While there are a number of things you can be sure to do to help your supply and breastfeeding success there are also several things that you can do that have the opposite effect. I’m going to explain 5 things that can negatively impact your breastfeeding journey and what can be done to avoid them. This is not to be misconstrued as medical advice, please talk to your doctor if you have any questions.
Missing the “Golden Hour”
The first hour after baby is born is prime time for a good foundation to breastfeeding. Allowing baby to work their way up to your breasts from your belly helps the natural process of making milk to begin the way nature intended. Here is a link to what this looks like, it’s referred to as a “breast crawl” http://breastcrawl.org/science.shtml#:~:text=Every%20newborn%2C%20when%20placed%20on,called%20the%20’Breast%20Crawl’.&text=’Immediately%20after%20birth%20the%20child,laid%20on%20the%20mother’s%20chest. Speeding up this process or skipping it all together can interfere with lactogenesis but don’t worry there are ways to help get a good “golden hour” even if you’re having a more medically involved birth, such as a c section. In a perfect world baby would be placed right onto your belly immediately but simply ensuring baby ends up skin to skin with you as soon as is safe for you both will go a long way. Uninterrupted skin to skin is extremely beneficial for the first hour after birth, you can stay skin to skin as long as you’d like. If for some reason you and baby are separated skin to skin with dad is the next best thing. If for some reason baby is separated from you ensuring you begin using a hospital grade double electric pump as soon as is safe and possible is paramount.
Infant weight loss from IV fluids
In most hospital births intravenous fluids are utilized for one reason or another. While extremely helpful and many times medically needed there is an unwanted side effect on breastfeeding that often times happens. We aren’t the only ones tacking on water weight during labor when fluids are used. If you’ve used IV fluids during labor or a procedure you know you often have “water weight” that works itself off over time. Same is true for baby, they often retain some water weight from the fluids that otherwise wouldn’t be there. This in and of itself is completely unproblematic and resolves itself as baby loses the extra ounces over their first few days of life, the issue is this can cause baby to lose >10% of their body weight prompting doctors to suggest supplementing. While it is extremely important to account for baby’s weight and to ensure they consume enough breastmilk there is often unwarranted concern when this weight loss is seen in baby’s whose mothers received IV fluids. I’m simply saying be smart and keep this information in mind. If you had a long labor with IV fluids discuss this with your doctor and make a plan that supports your breastfeeding goals. In cases when baby does in fact medically require supplementation working with an IBCLC can help you find ways to feed baby that don’t negatively affect your supply. Cups, spoons, syringes and SNSs can be used to accomplish a breastfeeding friendly supplementation system.
Relying on hospital staff to teach you all you need to know
While there is certainly a “high” after birth that many moms experience there is also a pretty intense level of exhaustion. It is with this in mind that I say do not rely solely on hospital lactation staff to teach you everything you need to know, right after birth, to breastfeed. Take a class while pregnant, I offer insurance covered prenatal consults that cover the basics and helps you start out strong. Read books, talk to friends who’ve nursed, go to support groups and hire an IBCLC-all of these things can really help you succeed. Breastfeeding is natural but it is not without snags. Ask for help when you need it but do what you can BEFORE baby arrives and don’t expect to learn everything right there in the hospital. Many hospital lactation consultants are pressed for time or you might give birth in the middle of the night when one isn’t on staff. Ensuring your supported by a trained professional during pregnancy and after birth helps tremendously. I suggest all new moms, especially first-time breastfeeding moms, book an in-home consultation within the first week postpartum. Doing so allows me to check your and baby’s anatomy and identify any issues before they cause undue damage.
Having an unsupportive partner or family
A supportive husband or partner is so important and helpful when it comes to the success of your breastfeeding journey. I tell all of my clients to bring their partner along to all breastfeeding consults, I include dad in the visit and help him know his role in all of this. Preparing your partner prenatally is so important. If your partner knows how to support you things will go much smoother. Having your family and friends on board is also important, if you don’t have friends or family who’ve breastfed look into a local or virtual support group. Always fact check breastfeeding advice you get, this allows you to not waste any precious time on bad intel. Working with a professional when things get hard is also important, a quality IBCLC is a great person to have in your corner.
The “top off trap”
Adding bottles when not medically needed can inadvertently cause issues with your supply and therefor your breastfeeding journey. When baby is fed artificial milk before or after breastfeeding it affects their ability to properly stimulate your supply, causing it to drop. If you can assure good milk transfer you won’t need to worry about “topping off”. When a proper latch is achieved and baby is encouraged to eat as frequently and as long as needed there is very little reason to worry about how much baby is getting. Accounting for output (wet and dirty diapers) and baby’s weight gain we can all but assure that baby is getting enough. If you are concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough when nursing immediately reach out to an IBCLC and your doctor. We can coordinate a plan to support you and baby towards your goals. Doing a “test weigh” during our consult lets us see exactly how much baby got from each breast during a session. Get help if you’re concerned about your supply, many times there are simple solutions to problems.
Amber Ginn IBCLC, IYCFS, CD