Achieving early breastfeeding success

Published in Birthing Services, For the Health of It Author: Jeanne Friebe, BSN, RNC, IBCLC

While breastfeeding may be a “natural” process, there are many barriers that may present in the first few days and weeks of breastfeeding that can make it seem to be anything but “natural” for mothers.

Many mothers know the many benefits of breastfeeding for their baby (reduced risk of asthma, Type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), improved brain development) as well as their own health (less postpartum bleeding, earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight, reduced risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer). However, this knowledge does not remove the barriers they face to make breastfeeding work.

These barriers are a big part of what leads to the 60 percent of mothers that stop breastfeeding sooner than they planned.* While 83 percent of women start out breastfeeding their babies, at three months only 47 percent are still exclusively breastfeeding, and at 6 months the percentage falls to 25 percent.*

While we clearly have a lot of work to do in this country to improve breastfeeding rates, and in turn, the health of our babies and mothers, let’s look at ways a mother can succeed in the early weeks of breastfeeding.

  • Make a plan for after the delivery and your hospital stay. The first minutes to two hours after the baby is born is an ideal time to start breastfeeding. Bond and cuddle with baby skin-to-skin. The baby is usually alert and often will latch on and nurse within the first hour after birth. Plan to have your baby stay with you as much as possible day and night while you are in the hospital so you can learn to recognize the early feeding cures. 
  • Nurse often and allow the baby to empty the breast. The more you nurse the baby the more milk your body will make. Newborns need to nurse eight to 12 times every 24-hours. So you can plan to be feeding your body every one and a half to three hours. You may need to wake a sleepy baby in order to get in the 8 to 12 feedings. Expect periodic growth spurts when you baby seems to want to eat all the time. After a day or two, your milk supply will increase to fulfill baby’s demands, and your baby won’t need to nurse as often.
  • Focus on helping baby get the correct latch. The baby’s latch is very important to how effectively your baby nurses. A proper latch that drains the breast at each feeding will establish a good milk supply and in turn, baby will grow and gain weight. Nursing shouldn’t be painful. Pain is often an indicator that something isn’t right with baby’s latch or nursing position. Avoid using pacifiers in the early weeks, until nursing is well established, as some babies will develop a preference or show “nipple confusion.”
  • Seek education and encouragement. Before birth learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. Take a breastfeeding class and read material on breastfeeding to familiarize yourself with the process and potential challenges. Take advantage of the availability of a lactation consultant and help from the nursing staff in the hospital to help you feel confident that your baby is latching correctly and in the right position. Get as many questions answered as possible, before you head home.
  • Reach out for support. There is no denying that the first few weeks after birth are hectic. Add learning to breastfeed to the mother’s physical discomforts and challenges after birth, and caring for a newborn 24/7, life seem downright overwhelming. Don’t isolate yourself. Get the help and support you need to make breastfeeding the best possible experience it can be for you and your baby. Text or call a friend or family member who has successfully breastfed her child. Call one of CentraCare Health’s resources featured below or your local La Leche League. Don’t give up, there are others who want to help you!

*Statistics according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

CentraCare Health offers the following lactation support

St. Cloud Hospital Breastfeeding Help Line offers lactation resources seven days a week. Help line hours: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After hours: leave a message and calls will be returned within 24 hours. Call 320-251-2700, ext. 52311.

CentraCare Clinic – Health Plaza Pediatrics: A board certified lactation consultant is available by phone for breastfeeding advice or in clinic for face-to-face consults. For more information or to set up an appointment, call 320-654-3610, ext 70268.

CentraCare Health – Long Prairie: Certified lactation consultants are available by phone or appointment for breastfeeding questions and problems for assistance in obtaining breast pumps. For more information, call 320-732-2131.

CentraCare Health – Monticello: 60-minute, one-on-one sessions with a certified lactation consultant are available. For more information or to schedule a session, call 763-271-2218.

CentraCare Health – Paynesville: Certified lactation consultants are available 24/7 by calling 320-243-3767.

CentraCare Health offers the “Successful Breastfeeding” class, designed for expectant and new parents interested in learning more about breastfeeding. Register for the class in St. Cloud or in Monticello.

Your health care provider is another resource for answering breastfeeding questions.