by Melissa Portunato, IBCLC
You’ve done everything right the first few weeks with your new baby. You are exclusively nursing on demand, starting every feed with skin to skin, and have surrounded yourself with all the breastfeeding resources and support you can find. But you still have pain while latching and your nipples just really need a break. It’s OK! Take a break if you need to but you still need to keep up with your milk supply to ensure baby continues to receive the endless benefits of breastmilk. Keep your baby close. Keep your milk flowing. Keep your baby fed. And breathe. It will get better.
Here are 5 practical tips to help you preserve your milk supply while you are working on that perfect latch.
#1 Get Nakey
Skin to skin is an important way to sustain your breastfeeding hormones and continue bonding with your baby. Mama’s chest is a newborn baby’s natural environment. During skin to skin, oxytocin (happy good feeling hormone) will be released and make sure your milk ejection reflexes stay on point. Skin to skin helps relieve stress for mom and baby. It promotes healing and encourages an easier transition back to breastfeeding. Skin to skin should be done on your bare chest and with baby only in a diaper. Try to do skin to skin any chance you can get. You can even do it while pumping for quicker and easier letdowns. So get all cozy and enjoy those extra newborn snuggle sessions.
#2 Get on a pumping schedule
If your baby is not directly nursing from your breast, maintaining a pumping schedule will ensure your milk supply stays up to meet baby’s ever-changing nutritional needs. Ideally, you should be pumping when baby is feeding. This will keep you on the same schedule, signaling your body to make exactly enough breastmilk for your baby. Don’t ever go past 4 hours without pumping. This can start signaling your body to make less milk and your supply will start to tank. For maximum milk output when pumping, use a hands-free bra and massage your breasts while you pump. Moms who use double breast “hands-on pumping” express about 30% more milk compared to moms who don’t. If you don’t have a hands free bra you can make one by cutting holes in an old sports bra. Wah-lah!
Cyclical pumping can help keep your supply soaring too! Spectrababy USA pumps start on expression mode. Switch between expression and massage mode every few minutes or after a letdown. This will allow you to pump similar to your baby’s natural rhythm at the breast, quick bursts of suction (expression mode) to stimulate letdowns and a slower deeper suction to mimic nutritive sucking (massage mode). Alternate between the two modes throughout your pumping session for better stimulation and to see more milk.
#3 Treating nipples and breasts
If you are reading this blog post,and working on baby having a better latch, then you might be dealing with sore nipples. Sore nipples can be caused by a variety of different reasons; like when baby has a shallow latch, is tongue tied, recovering from a revision, or it can also be a sign of infection. If you have discharge coming from your nipples, deep breast pain or red streaks on your breasts, call your doctor. You might have more than just the typical sore nipples.
To care for sore nipples, hand express a few drops of breastmilk and let your nipples air dry. If you have cracking or scabbing, wearing breast pads can make them worse. Expose them to fresh air as much as you can. In your daily shower wash nipples with non-antibacterial soap, let air dry and then express a few drops of liquid gold on them immediately after. Breastmilk will help treat sore nipples and keep them healthy as well.
#4 Alternative Feeding Methods
While you and baby are working on the latch, you can try alternative feeding methods like using a small medicine cup, spoon, or a syringe to feed your baby. Alternative feeding methods such as these can help avoid adverse reactions from using a bottle. Too many bottles within the first 6 weeks can lead to breast refusal altogether. Babies can quickly get accustomed to the fast-paced flow of an artificial newborn nipple. Even those are fast compared to nursing directly from the breast. Cup feeding can be a good option. Did you know a newborn baby will lap up breast milk from a medicine cup just like a little kitten? Really! It’s pretty cute to watch. Try cup feeding if you are not directly nursing from the breast.
If it doesn’t work out using an alternate feeding method or just the idea is daunting “paced bottle feeding” will be the way to go. Paced bottle feeding is a method of feeding your baby that mimics baby nursing at the breast. You will start with the bottle teat at baby’s nose, wait for baby to open wide and bring baby to the bottle. Let baby suck a few times, and gently pull the bottle back. You will continue this process throughout the feed. Pausing in between to burp baby. With paced bottle feeding, baby can control the flow of milk better and it can prevent overfeeding. Unlike, with traditional bottle feeding when baby will simply gulp, gulp, swallow; pace bottle feeding allows baby to pause in between like when breastfeeding.
#5 Think Twice Before Grabbing a Nipple Shield
Hey, a nipple shield can save a breastfeeding relationship, absolutely 100%! But’s important to work directly with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant when doing so. Nipple shields are infamous for low weight gain, clogged ducts, low milk supply and a ton of other breastfeeding issues even Mastitis. If you are using one, make sure it’s the right size and baby’s weight is being monitored closely by your pediatrician or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Nipple shields are not intended for long-term use and should be approached with caution. Even with inverted nipples, most draw out with nursing or pumping so a nipple shield is still not necessary. Like with anything, there is always an extra special circumstance when mom might need a nipple shield, but for the most part – just say no to nipple shields.
We make milk by supply and demand so if you are not nursing your baby directly from the breast, pumping will be crucial to keeping up with your milk supply. Learn more about choosing the right Spectrababy USA breast pump here. Keeping up with your milk supply while working on baby’s latch is hard work. It’s important to have the support of your family, friends, and your pediatrician. If you are not already working with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, find one ASAP. Better yet, search and find a local IBCLC Certified through SpectraBaby USA and find a lactation specialist specifically trained in using our breast pumps. Our Spectrababy USA certified IBCLCs, will help you jump over your breastfeeding hurdles, cheer you on when you need it most, and help you meet all your breastfeeding goals.
Breastfeeding is all about commitment. How bad do you want this to work? Why did you want to breastfeed your baby in the first place? Think of the answers to these questions when the going gets tough. You were meant for this! You are enough and we believe you. Now…keep working on that latch it will be just right in no time.