Care Plan: What if Early Breastfeeding is Not Going Perfectly?
So you've breastfed early and often, you've limited the separation between you and your baby, you've followed the tips for latching—you've done everything that all of the books, websites and instructors have suggested, but you still have a sense that your baby isn't feeding effectively. Where do you go from here?
Too often new moms think that if breastfeeding isn't going "perfectly" during the first few days, it's not working at all. Since your breasts don't have gauges on them, you can't measure how much your baby has had to drink. It's easy to have unrealistic expectations about breastfeeding before you start—that your baby will naturally and easily come to your breast to be fed. But often this isn't the case, especially early on. If you find yourself in this situation, you shouldn't worry. If you get frustrated, keep this reassuring fact in mind:
"Almost every breastfeeding challenge is fixable, particularly during the first few days."
In the first 3 or 4 days postpartum, your milk supply is determined by your breast tissue and your hormones. In other words, you don't even need your baby to breastfeed for your mature milk to come in. It's true that your baby's frequent nursing will help bring in the milk faster, drain your breasts and make nursing more comfortable later in the week, but your overall nursing experience isn't determined by the success of those first few days.
You also shouldn't worry if you're in pain and need to take a feeding off, if you're exhausted from surgery and need to take a feeding off or if your baby isn't feeding well and your health care provider suggests supplementation—all isn't lost! Those kinds of situations mean very little in the bigger breastfeeding picture.
Don't be afraid if a health care professional suggests that you supplement with something other than breast milk in the early days. This is fairly common because it can be difficult to pump or express colostrum at that time. It's usually a temporary solution to help you and your baby get through the first phase of adjustment, which can be trying for both of ou.
Get through the early days as best you can. Keep feeding as often as possible and working on your latch. Don't think you won't have a successful long-term breastfeeding experience if the first days don't go well.
Tips for success
- Don't panic if the first few days don't go perfectly. Most breastfeeding problems can be fixed.
- It's OK if you have to take a break from feeding once or twice. If a health care professional suggests supplementation in the early days, that's fine too. It's a temporary solution and won't affect your long-term breastfeeding success if it's only used until your mature milk comes in.
Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who also sits on the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council Heather has been practicing in New York City since 2001.