So much time and energy go into getting pregnant, achieving a healthy pregnancy, and having a successful birth. But what about after that? Women are often surprised by how challenging, time-consuming, and complex breastfeeding can be. Who knew so much could go into feeding such a tiny human?
Use this as your starting point to understanding the basics of breastfeeding and to help you navigate through our guides on this website. We have a lot guides to feeding your baby, so here’s a shortcut if you’re after specific guides on:
- Pumping and Breast Pumps
Common Challenges of Breastfeeding
Committing to breastfeeding and pumping is no small feat. Babies need to eat about every three hours and one breastfeeding session can take an hour or more. Some feel that breastfeeding is a full-time job!
There are many reasons your baby may have a hard time latching. They may have a tongue tie or your nipple size may be too big for your baby’s mouth. If you’re having trouble, work with a Certified Lactation Consultant to give yourself and your baby the best chance of success with your breastfeeding journey.
Getting used to breastfeeding can be very painful at first. Your nipples may be tender, raw, and in need of some love. Latching issues can further exacerbate pain and discomfort. Using cooling nursing pads, nipple cream, and nipple guards until your nipples heal from the initial discomfort is helpful. Read our tips on managing sore nipples.
In theory, your baby’s latch and suckling should create a ‘supply-and-demand’ system for your body to produce the perfect amount of milk for them. Some women, however, don’t produce as much breast milk as their baby needs to gain sufficient weight and grow, and in certain cases formula supplementation is necessary. It’s also important to make sure you’re eating and drinking enough, as this can have a large effect on supply.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is one of the best gifts you can give your baby from the beginning. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastmilk as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for at least the first six months of life.
The Perfect Food
Breastmilk is considered the perfect food for your baby and has everything they need to survive and thrive until they start solids around six months of age.
Defense Against Illness
Breastmilk has amazing healing properties; it contains antibodies your baby can use to fight off infection early in life and develop a strong immune system in the long term. Studies have shown that breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity, type 1 diabetes, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Convenience and Cost
Breastfeeding can be done anytime and anywhere. No need to worry about packing bottles, formula, or cleaning supplies. Also, breastfeeding is free and formula can be expensive.
Protection for Mom
Studies show breastfeeding has significant health benefits for the mother, as well; breastfeeding can protect you against certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.
Breastfeeding Terms, Defined
Areola – The areola is the dark, round area that surrounds your nipple.
Alveoli – The alveoli produce and secrete milk via the duct.
Duct – Located in your breasts, the ducts store and carry milk from the alveoli to the nipple.
Let Down – Let down is the sensation a mother feels when milk is released from the alveoli to the ducts. Some women describe the sensation as slightly painful, but not always.
Latch – The latch refers to the attachment of your baby’s mouth to your breast during feeding. A good latch is crucial to a successful breastfeeding experience.
Colostrum – Colostrum is the first form of breastmilk developed by your body after birth. It is commonly thick, yellow, and highly nutritious. Colostrum will be all your baby will need for the first days of life until your mature milk comes in.
Transitional Milk – Transitional milk slowly replaces colostrum until your mature breastmilk comes in. Your milk will begin to appear more white or cream-colored.
Mature milk – This milk comes in to replace colostrum and transitional milk. It consists of foremilk, which is often more watery and is designed to hydrate the baby, as well as hindmilk, which is fattier and more nutritious.
An important note about mental health:
Even if all goes well, breastfeeding is a huge challenge for moms. While breastfeeding is ideal, sometimes it is not possible, AND THAT’S OKAY. Remember that fed is best and a loved and well-fed baby is the most important thing. Accepting help from your doctor, partner, family, and friends is crucial during this time. Go easy on yourself, Mama!
Read our series on breastfeeding
Breastfeeding for Working Moms