Learning How To Feed Your Baby: Insight From A Lactation Consultant

A clogged what? Duct? Isn’t that part of an air conditioning system?

I need a nipple shield? For the latch? What is it? 

Can the baby breathe with my boob smooshed in their face? 

My nipples are elastic? I thought they were nipples! 

It’s ok if you are completely overwhelmed by all of the new information thrown at you when you’re learning how to feed your baby. I was too. 

As a lactation consultant, a women’s health advocate, an educator, and a mother, I am here to tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your fears, doubts, and concerns are all valid and warranted. And you and your baby will learn what works best for you together. 

What I know from my work is that we are not preparing parents adequately to feed their babies and the expectations placed on new mothers in particular are unrealistic and isolating. If you’ve ever been told, “This isn’t about you anymore” on your breastfeeding journey, know that you aren’t meant to sacrifice yourself or your wellbeing to feed your baby breastmilk.

As someone who is passionate about helping parents feel empowered and supported, instead of shamed, here are some tips I like to share with my clients and things I wish I’d known when I first became a mother. 

Take a deep breath and give yourself grace.

You are both new to this. It makes sense you don’t know all of these things yet. You didn’t need to before now. You and your baby are learning, and learning takes time. Now take a deep breath. You got this. 

Give yourself grace when…you hate breastfeeding, you’re struggling, or you want to toss your breast pump. Just like giving birth, feeding your baby doesn’t always go as planned. And that’s ok.

Your feeding decision is YOURS

And yours alone. To find out what is right for you and your family, I want you to make informed decisions. Read everything, ask your doctor questions, consult a lactation consultant that is aligned with your goals and supports YOU. This way when someone inevitably has an opinion about it, you can feel centered, grounded, and empowered in your choices. 

Skin to skin & rooming in

These two postpartum practices support bonding between mother and child, and if you’re breastfeeding they can help stimulate lactation.

During skin-to-skin, the birthing parent can help regulate the newborn’s temperature and bond. There are benefits to this after the golden hour so soak in those delicious baby snuggles and keep sniffing that baby’s head!

Rooming in is when you and your baby stay together in the hospital rather than the baby being in a nursery. Have you ever heard the phrase, “you never know someone until you live with them”? Get ready to know your baby better than ever. You will learn their feeding cues, sleep cues, discomfort faces, “I need to snuggle” faces, and so much more.

Ask questions

Ask questions during every visit. Ask your OBGYN, Midwife, Doula, Pediatrician, Lactation Consultant, or Baby Nurse because when it comes to feeding your child there is no such thing as a stupid question. 

Ask your questions and get the support you need. You deserve it. I recommend bringing a pen and paper to write your questions beforehand. And to write down the answers. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t remember anything. That “mom brain” is real!

I’ll say it again: you are both new at this

Breastfeeding is truly a skill the newborn and parent must learn. Together. Your baby is trying to learn how to coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing. You are trying to figure out how to spend time thrusting your boob down your baby’s throat without suffocating them. It’s a lot.

Take a breath, give yourself some grace, make YOUR right decision, and find a reliable and loving expert to support you. Finding the right Lactation Consultant is often one of the most vital pieces to making breastfeeding work for you.

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