As a mom of two young kids, one of them being a newborn, breastfeeding is a topic that interests me.
My experience with each baby has been very different. With the first baby, latching was more challenging, so I had to introduce a formula to compensate until I had a good supply of milk. I was also working full time, which meant that I had to pump my milk and hand it over to the nanny to give it to my baby the next day.
With the second baby, my breastfeeding experience was completely different. To start with, latching was not an issue, as he managed to breastfeed immediately after birth. I am also a stay-at-home-mom (or a work-at-home-mom, to be more accurate), so I get to breastfeed my baby directly without needing to pump and bottle my milk.
When it comes to breastfeeding, the experience of every mom with each baby is unique.
It can be challenging, tiring and painful, but it is definitely worth trying, because when it works well, both mom and baby enjoy it.
A very special bond is created. A beautiful one.
Laura is a breastfeeding consultant who can help you achieve that bond. In the interview that I conducted with her, she clarifies some of the common questions asked by breastfeeding moms. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can enroll in her online course.
Why is breastfeeding so important?
The importance of breastfeeding is seen on so many different levels. From the impact is has on a mother and baby, to the impact it has on communities, to the world as a whole. It really has that ripple effect.
Beyond the nutritional needs it meets for an infant, breastmilk is rich in immune factors (especially during times of illness) to protect a baby. Breastfeeding also has a calming effect on both the mother and baby which I think is a part that is greatly undervalued. I think moms who are traveling or have lived abroad can especially appreciate how important the breastfeeding is as it gives a safe place to connect and get comfort during times of transition.
And then because babies who are breastfed experience fewer illness than babies who are not, there is less stress on the health care system, and the number of sick days parents need to take.
On a global scale, breastfeeding is lifesaving and has basically no environmental footprint!
Is it healthy for the mom as well?
Yes! Physically, we see mothers have a decreased risk of certain cancers like breast cancer and ovarian cancer. The risk of osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes is also lowered. But its more than just the physical. Breastfeeding can really boost a mother’s confidence and make her feel empowered when caring for her child, given how it creates that special relationship that only the two of them share.
How long does it take for a new mom to get breastmilk?
Well a mother starts to produce colostrum about midway through pregnancy so that early milk is there and ready when the baby is born! Colostrum is all the baby needs in the first few days provided they are able to drink well and have access to the breast for frequent feeding. It’s typically around day 2-3-4 when a mother’s colostrum will start to change, mainly with an increase in sugar content and water (so the volume goes up a lot!) and this is what is referred to as the milk “coming in”. When this happens though can be influenced by a lot of different factors, from interventions used during labour, to birth trauma, to a mother’s health status or if she has given birth or breastfed before.
What should a new mom know about breastfeeding?
There are so many points I could mention here! I think my top 2 things are that breastfeeding doesn’t happen in isolation of all the other things going on postpartum. Motherhood is a huge transition and for many it can be hard. Breastfeeding is interconnected with sleep, emotional health, physical health and so having your supports lined up to have as many things taken care of as possible can allow a mother to rest and focus on learning how to breastfeed. Because while instincts are involved, breastfeeding is something that does need to be learned. The second big thing is how to know the baby is getting enough milk, with the main piece being how to tell when the baby is truly drinking and getting milk. I know this sounds simple but you’d be surprised at how many health professionals aren’t even able to discern this!
Is there a right way to breastfeed?
Well I don’t like using the word right or wrong with anything to do with parenting, so the short answer is no. There are many ways to breastfeed and ultimately if a baby is drinking well and a mother is comfortable, that is all that matters!
What should a mom eat / avoid if she’s breastfeeding?
My rule here is that there are no rules. I don’t think breastfeeding should come with a list of limitations because the truth is, what a mother eats usually has no negative effect on the baby. It’s rare that foods cause an issue, so start with eating the foods you love, get a good variety, and of course the least processed the better.
What are your best tips in case of engorgement
I’ll start with my tips for prevention, which is ensuring that the baby is latched in a way that allows them to drink well. We can prevent engorgement by making sure milk is being removed from the breast. But for moms who run into this issue, warm compress before the feeding to help things flow and cool compress after the feeding to decrease inflammation are helpful comfort measures.
Is there any specific clothes that a new breastfeeding mom should buy?
There are a lot of nice breastfeeding friendly clothes out there but you don’t need to get anything fancy. I would say a bra that allows for easy access is something to consider (if you decide to wear a bra!). I know for myself I tend to rely on v-neck tops I can just pull down and always wear cardigans or front zip sweaters that make is easy to get access to the breast.
What is recommended is the milk supply is not enough?
This is a big question! It really has to start from the basics to see how latching and feeding management could be playing a role in the supply and demand system of milk making. If you take away the demand, you take away the supply, so things like scheduled feedings, one sided feeds, reliance on a pacifier, or certain positions that can affect the latch and flow of milk need to be considered. There are many other factors as well to consider, but given that all of them were addressed and there was still concern about supply, herbs like Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle would be a great first place to start, followed by medication if needed.
Is it ok to breast feed and use formula
We need to feed the baby, so we use whatever milk (breastmilk or formula) that is available to meet the baby’s needs. Many parents, for a variety of reasons, need to supplement with formula, or choose to use it in addition to breastfeeding. Ultimately, the choice in any circumstance should be an informed one and the risks of formula use should be communicated for a parent to be fully informed. Because formula disrupts the flora in the gut and can cause inflammation, I recommend that for families who are mixed feeding- that the breast be offered first to allow the immune factors in breastmilk to coat the gut first as a way to provide some protection.
Any breastfeeding myths we should know about?
There are many myth that come up during consults I have with parents. Parents are often worried about letting there babies fall asleep on the breast, thinking it will lead to “bad habits” or “spoiling”, which is not the case! Breastfeeding was designed to aid us in our parenting, so use it to help you!
Breastfeeding during times of illness or mastitis always comes up- and this is ok! Another big one is the belief that a baby needs to be on the breast for a certain amount of time to drain the breast but this is not the case at all. The length of time a baby spends on the breast doesn’t tell you what they were doing on the breast (drinking or not drinking) and so it is really not a helpful way to help assess if a baby is getting enough or emptying the breast.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. this post contains affiliate links. For more information on affiliate links, please refer to the Disclosure Policy on the Terms and Conditions page.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura’s passion for the environment, global health, and maternal and newborn care led her down her path to become a Naturopathic Doctor and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She studied Naturopathic Medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto and completed Lactation Medicine training with Dr. Jack Newman’s International Breastfeeding Centre.
Laura sees patients virtually and in her Toronto based practice. She focusses on supporting women with breastfeeding, postpartum adjustment strategies, and educating families on infant sleep. She also runs an online breastfeeding course and support group called Prenatal Breastfeeding Companion to help equip moms-to-be before baby arrives. When not working with families or playing with her two little ones, Laura volunteers with Nurture Project International, an NGO providing care to displaced women and their babies through safe infant feeding and peer support.
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