The nine months leading up to delivery day are filled with excitement and challenges. But new moms quickly learn that the nine-or-so months after giving birth come with challenges of their own—and breastfeeding is a common one.
Dr. Audrey Roberts is Ogden Clinic’s newest OB/GYN and a lactation consultant. Today she has answers to some common questions and challenges when it comes to nursing your new baby.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Human breast milk is universally accepted as the best nutrition for a newborn baby; nothing can compare to it no matter how hard we try. The nutrients found in breast milk strengthen the baby’s immunity and result in fewer eye, ear, lung, and GI infections. Consuming breast milk promotes healthy nutrient reserves in a newborn and also correlates with a healthy weight throughout the baby’s lifetime.
In addition to promoting healthy weight gain for the baby, mothers who breastfeed tend to return to her pre-pregnancy weight faster than those who do not nurse. A couple other benefits for mom include lower incidence of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer. And breast milk is free!
Why is breastfeeding challenging?
We often think moms and babies will know exactly what to do and won’t have to think twice about breastfeeding—that’s far from true. As a lactation consultant, it’s my job to help identify the reason or combination of reasons why milk transfer is poor, beginning with an observed feeding in my office. Some common causes of poor milk transfer are:
- The infant may not be developmentally strong enough to pull milk from the nipple
- The latch is weak or ineffective
- Mom’s breasts are not receiving correct signals to produce milk
- Mom’s milk supply is low
- Infection causes sore nipples and/or other pain
Should breastfeeding hurt?
A deep, proper latch shouldn’t cause mom pain. Tingling and discomfort are common (particularly during the first few sucks) but pain can be prevented with a good latch.
If nursing causes you pain, reach out to a lactation consultant for a closer look. Pain is meant to be a messenger, not a constant companion. When you understand the cause of your pain and effectively manage the problem, you can get back to enjoying the bond between you and your baby.
How can new mothers strengthen the latch?
Even though latching is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally! Even the traditional image we have of mom holding her baby with both arms may not be the most effective or most comfortable position for feeding. During our visit, I will help mom position herself and her baby properly to facilitate a strong, deep latch that prevents pain.
How often should mothers be breastfeeding?
Nursing on a schedule encourages a good milk supply and reduces engorgement. We use the phrase “8 or more in 24” meaning that feeding should occur at least 8 times per day.
If you go longer than 4-5 hours without nursing or pumping, the body receives a signal that not as much milk is needed. For this reason, mothers should try to only take a 4-5 hour stretch once per day.
Can pumping help mothers stay on schedule?
Absolutely. Pumping is not as effective as latching for signaling milk production but it can still help mom out in several ways. If her newborn was born premature and lacks the strength to latch, pumping enables mothers to collect milk to bottle-feed her baby. Moms can use pumping to stay on track and begin building up a milk supply for the upcoming months.
Milk supply tends to be the highest first thing in the morning, so I encourage pumping after the baby’s first feeding if you can.
Download our Breast Feeding Tracker to help stay on schedule.
How does a lactation consultant help with low milk supply?
If we determine that milk production is low, there are several natural ways to jump-start it. I use an approach called “baby bootcamp” that includes protocols like alternating breasts to signal the body’s milk production. Herbal teas and certain foods like oatmeal can also encourage milk production. When natural methods fail, there are prescriptions approved to increase milk supply over a short course of time.
It’s important to note that milk is not stored in the breasts but produced on-demand. For this reason, new moms need to stay well hydrated.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t be discouraged if you’re struggling. Lactation consultants understand that breastfeeding isn’t easy—it can be a bigger challenge than pregnancy! I never want a new mother to feel like she’s “not good” at nursing or think it’s her fault that it is difficult. That’s not the case. We have plenty of resources to help you through this new experience and answer all of your important questions along the way.
Audrey Roberts, M.D. practices at the Ogden Clinic Women’s Center in McKay-Dee Hospital. To schedule a visit with her, call (801) 475-3240.