Among the many adjustments that are made when a new baby joins your family, learning how to breastfeed can be one of the most challenging. You might think that breastfeeding is intuitive, but it’s not. From establishing your milk supply, maintaining that supply, getting your baby to latch properly, and learning the ins and outs of breast pumps, nipple shields, bottle types…it’s enough to make any mama go a little bit nuts.
When it comes to establishing and maintaining milk supply, it’s important to understand that your breasts will produce milk based on how often they are emptied, whether by nursing or pumping. The more you empty the breasts, the more milk they will make to accommodate for the perceived need of your baby. It’s amazing how the brain and breasts work together to make the milk your baby needs!
Initially, your newborn will only be taking in very small quantities of milk. After all, their stomachs are only the size of a marble! This is why babies need to feed so frequently (about 8-12 times a day). Moms are often discouraged by the small quantities of milk they are producing in those first few days of life, so they’ll often turn to unnecessary supplementation with formula and less frequent emptying of the breasts. Hang in there! As long as your baby is gaining weight appropriately and having an adequate number of wet and dirty diapers, you are making enough milk.
Once you have established your milk supply, here are some things you can do to maintain it:
- Empty the breasts every two to three hours (whether by nursing or pumping). Try to offer both breasts during each nursing session
- Make sure that your baby is latching properly. A correct latch will facilitate complete and effective emptying of the breast. A poor latch can lead to incomplete emptying (among other things), leading the body to believe that the baby needs less milk, and then lead to decreased milk production.
- Skin to Skin. Do this as much as possible! It will help to boost the hormones needed to produce milk.
- Stay hydrated by drinking 60-80 ounces of water per day.
- Make sure to maintain a well-balanced diet. Eat three meals a day with high protein snacks in between.
- As difficult as it may be, try to rest as often as you can. Higher stress levels can lead to decreased milk production and reduced supply.
Breastfeeding can be quite a journey for you and your baby. CPCMG’s lactation team is here to help you through it, and to make it as rewarding of a journey as possible. If you are interested in speaking with one of our lactation consultants, ask your baby’s CPCMG primary care provider for a referral.