Why did I choose to breastfeed my children? I have to be honest…before ever becoming pregnant, I really never gave it any thought. But when I was pregnant with my first, the more research I did, the more I knew I had to try it.
I’m not knocking moms that formula feed here, but I wanted to give both my daughters the best start at life and the best nutrition. Additionally, while living abroad, I was worried about formula concerns. In China, they had a huge scandal with tainted baby formula in 2008 and I certainly didn’t trust the formula there even years after. Getting imported formula there is expensive too.
And babies, in general, are expensive. It just made sense to us financially to go for breastfeeding because your body makes the milk. So I went with it and I’m happy I did because my girls have grown up strong and healthy.
Lucky for me, I had a breastfeeding coach who really helped me out by providing solid facts and information to help us along. She was always there to answer my questions and she never once acted like I was some nitwit that should just KNOW that. I want you to know there are no stupid questions here.
In anticipation of what you might ask about breastfeeding though, I’ve come up with a list of do’s and don’ts that will help guide you along to keep everything flowing, pun intended, as it should.
I’ll break it down with the things you should definitely do while breastfeeding followed by the don’ts which are encouraged by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).
Start immediately after birth
My breastfeeding coach had told me to tell the nurses at the hospital that I wanted to breastfeed and to have them bring me my baby as soon as possible after her birth so I could nurse her.
And she came to the hospital to make sure of that too, knowing how stressful it was to give birth in another country. The nurses did honor my request.
I remember looking at my first daughter with fear for about 3 seconds before the wave of love washed over me. Then she was handed to me and I had to get her latched on. I’ve written about how to get that proper latch before so make sure you read up on that (side lying and laid back). This is the best way to get that milk supply going. The more your baby suckles and suckles properly, the more milk you’ll have.
Feed baby often
With formula feeders, they can measure how much milk their babies are getting, but for you, you’ll need to do it 8 to 10 times within a 24-hour period. The way you’ll know your baby is getting the nourishment she needs is by checking her diapers. You should have 6 to 8 soiled diapers (either with pee or poop or both) per day, at least for the first 2 months.
Change the diaper before feeding
If you just changed your baby’s diaper before she starts nursing, give it a quick peek to see if it’s still dry. If it is, you can skip this step. If not, change that diaper first because she’ll be more comfortable and nurse better when she’s in a clean, dry diaper.
Make sure that whole areola is in there
It’s not just the nipple but that dark area around your nipple that needs to get into her mouth for her to nurse correctly. This will help her control the milk flow and signals to your body to keep making more of that awesome breastmilk. Breastfeeding, when done correctly, should never be painful for you. If it is, you’ll need to reposition your breast so she latches on right.
Keep everything clean
Your newborn is defenseless against germs and diseases.
Your breastmilk helps her build up immunity and protects her until she can get her vaccinations. But along with that breastmilk, make sure you’re always handling her and your breasts with clean hands. Keep some wipes handy to wipe off your breasts before you start nursing and wipe them again afterward. There’s a lot that can get on there from sweat to leftover milk drippings (gross!) or even your lotions and perfumes.
This is equally important:
Keep your hands clean too in case you have to pop her off your breast and pop her back on if she latches on improperly. And if you’re pumping, which I recommend, always keep all your equipment clean and sterile.
When my first was 4 months old, I started teaching English abroad. I had to pump at school and when I would, I always made sure to clean everything like a boss. Sometimes when my sweet angel was napping, I’d pull out my pump to relieve my engorged breasts and store more milk for my mother-in-law to give her. We had a strict policy in our home of keeping anything for the baby uber-clean. When I’d finish pumping, I’d immediately cleanse my breasts and hands just in case.
Everything you eat helps you nourish your baby, and you too. Make sure you’re getting enough fruits, veggies, proteins, and calcium. Your doctor may even encourage you to keep on taking those prenatal vitamins to ensure your best health. You should also remember to eat more calories than you would if you weren’t breastfeeding.
Not to worry…breastfeeding burns calories! But to keep up that milk supply, be sure to eat about 500 more calories per day.
Drink your water
Staying hydrated while breastfeeding is essential. Always drink a glass of water before you sit down for feeding. Some say it helps increase your milk flow, but the jury is still out. What is known though is that the more hydrated you are, the healthier you’ll be for your baby. Plus, it’s a naturally dehydrating thing to let some tiny human drain you of your milk, so drink up!
