication with your Health Care Provider is Important

 

It is amazing, we hardly take notice of our breasts. You know we should be checking our breasts for lumps at the end of the month. I actually find myself forgetting to check and the have to get back on track. While we used to have a long list of fairly painful things that you could do to your breasts, we have largely stopped recommending traditional nipple preparation. So, don’t listen if someone tells you to take a towel and toughen up your nipples. Did you know you actually remove some of the oils your body is producing to be more friendly to your breasts and nipples? However, breast massage can be helpful. Some women find that it relieves the pain from growing tissues in pregnancy. It can also help you feel more comfortable with your breasts once you are breastfeeding. God has everything prepared for us on this journey.

All of these are quick things to do in the prenatal phase of your breastfeeding life. Ask your doctor or midwife for other advice based on your health history. Build your team to start breastfeeding out on the right foot so that you can meet your personal breastfeeding goals.


ANATOMY OF THE BREASTS

Having knowledge about the Breasts assists in understanding the Breastfeeding process.

Some types of nipples, like concave, flat or inverted nipples might make it more difficult for a baby to latch. For a baby to nurse successfully, he/she must be able to grasp the nipple and stretch it forward and upward, against the roof of the mouth. The most important thing to remember is that your baby should get as much of your breast into the mouth as possible.

Flat or inverted nipples are mostly caused by adhesions, which never opened up naturally during puberty. During nursing, there will be some pain as the nipples are pulled out, but it is temporary, and the nipples usually stretch out over time.

Most times, mothers will have one inverted nipple. In this case, you will be able to feed your baby on the “good side” while you pump the other side. You can always just keep the pumped milk for times when your baby needs a bottle.

If your baby is strong, healthy, full-term and vigorous, he/she may be able to draw out the nipple with ease.

Some good news is that the more you breastfeed, the more milk you will make and the more it will stand out. Breastfeeding will, therefore, become easier with each baby. Stay positive and determined to be successful.


Inverted Nipples / Flat Nipples
Treatment Options

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  • Nipple formers: Also called breast shells, milk cups or breast cups. These shells are used to help the nipple protrude, they can be worn a few months before the baby is born and also every time before a breastfeeding session.
  • The Niplette: This is a device that sucks out the nipple, it stretches the ducts and then makes breastfeeding possible. This device can be used during pregnancy to get your nipples ready to breastfeed. 
  • The Hoffman Technique: Pressing down and pulling away from the nipple with your thumbs a few times. Do this up and down and sideways. The Hoffman process will help your nipple move outwards and can be done about five times a day.
  • Using a breast pump: A breast pump can be used every time, just before breastfeeding. A pump will pull the nipple out.
  • Use the breast sandwich method to get more breast tissue into your baby’s mouth. Grasp your breast well back on the areola, with your fingers below and thumb on top. Push in with your thumb and fingers and at the same time push back toward your chest wall. This will elongate your areola, which will help your baby latch on easier.
  • nipple shield: nipple shields are fake nipples, which are not recommended as it may ultimately decrease your milk supply, but can sometimes help mothers breastfeed when all else fails. 
  • The Lansinoh Latch Assist: Can be used to pull the nipple out just before a breastfeeding session. Explained in the video below…

8.Things You Can Do that Might Help

  • Nipple stimulation: You can roll your nipple in your hands or place something cold on it for a few minutes to get it to stand out.
  • With an inverted or flat nipple, you will need to nurse as soon as possible after birth, and every 2-3 hours after that. This is to avoid engorgement; breast engorgement can push flat nipples out, making them even harder to grip.
  • Make sure that your baby is latching properly. You can try different positions.
  • Try calming your baby before breastfeeding. Use calming techniques e.g. swaddling, shushing, skin-to -skin
  • As a last resort, the mother might feel that she would alternatively prefer to pump exclusively.
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com /Observing your baby’s hunger cues is essential in keeping him calm!

How Does My Body Make Milk?

If  you understands the process of lactation, you will be able to recognize and implement measures that can help solve many breastfeeding problems, such as oversupply and low milk supply.




In the beginning, the hormones that are produced by pregnancy, start to change and grow your milk ducts; they start getting ready for breastmilk production, by increasing in number and by branching out with clusters of alveoli on the ends.

During your pregnancy, just halfway through, your endocrine control system will start to trigger the making of colostrum, and your milk supply will start to “come in” 30-40 hours after giving birth to your baby. This process may take longer in mothers who have had a C-section delivery. 

