8 breastfeeding tips every mother should know

Often, moms have questions or concerns about breastfeeding so Rebecca Onyirioha, RN, IBCLC, lactation consultant at Hillcrest Medical Center, shares advice for common breastfeeding questions.

• Why should I breastfeed?

Breastfeeding or providing your baby with breast milk helps defend your baby against infections. It helps prevent allergies, sickness and, even, obesity. Breastfeeding your baby decreases your child's risks to a number of chronic diseases like certain cancers, diabetes and hypertension. 

• How long should I breastfeed my baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend a baby exclusively breast feed for the first six months, then encourages to continue for at least 24 months or longer, if both the mother and the baby are willing.

• How often should I breastfeed my baby?

We have a saying "eight or more in 24." This means your baby should be breastfeeding eight or more times in a 24-hour period. Babies can't look at the clock and tell you that it has been two hours and to feed them. All they can do is show you their early cues/signs of hunger. Sometimes a baby will eat just a few times throughout the day, but when night fall hits, they play catch up and they will do something we like to call "cluster feeding." 

Our job is not to force our baby to eat every two to three hours, but to be diligent in feeding them on their cue-based demands. This will help the baby be ready and alert to eat, and it will make for a much better experience with latch and breast feeding. Your baby should be allowed to eat as often and long as they want. When your baby gets older, they might nurse less frequently due to the ability to take more milk in at each feeding.

• How do I get my newborn to breastfeed if they are not showing interest?

The first 24 hours of life can be a little difficult to get in the eight breast feeds. Babies are very sleepy after delivery because they have to work along with the contractions to come into this world. Babies usually eat really well right after delivery, once they go skin-to-skin. After that initial feed, the baby goes into sleep mode, and I encourage mothers to keep their baby skin-to-skin as much as possible and watch their baby closely for hunger cues. 

Skin-to-skin helps the newborn wake up and eat a little more than leaving them swaddled in their comfy clothes. If a mother gets concerned, she can hand express her own colostrum to feed her baby, which will help keep baby fed and increase her milk supply. 

• How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

In the first few days, your body is making colostrum. Your baby's stomach is very small and only needs the small amount of colostrum your body is producing. In the first 24 hours, your baby should have at least one wet diaper and one dirty diaper. Your baby should be latching anywhere from six-12 feeds in those first 24 hours and, if your baby is having more than one dirty diaper (bigger than a quarter), your baby is definitely getting enough colostrum. 

On the second day of life, your baby will be more alert and should eat eight or more times in 24 hours. Your milk should come in around day three or four, if you are exclusively breast feeding or pumping and getting eight or more feeds/pump sessions in a 24-hour period. Once your milk is in, your infant will gain weight. They will have adequate wet and dirty diapers to expected norms. Your infant will be satisfied after feedings and your baby will be eating eight-12 times in 24 hours.  

• What are the best/worst times to breastfeed my baby?

Your baby will be a night owl for the first several days. Your body makes more milk at night and your baby knows this, so they tend to cluster feed late hours into the night until the early morning. Since you make more milk at night, when your baby eats more throughout the night, this removal of your milk will help increase your milk supply to get that transitional and mature milk coming in sooner. (The more milk baby removes, the more milk your body will make.)

• Are there certain breastfeeding positions you recommend?

In the first few weeks, mother-led positions, such as cross-cradle or football holds, are recommended. This allows the mother to bring the baby to her breast and help the newborn get a deeper and more efficient latch. After breastfeeding has been well-established and the baby gets more motor skills and strength in their neck, then any position that is comfortable for the mother and the baby is encouraged. 

• At what age should my child stop breastfeeding?

The AAP and WHO recommend all babies be exclusively breastfed for six months, then gradually introduced to appropriate foods after six months while continuing to breastfeed for two years or more. Ultimately it is up to you and your baby to decide when the time is right to wean. 

For phone or in-person consultations, call the MilkLine at 918-579-8018.