Save that breastmilk
Even if you’re planning to always stay home with your baby, pump some of that milk. You’ll want to go out with your husband without the baby at times, and your caregiver can use that breastmilk to feed your baby.
Or your husband may even want to try feeding her to give you a break at night or let you go get your nails and hair done. My good friend Ed said one of his best memories when his kids were young was being able to take his wife’s expressed breastmilk that she’d pumped and saved to feed his babies while she was asleep.
Now here are the things you shouldn’t do while you’re breastfeeding your baby.
No unauthorized medications
You shouldn’t take any medications without your doctor’s advice. If you take a prescription for a specific condition, talk to your doctor about it to make sure it’s safe. Remember, what you ingest goes into that milk. The Cleveland Clinic has some more information on that.
Please don’t smoke
Smoking is dangerous, I know. I’ve been a smoker before. Fortunately, once I got pregnant with my first, I found the smell so nauseating that even after I gave birth, I still had no desire to go near it. It’s bad for your health and your baby’s too. La Leche League has more tips about smoking and breastfeeding you can use to kick the habit.
Alcohol and caffeine
In moderation, alcohol and caffeine are fine when you’re breastfeeding. If you have a glass of wine with dinner and then feed your baby, the level of alcohol you’re passing along is very low. If you’d like to go tie one on though, best to use your pumped milk to feed the baby with instead. Caffeine is the same too. Try to avoid too much of it and if you can’t help it, use that pumped milk instead.
Suffer in pain
Breastfeeding should never be uncomfortable! If your nipples hurt, you’re not latching your baby on there correctly. Readjust and you’ll feel much better, plus baby will get better milk flow.
Feel anxious breastfeeding anywhere
You should never feel stressed or anxious while you’re breastfeeding. I’ve talked about this before and it’s your right, protected by the law in all 50 states, to breastfeed publicly. Even if no one bothers you though, it can be hard to relax in a busy public setting.
Try to find a place to sit down that’s away from the crowds, like a bench on a less traveled walkway or quiet table at the back of a restaurant. This isn’t to say hide from the world but rather, find a place with fewer distractions so you can nurse your baby comfortably.
Wait for baby to cry from hunger
If your baby is crying out of hunger, that’s a bad thing. Try to time your feedings and keep track of them so you know when baby should nurse next. Don’t wait for her to cry. Watch her for signs like pushing out her tongue, licking her lips, opening her mouth, or putting her hands near her mouth. If you see her doing these things, offer her the boobs.
Spicy and gassy foods
Spicy foods are generally a no-no during nursing. More here…
If you love spice or it’s in your culture, try making things less spicy and see how it goes. It can cause your baby irritation. Other foods you eat may do the same, like broccoli for example, which makes you gassy, and in turn, will make your baby gassy too. Sometimes if you drink too much milk or have too much dairy, you can set off baby’s tummy as well.
Some Other Important Breastfeeding Info
In those early stages of nursing, particularly right after birth, you may notice some cramps happening.
These cramps while breastfeeding can be most unpleasant, but they’re very normal. That’s because every time your little one suckles, your nipple stimulation sends a message to your brain which releases oxytocin into the blood.
With the oxytocin, it sends a message to your uterus to shrink back down to size. So those cramps, as much as they suck, are necessary. It can take about 6 to 8 weeks for it to get back down to size, though the cramps will likely subside sooner.
Breastfeeding can also make you feel tired and weak, much of it from all the changes in hormones, lack of sleep and whatnot. Make sure you rest as much as you can to keep up your milk supply and don’t forget to ask others for help so you can take good care of yourself.
In regards to pumping, some say pumping after feeding is best. It has been shown to help increase your milk supply and balance out your supply in each breast. If you can do it, great. If not, any time you pump and save your nourishing milk for your baby is the best time.
One Last Thing About Breastfeeding
Please don’t give up! It’s hard and exhausting and your hormones will make you feel crazier than the crazy cat lady, but this period won’t last forever.
Just when you’re about to break, your baby will give you a break by not needing to eat as often and nursing for shorter periods of time. The first 2 months will have you feeling like you do nothing but nurse this kid but I assure you, every precious second is worth it. Your baby needs you the most right now, so be there for her and you’ll reap the rewards, I promise!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.