10 tips for breastfeeding success

Tot Lactation Expert Rebecca Agi, MS, IBCLC shares her top tips every mom-to-be should know before getting ready to breastfeed. Here are 10 simple tips to help get you and your tot off to a strong start.

Here are 10 simple tips to help get you and your tot off to a strong start.

  1. Breastfeed within one hour of birth. The first hour after birth, known as the Golden Hour, is the ideal time to start breastfeeding, as newborns are most alert and interested in feeding at this time. Babies laid skin-to-skin on their mother’s bare chest can push themselves to the breast (guided by their heightened sense of smell and inborn stepping reflex) and latch-on without help. Research shows that immediate initiation of breastfeeding increases the likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding for the first four months as well as the duration of breastfeeding…so be sure to start breastfeeding as soon as you can!
  2. Practice skin-to-skin. Skin-to-skin, also known as Kangaroo Mother Care, is a method of holding your baby that has many benefits for both of you. Skin-to-skin helps regulate the baby’s body temperature and stabilize blood sugar, while assisting you with milk production and bonding. If you’ve had a C-section, have your partner hold the baby skin-to-skin until you can. According to the World Health Organization, newborns placed in early skin-to-skin contact with their mother appear to interact more with their mothers and cry less. A real win-win!
  3. Room-in with your newborn. Keeping your baby close to you during your hospital stay is key to establishing a strong breastfeeding relationship. Rooming-in helps you learn and respond to your baby’s early feeding cues quickly. Early signs of hunger include increased alertness, hand-to-mouth activity, licking/smacking of the lips and rooting. Don’t wait until your tot starts crying to breastfeed; crying is a late sign of hunger and can make latching the baby more stressful than necessary.
  4. Feed early and often. Do not worry about establishing a strict feeding schedule yet. Instead, focus on feeding your newborn at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, or roughly every 2-3 hours. If your tot is extra sleepy, place him skin-to-skin and encourage him to feed. Feeding often helps establish your milk supply, prevent and relieve engorgement, and helps the baby gain weight.
  5. Expect some weight loss. In the first three to five days after birth, a 5-7% weight loss is normal for an exclusively breastfed baby. Babies lose fluid and clear out the meconium in their gut; both of these factors contribute to weight loss. If your baby loses more than 7% of birth weight in the first five days, be sure to get an evaluation by an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Sometimes a little adjustment in positioning is all that’s needed to help baby start regaining birth weight. Exclusively breastfed babies should be at or above their birth weight by 10 to 14 days. If your baby is sick or premature and has lost extra weight in the early days, it may take longer to regain birth weight.
  6. Take advantage of the liquid gold. Colostrum, also known as liquid gold, is the first milk your body produces. It’s thick, yellow, and a 100% natural vaccine for your newborn. Colostrum is packed with antibodies and coats the baby’s gastrointestinal tract, preventing the entry of foreign substances and bacteria. Colostrum is produced in small amounts (only about 1 tablespoon per day total), but contains all the nutrients your baby needs for the first few days of life. As your baby’s stomach size increases, your milk supply will mature and increase in volume.
  7. Avoid supplementation unless medically necessary. Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs (except for vitamin D) for the first six months of life. Breast milk composition constantly changes during a feeding, throughout the day, and through the entire nursing period to meet your growing baby’s needs. Unless medically necessary, avoid offering additional supplementation, because it can easily sabotage your milk production by reducing milk removal and stretching out feeding intervals. If you feel your baby has a need for formula supplementation, be sure to contact an IBCLC for guidance.
  8. Limit visitors. Too many visitors can be overwhelming and interrupt feedings with your newborn. If possible, set a visitor schedule and limit the number of family and friends who come through. Remember, nursing your newborn is a top priority, so feel free to be assertive (or enlist your partner) and ask for the time and space you need to concentrate on caring for your newborn.
  9. Can’t breastfeed? Start pumping! If your baby is not nursing at all or not nursing well, you’ll want to start expressing your milk to establish and maintain milk supply. Start by using a hospital-grade breast pump, which is the best choice for establishing and increasing milk supply. Pumping every 2-3 hours will allow you to establish your milk supply and feed your baby your breast milk.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s always a good idea to seek hands-on help from a professional lactation consultant within the first few days of your baby’s life. Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff, so don’t be afraid to ask for help during your stay. Many moms also want breastfeeding help once they get home from the hospital, so finding a lactation consultant who specializes in home-visits is a great idea. Visit ilca.org to find an IBCLC near you.