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Basics of Learning to Breastfeed

By Lindsay Pinchuk

BCB is here for you always.  From pregnancy to parenthood, and everything in between we support you in the decisions that you make for your family.  BCB’s longtime Resident Experts, Lactation Partners, just shared an amazing webinar with our audience.  (If you missed it, you can watch the replay here!) In conjunction with the information and knowledge shared during the webinar, Lactation Partners have compiled some addition information and resources to share.

By Judy Teibloom-Mishkin, RN, IBCLC, Lactation Partners

Early breastfeeding requires more focus, more effort, more hands on, more ‘props’; it is the most labor intensive the first month.

The first 24-48 hours involve learning to latch & suck well at the breast.  It’s a time to practice when baby doesn’t require a lot of volume.  In fact, the baby isn’t ready to digest large volumes based on stomach capacity and more.

First you have set up.

  • Empty your bladder.
  • Have your glass of water nearby, be sure you’re medicated if you have pain from stitches or incision.
  • Sit with good back support; try not to hunch over the baby.
  • Use firm pillows to support baby so he/she directly faces the breast.

There are two mechanics involved in good feeding: latch & a rhythmic, effective suck/swallow pattern.

Step one is latch:

  • Babies should latch to the areola so they can compress where the milk ducts end with their gums, which is HOW they eat.
  • AND Babies should latch to the areola because that is where moms have far less nerve endings; it is far more comfortable for moms.
  • Babies open their mouths and close them quickly so you have to latch them deeply and quickly to facilitate a deep, comfortable latch

Step two is sucking:

  • Two things keep a baby on breast: the tactile stimulation (the feeling, the shape) of the nipple in their mouth AND milk or colostrum flowing
  • First babies sense the nipple on the roof of their mouths which elicits their sucking reflex
  • Second they need to suck rhythmically; the early breast has low volume (which is appropriate) which is WHY we use breast compression to help the colostrum or milk flow; this will engage the baby in a rhythmic suck/swallow pattern

The things moms do to facilitate latch and sucking are integral to breastfeeding, you’re dance partners, each of you has to do  certain things.

To facilitate latch, mom holds baby firmly with the heel of their hand on the baby’s upper back. Use thumb and fingers cupping the base of the baby’s head beneath each ear-this allows you to hold the baby close enough to sense the nipple, open his/her mouth to root, and then quickly move the baby closer to latch to the areola.

To facilitate both latch and the baby’s suck, mom uses their second hand to support their breast at the chest wall (where your bra would hit).  This allows moms to point the nipple to help baby latch and to then compress or squeeze the breast gently to help the colostrum or milk flow.  Moms respond to baby’s sucking in this way; when the baby pauses, after 3-5 seconds, relax and recompress the breast to provide more flow. Baby then respond by sucking, repeat

Babies spend A LOT of time breastfeeding the first few days and weeks.

The average newborn requires 15-20 minutes per breast to empty the small volumes they eat; longer than it takes them later to eat larger volumes when both breast and baby are more efficient.  This time spent touching them helps their brains grow, helps them regulate their heart rate, respiratory rate, and glucose levels.  It also helps you make more milk and provides you with a sense of calm and wellbeing. (And forces you to rest which you need)

The average newborn eats every 1 to 3 hours initially (every 1 hour when bringing in your milk, clustering which occurs once or twice per day, or during a growth spurt).  We know objectively that they need to eat 8 times per day (why the 3 hour guideline) in order to gain-just as your newly full breast needs emptying at least every 3 hours to be comfortable and not get engorged.

Everything that is good for the baby is good for you.

It is a perfect design. (Well almost, the only glitch is that our nipples are tender while adjusting to breastfeeding.)  A deep latch will protect you from wounding. Applying colostrum or breastmilk, as well as other product to moisturize and protect the nipples will help.

Remember there’s a 2-4 week learning curve for you, the mom, & for your dance partner, your newborn.

It takes 2-4 weeks for your nipples to toughen, your supply to flow optimally,  and be fully established.  It also takes this long for you to figure out how to ‘customize’ the average guidelines, adapt them to who you are as a breastfeeding mom and who your baby is as a breastfeeding newborn.

Call for help when you need support, women have always taught other women how to breastfeed and supported them through the challenges of the first days and weeks.  We’ve never done this alone.

Lactation Partners can be found here on Instagram and here for more information.  Please note, they provide telehealth, therefore anyone, anywhere can utilize their expertise when it comes to getting started and succeeding with their breastfeeding journey.  For more pregnancy features click here.  For a full list of BCB’s pregnancy resources and virtual events from Bump Club and Beyond, click here.



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