Congratulations! Whether you are a first time mom or welcoming a new little brother or sister to your family, this time can be exciting, joyous, but also a bit overwhelming. Between doctor’s appointments and baby diapers, another important component in your child’s life is feeding! We will be discussing the benefits of breastfeeding, how to successfully breastfeed, and resources to support your breastfeeding journey.
Your breast milk comes in as early as 12-18 weeks into your pregnancy in the form of colostrum. Colostrum is the earliest breast milk produced. It is composed of protein, fat, sugar, and even antibodies. This contributes towards your baby’s immunity- protecting them from germs found within the environment – that is why we call it liquid gold! After 2-4 days postpartum, you will transition to producing mature milk. During this period you may notice your breasts becoming large, firm, and tender (engorged). This is a sign your mature milk is in, but may be uncomfortable.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for babies and mothers! It has been shown to decrease the risk of ear infections, diarrhea, eczema, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, diabetes, childhood cancers, and obesity. Mothers who breastfeed have reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure and heart disease. The very act of breastfeeding also provides a psychological benefit to the mother and baby. A hormone called oxytocin is released during breastfeeding. Oxytocin not only allows for milk let down, but also helps reduce stress and can promote bonding and affection between you and your baby.
Research has shown that breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing respiratory or digestive tract infections, asthma, obesity and diabetes.
It is important to know that African American women have the lowest rates of breastfeeding compared to all other racial ethnic groups in the United States. This means that too many Black mothers and babies miss out on the numerous benefits of breastfeeding. It is important to also ask for the help of your friends and family in supporting you in your breastfeeding goals. There are many wonderful resources available to help. Our favorites are WIC (https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/), La Leche League (https://www.llli.org/), and Cinnamoms (https://www.cinnamoms.org/). All of these resources have detailed websites that provide a wealth of information and support to breastfeeding families. There are detailed diagrams and videos to visualize the different positioning’s and techniques we touched upon. All of these organizations provide online and in person support, counseling groups, and even provide breast pumps and referrals to lactation consultants in your area.
There are several different positions for breastfeeding. The most ideal position is when you and your baby are the most comfortable.
A few of the most common positions are: Reclined/Laid back, Cross Cradle, Cradle, Football, and Side Lying
The reclined and cradle position are the most common positions that mothers try first. The cross cradle position allows for more control. The football position is helpful for mothers who have undergone Cesarean births or have larger breasts. The side lying position allows for more comfortable positioning for the mother. https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/5-breastfeeding-holds-try
We hope you can try these different positions and find the optimal one for you! It is normal for breastfeeding mothers to experience mild soreness and tenderness of the nipple. However, extreme or persistent discomfort may indicate a need for adjustment in positioning, the use of nipple shields, or the possibility of infection such as thrush or mastitis (bacterial infection of the breast).
In addition to directly breastfeeding, pumping and hand expression are wonderful additional techniques you can try. Pumping is especially helpful for mothers who need to be apart from their babies for prolonged periods of time such as for school or work, which allows you to maintain your milk supply while you are away from your baby. Breast pumps are covered by health insurance and may also be available at your local WIC center. Both pumping and hand expressing are useful to stimulate milk production and relieve uncomfortably engorged breasts.
While breastfeeding is ideal, there are certain circumstances in which breastfeeding is not recommended. This includes mothers with HIV, active herpes lesions on the breast, and active tuberculosis. In these circumstances, formula feeding or donor breast milk would be most ideal.
5. https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/5-breastfeeding-holds-try (images of positions)
6. Jones KM, Power ML, Queenan JT, Schulkin J. Racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding. Breastfeed Med. 2015;10(4):186-196. doi:10.1089/bfm.2014.0152