Your baby’s tummy is so small at this stage that he/she only needs a few drops of colostrum with every feed to be satisfied. Many mommies believe  that their babies are still hungry during the early weeks and become very anxious about the behavior of the baby crying constantly. This behavior is nature’s way of increasing the milk supply of the get

A mother’s body will usually not produce milk before the baby is born, as the levels of progesterone are too high, but once she delivers the placenta, the levels of progesterone will drop. The high level of prolactin then triggers copious milk production  called “lactogenesis 2.”

A mother should start to breastfeed her baby as soon as possible, as this will trigger the release of Prolactin and therefore trigger increased breast milk production.

Mothers only begin to feel the increased breast fullness 2 – 3 days after birth. (Up to 5 days in Moms who have had a c-section, or who have various issues such as PCOS or diabetes)

When your body is signaled to start producing milk, the hormone Oxytocin is released, and this causes the milk to be pushed out of the breast. I remember when I was breastfeeding my kids, I could feel when the milk glands were making my milk. The stimulation was amazing!


Here is How Your Body Makes Milk 

The lactating breasts

Breastfeeding is primarily controlled by the hormones Prolactin and Oxytocin.

Prolactin stimulates milk production and Oxytocin controls the milk ejection reflex or let down from the mammary glands. Oxytocin also stimulates the uterus to return to a pre-pregnant state and reduces blood loss after birth, aids in the mother’s ability to relax

Prolactin levels increase during pregnancy but milk is not produced in the mammary glands because pregnany levels of estrogen and progestone inhibit the prolactin from being effective.

After childbirth estrogen and progesterone levels drop, allowing Prolactin to become effective – ie, start stimulating milk production.

Prolactin levels also decrease after childbirth but every time the baby nurses or breast feeds, a signal travels from the nipples to the hypothalmus in the brain which triggers the pituitary gland to release more prolactin. At each breastfeed, there is a 10 fold increase in the levels of prolactin which lasts for about an hour after the feed. This is why its important to feed frequently.

If the prolactin surge is blocked by injury, disease or if nursing is discontinued the breasts will lose their ability to make breastmilk after a few days.

What is Colostrum?

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Colostrum is the earliest breastmilk produced, beginning in mid-pregnancy (12-18 weeks) and is continually produced for the first few days after baby’s birth. It is thick, sticky, concentrated milk and is usually yellow, clear or white, although it could be other colors as well. It is made up of immune factors, protein, sugar, and fats.

Why is Colostrum Important for Your Baby?

 

Colostrum is waiting for your baby at birth:

Nursing in the first hour will yield a large colostrum feeding that is protective and satisfying for your baby. Remember that your baby’s stomach is tiny at birth, so a large feeding may look very small!

Learning to suck and swallow milk is easier in small amounts. If for some reason your baby cannot nurse in the early hours, hand express the colostrum so it can be fed to your baby. Hand expressing colostrum generally yields more volume than using a breast pump in the early hours.


HOW MUCH COLOSTRUM  DOES MY BABY NEED?

Colostrum is the most important first food for all infants. Although it available only in small amounts, it is a powerful food!

Colostrum: General


Guidelines to Prepare for Breastfeeding: Improvement for your success

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By Marcella Gates Medically reviewed by Kathleen Huggins, RN, MS, IBCLC , registered nurse and lactation consultant IN THIS ARTICLE :

  • How should I prepare for breastfeeding
  • Do I need to toughen my nipples?
  • What products should I buy?

How should I prepare for breastfeeding?

Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding even before your baby’s born. Talk to other nursing moms, read books to familiarize yourself, call your local La Leche League International chapter, and consider taking a breastfeeding class (offered by most hospitals) some time in your last trimester.

The more you know about how to get started and the benefits of nursing, the more likely you are to succeed at it. Many people assume that breastfeeding comes naturally, but it is not that way for everyone

Whether you think about it or not, your pregnant body is preparing itself for breastfeeding. That’s one reason your breasts get so much bigger during pregnancy — your milk ducts and milk-producing cells are developing, and more blood goes to your breasts than before. But breast size has nothing to do with your ability to nurse successfully: For example, it’s not true that smaller-breasted women make less breast milk.

Do I need to toughen my nipples?

“No,” says Kathleen Huggins, author of The Nursing Mother’s Companion. The hormonal changes pregnancy brings to your breasts are sufficient preparation for most women. Don’t rub or scrub your nipples — this will only hurt you and make breastfeeding difficult. Teaching your baby the right way to latch onto your breast from the beginning is the most effective way to prevent soreness.

