There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to breastfeeding. Between latching issues, chafed nipples, and variant milk supplies, breastfeeding can prove to be a challenging feat. For many new moms, it’s tricky to know exactly what to expect, and a lot of women find that they need a little extra help.
To address some of the most frequently asked questions and issues new mothers have, Jillian Hatch, a lactation consultant at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health, offers helpful tips for breastfeeding moms, as well as reasons why you might choose an alternative feeding method for your baby.
Breastfeeding: What to expect
Why breast milk?
There’s no denying it: breast milk is arguably the best food for your baby. It contains the proper mix of fat, carbohydrates and proteins that your baby needs to grow into a healthy little human. Breast milk also comes loaded with a hefty supply of antibodies and nutrients to help your baby fight off illness.
Is it normal for breastfeeding to feel uncomfortable?
Yes. This is 100 percent normal. Because babies need the nipple to be so far back in their mouths in order to receive milk, many new mothers experience discomfort at first. There is no reason to panic, though—it will get better over time, and the smallest change in hold or position can make all the difference.
What are some of the most common breastfeeding issues?
Many new parents are disappointed when their breastfeeding experience isn’t as easy and natural as they’d hoped. In fact, most moms experience difficulties and need some extra help. The most common (and normal!) issues are:
- Some babies do not latch correctly
- Some moms have supply issues because of hormonal imbalances or prior breast surgeries
- Some babies cannot suck effectively due to the shape of their tongues
- Damage to the nipples, such as soreness or chafing, can occur
I’m worried that I’m not supplying enough milk.
The best piece of advice is to simply trust the process. Your baby will let you know if they are not getting enough milk. Start by closely tracking your baby’s output (think: poop or pee). If you notice any irregularities or if their weight seems unstable, it may be time to reach out to a lactation consultant for some additional breastfeeding tips.
There are several ways to increase milk supply and get that baby fed. It might be time to revamp your diet and punch up the nutritional value of your meals, focus on staying hydrated, or introduce formula or donor breast milk, all of which are options.
What if I do not want to breastfeed?
That’s okay! Plenty of women find that they are not drawn to the idea of breastfeeding or that it simply won’t work with their lifestyle. A great alternative is to pump and bottle feed. Hatch recommends renting a hospital-grade breast pump for the first month or so. If you go this route, aim to pump at least every three hours to ensure an adequate supply for your baby.
I’m nervous about breastfeeding in public.
You’re not alone! Breastfeeding in public can be an extremely intimidating experience for many new moms. Keep in mind, though, that breastfeeding in public is legal, so you have every right to nurse your baby wherever and whenever you wish.
There are a ton of breastfeeding guides and resources available to help new moms breastfeed comfortably and confidently in public. More and more nursing and pumping rooms are popping up, and there are plenty of affordable (and adorable!) nursing covers out there.
Is there anything else I can do to learn even more?
One of the best things to do is to surround yourself with people who can help guide and support you on your journey. Consider attending one of Main Line Health’s upcoming courses on prenatal breastfeeding, where experts like Hatch will share tips for breastfeeding moms. Additionally, you will be able to connect with other new moms who might be in a similar boat.
If you take away one thing from this breastfeeding guide, let it be that it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed by breastfeeding at first. It can be painful, uncomfortable and downright annoying at times. There is no one-size-fits-all plan, and it’s important for each family to discover a process that works best for them.
Be patient and do what feels right—breastfeeding can be an incredible bonding experience for you and your new child, but at the end of the day, a fed baby is a happy baby, no matter how it happens.
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.