Recently I was with a group of Mothers who were discussing the breastfeeding advice they had received as brand new Moms. I realized quickly how fortunate I was to have been given the best advice I ever got on breastfeeding by my own Mother.
The two things she told me prevented countless challenges in my early breastfeeding experience, which I didn’t fully appreciate at the time.
Now, in my work as a Breastfeeding Educator, I realize what a blessing her words were!
In those first days after the birth of my eldest child, I remember two things she said to me:
1) “Don’t question it!” In other words, Trust The Baby. And…
2) “Young lady, before I leave here you are going to learn how to nurse that baby lying down!”
Tip #1 basically meant “Nurse the baby as often as he wants, even if he just nursed 5 minutes ago”.
Nursing often in those early weeks causes the milk supply to increase quickly after the baby’s birth, helps the uterus contract more easily back to its prepregnancy size, prevents engorgement, and promotes a plentiful milk supply. Frequent nursing can help prevent jaundice, clears out the meconium quickly, ensures adequate weight gain, and helps ease baby’s transition to life outside the womb.
I know now that babies want to nurse for so many reasons other than just hunger. They nurse because they’re thirsty, lonely, bored, tired, cold, you name it! Nursing is extremely comforting to a newborn who has spent his entire existence under his Mom’s heart, hearing her voice.
Scheduling feeds is not recommended for breastfeeding babies. A baby who is allowed to nurse “on cue” is a happier baby, and because he is more contented, Mommy is less stressed. Frequent nursing also releases the “love hormone” oxytocin and relaxes Mom which makes it easier for her to make the physical and emotional transition to motherhood smoothly.
Tip #2 is a lifesaver! Learning how to nurse your baby lying down ensures that you will get the sleep you need, even if baby nurses frequently through the night. Any new, sleep deprived Mom who has had the scary experience of falling asleep, sitting upright while nursing their newborn infant knows that this is important!
Some Moms have difficulty napping during the day, but if they nurse lying down, they will get more rest which is so important in those early days, both for the physical recuperation after childbirth but also to help prevent the “baby blues” which can be exacerbated by fatigue.
It’s not uncommon for newborns to have trouble handling the flow of milk, especially if Mom has a strong milk ejection reflex or “letdown”. Nursing the baby lying down can help tremendously with this challenge.
I hope these two bits of wisdom help you have a happy early breastfeeding experience like they did me. Thanks Mom!