What products should I buy?

These products aren’t required, by any means, but they can make breastfeeding more comfortable and convenient:

Nursing bras: These bras are comfortable and provide the extra support your larger-than-usual breasts need. They come with flaps that you can easily undo at feeding time.

It’s best to wait until the last couple of weeks of pregnancy to shop for nursing bras, when your breasts will be closest to their postpartum size. That said, once your milk comes in your breasts will be bigger.

They may even grow another size or two! So keep that in mind when buying nursing bras, and when shopping in person look for a salesperson who’s knowledgeable about fitting.

Nursing tops and camisoles: These tops have convenient flaps that allow you to breastfeed easily and discreetly. Some of the camisoles are very supportive and can function as a bra and top in one.

Nursing pillows(paid link): Specially designed to support your baby while you’re nursing, these can help you avoid straining your shoulders or neck during feeding sessions. They’re more convenient — and better at keeping your baby in position — than regular pillows.

Breast pads(paid link): It’s normal for your breasts to leak while you’re nursing, and another baby’s cry or the sight of an infant can bring on a gush of milk when you least expect it.

Disposable breast pads (or reusable, washable ones) will keep you and your shirts nice and dry.

A breast pump( paid link): Even if you’re not planning to pump regularly, a breast pump can be a useful tool — to help relieve engorgement, for example. Find out more about buying a breast pump. Have a look at some name brands and make your choice.


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Have an Honest Conversation With Your Partner

ready preg1

Once your baby arrives, you won’t have time for much. You’ll be lucky if you get to shower every other day. Support during breastfeeding is essential if it is going to be sustained. Having your partner, and family agree with you is a great way to protect your breastfeeding journey. Talk about it with them.

You’ll want to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your responsibilities when you bring the baby home.

If you think you’ll need some help around the home, this is the time to talk about it and perhaps even start looking for a maid or nanny to help out.

Any little bits of responsibilities your partner could help you with will be of tremendous help.

Also, knowing who will do what will save you headaches and fights down the road.

Will  My Milk Be Enough? Supply and Demand

To increase your milk supply, you need to increase stimulation at the breast by breastfeeding continuously and also pumping after feeds. If you are still having problems, you should contact a lactation consultant as soon as possible to help you sort out the issue.

The less  formula you give your baby, the more breast milk your body will make. A support group is also essential to help you get the help you need so that you do not give up. It is also wise to take a class before you go into labour to familiarize yourself with breastfeeding.

The Breastfeeding Relationship: Stay Determined

A good breastfeeding relationship takes time. As a new mom, you may have unrealistic expectations of yourself and yourself and your newborn. You may even become discouraged if things are not going well.

Although a lot of reactions and responses are innate, breastfeeding is a learned experience and will take time for both you and baby comfortable with one another. A positive mindset and readiness is some of the best choices you can make in preparation for breastfeeding.

 

 

BREASTFEEDING : When Does it Begin?

 

The first hour after birth is where it begins

Breastfeeding is the recommended way to feed newborns and infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life and then to breastfeed along with adding solid foods to a baby’s diet for at least one year.

If possible initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Before going into hospital a breastfeeding class would be ideal to gather information about the topic and learn the basics of successful breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a gift only you can give your baby. A healthy, full term baby is likely to know instinctively what to do at the breast.

During the early weeks skin-to-skin contact helps your baby be connected to his instinctive breastfeeding skills and helps you and baby enjoy breastfeeding. Each mother discovers what works for her, and what works for one mother may not work for another. Mary Renfrew wrote in Journal of Human Lactation that learning to breastfeed is like mother and baby learning a dance. Use what works in these suggestions and tailor them for you and your baby.

Believe that you know what works for you and your baby. You will know when the positioning is ideal for you, and when you and your baby are comfortable. When positioning is right for you, your nipples stay healthy and your baby can feed most efficiently. Concern about sore nipples or breastfeeding comfortably is a common reason that mothers contact La Leche League. Improving positioning helps eliminate many cases of sore nipples.

You may have noticed this description is long. Be assured that many mothers have successfully accomplished breastfeeding their babies for centuries and you too will learn how to best position your baby. These suggestions are not meant to tell the mother that if she follows all the steps the position will be “right”. The suggestions are meant to gives you ideas on how you and your baby can learn to breastfeed and enjoy the breastfeeding experience.

However, like other seemingly simple tasks, it takes a lot of words to describe what other mothers have found works well for them. LLL Leaders are experienced in guiding mothers through the positioning process. If you feel overwhelmed by preparing to breastfeed your baby, contact your local Leader for information and support. She will be happy to simplify matters for you.

