As World Breastfeeding Week continues, you're sure to see an influx of articles about the benefits of breastfeeding. But knowing the benefits is only a part of what allows you to achieve the "winning goal" of exclusive breastfeeding. It's also important to have good information and support on your side. In that spirit, we're hoping the following tips from our Kids in the House breastfeeding experts will help you overcome the hurdles of a new breastfeeding relationship.
What's the best first step to ensure a good breastfeeding experience?
Cynthia Epps, a feeding specialist in Los Angeles, explains that many moms experience breastfeeding problems because of common birthing practices. "The birthing tradition is to separate the baby and the mother at birth, put the baby in a nursery and to feed formula," she says. "Now we've discovered through the World Health Organization Baby-Friendly Initiative that if we put the mother and child together right after birth, and you put the baby right on the mother's abdomen, it takes 90 minutes to 2 hours for them to shimmy and crawl straight up her chest, find the breast, and latch on. There's a whole sequence of instinctual steps that the human infant brings to this moment that establishes the first latch. So it isn't a question of the mother succeeding at the how-to's of breastfeeding; it's more a question of the culture shifting the paradigm to favor the new mother and the new baby being undisturbed and unrushed right after delivery so the new baby can establish the future success of the breastfeeding."
In other words, if possible, add a section to your birth plan or make your wishes known to hospital staff that you would like to be left alone with your baby immediately after birth. Resist the urge to "force" the baby to the breast; rather, allow him to slowly make his way up to the right position and latch on.
How will I know that my baby is getting enough milk?
"The best way to know that your baby is getting enough milk is to observe the baby," says Jennifer Davidson, RN, BSC, IBCLC, a lactation consultant and nurse in Santa Monica, CA. "If your baby is content after a feed, if your hear audible swallowing, if your breast becomes softer after a feeding -- those are all signs that the baby is getting milk." Davidson also recommends paying attention to your baby's diapers. "If the baby is having at least six to eight clear, heavy, wet diapers per day by day six, then your baby is fully hydrated. When the baby is fully hydrated, we know that she's getting enough to eat. And two to five poops per day of the loose breast milk stools is adequate for the first six to eight weeks."
What do I do if my milk supply is low?
First, says Wendy Haldeman, RN, IBCLC, founder of the Pump Station and Nurtury, make sure that you really are dealing with a true lack of supply (see above). If you truly are dealing with a low breastmilk supply issue, there are several things you can do to help. The most important thing is increasing breast stimulation, so she suggests giving your baby as much access to the breast as possible throughout the day and night -- as long as the baby is an effective nurser. "If the baby is a so-so nurser, we will have the moms again attempt to nurse as much as possible but we are going to follow it up with some pumping, so that the breasts get some added stimulation." Haldeman also recommends that moms get more rest. "If Mom can incorporate family and friends to help her with housework and cooking so that she can do more naps, lie down next to her baby, increase her nursing time, it is helpful."
How do I get comfortable with the idea of nursing in public?
"There is an intense amount of pressure in our society for women to breastfeed and to breastfeed for an extended period of time -- but it's really important to remember that not every mom feels comfortable breastfeeding and not every baby is good at it which can be a challenge," says Sarah McCormick, MA, CLE, a parent educator. As much as having more women nurse publicly is good for normalizing breastfeeding, it's not your responsibility to make feeding your baby a political statement if that's not something you want to do. "Using a nursing cover can help, and finding a support group of like-minded mothers who are also struggling with breastfeeding can be a great confidence builder. You can also pump and bring a bottle with you if you don't feel comfortable breastfeeding in public."
If you do want to become one of those moms who can nurse wherever and whenever and make it look beautifully effortless, blogger and mother of three Suchada Eickemeyer recommends "practicing" in a safe setting like a La Leche meeting, "...where there are lots of breastfeeding mothers and you can see what they are doing and kind of learn what works for them. Or, you can start off at a friend's house using a cover to initially get the baby latched on, and then moving on to different places, maybe a park where there are not so many people, then just moving on from there."
How do I stay positive if I encounter challenges?
As time goes on, breastfeeding will become easier, but it's completely normal to feel overwhelmed at the beginning. "Nursing is so much more difficult than anybody explains to you before you have kids," says Zoe Rogers, a mother of two in Santa Monica, CA. "I found the best thing that I did was to talk to other moms who had nursed successfully. I also sought out help from lactation consultants -- I think two or three even -- and was just open to input from other moms who had nursed. It is hard. You had a baby and you think, this should come naturally to me. I should be able to do this right away. The fact is that you've never done this before and your baby has never done this before. You are both learning. There is a learning curve. It is a dance and you both have to have the right steps."
For more advice on breastfeeding, visit Kids in the House.
Tips to increase breastmilk supply
Wendy Haldeman, MN, RN, IBCLC, founder of the Pump Station & Nursery
How to help moms feel comfortable breastfeeding in public
Sarah McCormick, MA, CLE, a parent educator
How to get comfortable with nursing in public
Suchada Eickemeyer, blogger and mom of three
How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk
Jennifer Davidson, RN, BSC, IBCLC
This article is part of HuffPost Parents' World Breastfeeding Week series. Read more here.