“A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.” – Grantly Dick-Read
So you’re looking to breastfeed? Awesome mama! Breastfeeding is an incredible gift to you and your baby. It can be a super helpful parenting tool as a mother. This article goes over the very basics of breastfeeding. There is a lot more to learn about than what this article covers, but understanding the very basics can help!
If you run into a bump in the road on your breastfeeding journey, knowing the basics can help so you know what’s normal, what’s not, and when it might be a good idea to reach out for help!
However you decide to feed your baby, know you are a good mom and you’ve totally got this mama!
Latch matters! Learn more about a deep latch vs shallow latch here. Efficient milk drainage from your breasts helps you build an adequate supply and lowers your risk for things like clogged ducts and mastitis.
If it hurts when you nurse you might have a latch issue. Getting it checked out by an IBCLC can make all the difference!
Is basically when your body releases milk from your breast. When baby nurses (or cries) it triggers your body to release milk for them. Sometimes can feel like a tingle in your breast.
Here’s a really great in-depth video explanation here.
BREASTFEEDING ISN'T JUST ABOUT FOOD!
Did you know breastfeeding isn’t just about food?! Babies nurse for a whole bunch of reasons. For emotional comfort for when they are upset, for physical comfort when they are not feeling well or teething, to build their immunity (your milk contains antibodies to protect your baby from illness), when they are thirsty, when they want to sleep (your milk contains hormones to help baby sleep).
Basically, after a baby is born your chest is their new favorite place to be.
Beyond that, breastfeeding is helpful for mom too! After birth it causes uterine contractions to help you stop bleeding. It releases oxytocin (the love hormone) that helps reduce stress in both mom and baby and promotes mama-baby bonding! Learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding here.
Baby wants to nurse again?! General rule of thumb, don’t pay too much attention to the clock in those early days, weeks, and months, just nurse your baby. When in doubt, offer the breast.
Babies, especially in the early days and weeks, can seem like they are on the breast 24/7. Your baby wanting to nurse all… the… time… is totally normal and not good an indication of your supply (how much milk you are or are not making). General rule of thumb is to nurse at least 7x in a 24 hour period. As baby gets older the nursing sessions will become less frequent than the newborn phase.
Lots of mamas get nervous that they aren’t making enough if baby wants to nurse frequently, but often that not the case. If you are worried, before you introduce formula or donor milk (which can lead to other challenges), reach out to an IBCLC to get their professional opinion.
HOW TO GET A GOOD SUPPLY
Nurse, nurse, nurse! Nurse early and often! Put baby skin-to-skin on your chest immediately after birth. Let baby nurse as long and as much as they want. Nursing often and early is telling your body how much milk you need to make for your baby!
The more you nurse in the first few days and several weeks following birth the better your supply will be long-term. If you are away from your baby make sure to pump and get in touch with a IBCLC right away. Those early days and weeks are super important. Even if you end up with a rough start, no worries mama! Reaching out to an IBCLC can get you back on track so you can meet all your breastfeeding goals.
The ability to pump and store breastmilk for later is an amazing option to have for times when we need to be away from our baby! One thing to be aware of is that any time your baby is receiving a bottle in place of a nursing session you should pump too so your supply doesn’t drop.
Here are some basic tips on the basics of pumping breastmilk.
BREASTMILK STORAGE GUIDELINES
There are a set of guidelines to follow when pumping and storing human breastmilk. You’ll want to make sure to follow them (as well as any care takers for your baby) to keep your milk safe for your baby to drink.
Learn more about breastmilk storage guidelines here.
HOW INTRODUCING A BOTTLE CAN REDUCE YOUR SUPPLY
Breastfeeding works by supply and demand. Any time you replace a nursing session with a bottle, it tells your body that it doesn’t need that milk during that time and down regulates (makes less milk). So if you want or need to introduce a bottle but want to keep your supply up, make sure every time baby is having a bottle, you’re pumping. If you’re unsure about how to safely introduce a bottle contact a good lactation consultant that can help you figure out a plan.
If you are introducing a bottle you’ll want to learn how to pace feed a breastfed baby so they don’t end up overeating. Learn more about pace feeding here.
Babies don’t just breastfeeding during the day, they also need to breastfeed at night, especially when they are brand new.
Here are a few resources on nighttime parenting and how to create a breastfeeding-friendly and safe sleep arrangement.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Basically, the more you nurse the more milk you make. The less you nurse, the less milk you make.
Your baby nursing directly on the breast or pumping is communicating to your body how much milk to make for your baby. Having constantly engorged breasts may mean you have an oversupply, nursing just enough for comfort (but not draining the breast completely) can help tell your body to make just a little less milk. Draining the breast completely tells your body it needs to make more and can cause more uncomfortable engorgement!
Know that soft breasts or not feeling a letdown does not mean that you aren’t making enough milk!
In general, most of the time if your baby is gaining weight and peeing and pooping enough, you’re making enough. If you ever have a concern or need reassurance, don’t hesitate to reach out to an IBCLC for advice and guidance.
Breastfeeding can be a beautiful bonding experience between you and your baby. With anything new it takes practice and typically gets easier in time. Having supportive people around you and reaching out for help when needed is a key to long-term breastfeeding success.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you run into a challenge! Addressing any issues early can make all the difference! Know what matters most is that you love your child and you make sure both you and your baby are healthy and happy.
Everyone’s parenting journey looks different! Know you are amazing and you’ve totally got this mama!
Helpful Breastfeeding Resources
DID YOU KNOW YOUR BIRTH CAN AFFECT BREASTFEEDING?!
Birth Boot Camp offers a great comprehensive childbirth class that helps you be informed and prepared for an amazing and healthy birth. Having that healthy birth can help set the foundation for a beautiful and potentially smoother breastfeeding journey! In this class, you have access to expert IBCLC advice with a 3.5-hour video course! Learn about my Birth Boot Camp classes here.
Not interested in the class? No problem! Birth Boot Camp offers an amazing Breastfeeding video taught by an IBCLC separately! Check that out here!