While in hospital learn as much as you can from the nurse or lactation consult about breastfeeding. ASK QUESTIONS! Let them guide you as you latch your baby on to build your confidence in understanding the proper techniques.

BREASTFEEDING POSITIONS: WHICH ONE SHOULD I  CHOOSE?

There are different positions for breastfeeding. As you continue to practice you will know which one to use. It is so good that many positions are available for you to choose from.  They  encourage more even draining of the breast throughout the day. Try some of them and find the one that works best for you.

See the source image
https://momsmartnothard.com/complete-breastfeeding-guide/

SHOULD I WAIT FOR MY BABY TO CRY BEFORE FEEDING?: EARLY FEEDING CUES

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Watch for early feeding cues such as lip smacking, mouth opening and a hand to mouth. In the early days when some babies are sleepy and do not often cry when they are hungry so stay attentive to the cues. Try feeding baby before crying state. A side note on eating hands: everyone will tell you that is how babies explore or they are teething. Both are true, and this is a perfect example of why

advice should always have an age with it because exploration doesn’t start until at least 3-4 months and teething doesn’t start until 4 months. Before that, it is an early hunger sign. But as a new mom, a lot is going on and it is easy to miss hunger cues because you aren’t always looking for them. You and baby are getting to know each other. In a few weeks, you will be able to catch hunger cues well.

CORRECT LATCH : WILL I LATCH MY BABY   ON CORRECTLY?

LATCHED ON

Breastfeeding is a gift only you can give your baby. A healthy, full term baby is likely to know instinctively what to do at the breast.

During the early weeks skin-to-skin contact helps your baby be connected to his instinctive breastfeeding skills and helps you and baby enjoy breastfeeding. Each mother discovers what works for her, and what works for one mother may not work for another. Mary Renfrew wrote in Journal of Human Lactation that learning to breastfeed is like mother and baby learning a dance.

Use what works in these suggestions and tailor them for you and your baby. Trust that you know what works for you and your baby. You will know when the positioning is ideal for you, when you and your baby are comfortable. When positioning is right for you, your nipples stay healthy and your baby can feed most efficiently.

When latching on your baby, use your nipple to tickle the center of your baby’s bottom lip. This will encourage him to open his mouth wide (like he is yawning). Aim your nipple slightly towards the roof of his mouth, bringing baby to you, chin first.

Good latch-on checkpoints for your baby include:

  • His nose is nearly touching your breast, that is, no further away than a credit card edge
  • His lips are flanged
  • At least ½ inch of your breast around the base of your nipple is in his mouth.

If the latch is uncomfortable or painful, gently place your finger in the baby’s mouth, between his gums, to detach him and try again.

A baby who is offered the breast will suck without swallowing as he positions the nipple in his mouth and tells your breast he is ready for the milk to let down. When he begins to receive milk, you will see his jaw working all the way back to his ear. His temples will wiggle. You will also hear him swallowing, quickly at first, then more slowly, as his appetite is satisfied.

The First Week: Positioning and Latch

Breastfeeding is a gift only you can give your baby. A healthy, full term baby is likely to know instinctively what to do at the breast.

During the early weeks skin-to-skin contact helps your baby be connected to his breastfeeding skills and helps you and baby enjoy breastfeeding. Each mother discovers what works for her, and what works for one mother may not work for another. Mary Renfrew wrote in Journal of Human Lactation that learning to breastfeed is like mother and baby learning a dance. Use what works in these suggestions and tailor them for you and your baby. Trust that you know what works for you and your baby.

You will know when the positioning is ideal for you, when you and your baby are comfortable. When positioning is right for you, your nipples stay healthy and your baby can feed most efficiently. Improving positioning helps eliminate many cases of sore nipples. In the first three to five days after birth, if you experience nipple soreness beyond a slight tenderness when your baby latches on, it may be a sign that something isn’t right with the baby latch, position, or suck.

An adjustment to the latch or positioning can help your baby be more comfortable. When you have mastered the “dance” of breastfeeding, sore or cracked nipples are allowed to heal. It is very important to see a lactation specialist to assist in preventing further damage.

Learn to recognize your baby’s early feeding cues so you have time to get in a good position before he becomes desperately hungry. Early cues include opening his mouth, moving his head side to side – also known as rooting reflex or sucking on hands and fingers. Don’t wait for baby to cry to let you know he is hungry. Crying is a very late hunger cue.



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