Seven things all expecting mothers should know about feeding your baby
Among the many decisions parents face when expecting a baby is how to feed their new baby.
Should mom breastfeed exclusively? Should bottle feeding be introduced? Should formula be used?
Lactation nurses at The Telfair BirthPlace at St. Joseph’s/Candler recommend exclusive breastfeeding for a baby’s first six months of life. It is the same recommendation supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization.
“If the thought has ever crossed your mind, give breastfeeding a chance,” says Lydia Robinson, RN, certified lactation counselor with The Telfair BirthPlace. “There are benefits for baby and benefits for mom. For baby, it’s the best food and provides immunity that formula does not. For mom, there’s a lower risk for postpartum depression, it’s free, and it’s convenient.”
Although breast milk is what is best for babies, breastfeeding is not always what is best for moms, Robinson adds. There may be many reasons why mothers decide not to breastfeed their babies, including being physically unable.
Robinson respects that it is mom’s choice how to feed. Her biggest piece of advice for all expecting mothers is to be prepared.
“The best advice I give to all mothers is to educate yourself on how you want to feed your baby before the big day arrives and have a support system already in place so you know who to call if you have any questions or concerns about your new baby,” Robinson says. “When you are pregnant, you have time to think about things, so taking a class or looking things up online are really good ways to help mom figure out how to feed your baby. If breastfeeding is the way you want to go, educate yourself on how to get that started out on the right foot.”
Robinson also offers these seven tips all expecting mothers should know about feeding baby:
1. Expect skin to skin contact following delivery and maintain that contact for three months
Skin to skin fixes everything, Robinson says, from a fussy baby to a sleepy baby to a baby that will not latch. The contact also helps regulate baby’s blood sugar, vital signs and temperate and makes the baby more willing to eat – whether breast or formula feeding. Skin to skin contact occurs when the baby is wearing only a diaper and placed on your bare chest.
“All stable babies are placed skin to skin with mother for at least one hour after delivery for those very reasons, but don’t stop there,” Robinson advises. “Skin to skin is a wonderful way for mothers and fathers to bond with their babies even months after delivery. Studies show that up to three months of doing skin to skin one to two hours a day helps improve brain function so this is fantastic for not only breastfeeding babies but bottle feeds as well.”
2. One question that Robinson is frequently asked is, ‘How often should I be feeding my baby?’
After the first 24 hours, mothers should expect to feed at least eight times during a 24-hour period, with eight being the minimum, Robinson says. If you are not meeting those eight feeds, talk to your doctor or consult a lactation counselor.
Robinson also advises not to wake your baby up every two to three hours for feeding but to feed when baby cues. Cues to look out for include smacking noises, sticking his/her tongue out and bringing a clinched fist towards the mouth.
“Latching baby every time he or she cues to feed will keep your baby’s tiny tummy full and will stimulate your breasts to make lots of milk,” Robinson says. “If your baby isn’t hungry he or she is not going to latch and that’s just going to stress mom out. Follow those cues.”
3. Another thing all mothers should know is how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk
This is a question asked of Robinson often by breastfeeding mothers because you don’t actually see how much milk baby is consuming. Once latched, baby’s lips should be flared out and mother should be able to hear baby swallowing, Robinson says. Once mature milk comes in, Robinson says moms should notice softer breasts after baby completes a full feed. Just like mom should look for cues that baby is hungry, there are signs that baby is full including relaxed hands and arms and a happy and/or sleepy face.
She also advises parents to pay attention to those diapers. The first day of life baby should urinate once and have one bowel movement. Second day of life, baby should urinate twice and have two stools. After the third day of life, Robinson says baby needs to be having three stools and urinate three to five times in a 24-hour period. If your baby is eating all the time and not having appropriate voids, notify your doctor or consider making an appointment with a lactation counselor for a weighted feed.
4. Breastfeeding should NOT be painful
For breastfeeding moms, Robinson says your nipples should not have to toughen up and should not be damaged during breastfeeding. Nor should there be bleeding. If you are experiencing pain during breastfeeding, Robinson says to please ask for help. “Not only is it hurting you, but it may be a sign your baby is not getting as much milk as he/she could be.”
The Telfair BirthPlace at St. Joseph’s/Candler offers The Breastfeeding Warm-Line. By calling 912-819-8231, breastfeeding moms, as well as mothers-to-be, can talk to a board-certified lactation consultant for assistance or to make an appointment for a consultation. Outpatient appointments are free, says Robinson.
5. Breast pumps can be a fantastic tool
Robinson says breast pumps can help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals, especially if mother and baby are separated at any point after birth or when mom returns to work. However, Robinson advises mothers of babies that are latching and feeding well in the early days of life to try to avoid pumping until your mature milk comes in. The first milk, called colostrum, is very thick and does not move from the breast well with a pump, Robinson says.
6. Another great alternative for moms to move milk is through hand expression
Robinson is a big proponent of hand expression and advises all moms learn and practice hand expression with a nurse before leaving the hospital. Hand expression is a manual way to extract milk from your breasts by rhythmically using your hand to compress your breast so that milk comes out. This is a great option for moms who may be away from baby or a pump is not working or available. Hand expression also is a great tool for moms who need to move out colostrum during the early stages of breastfeeding.
“If baby is having trouble latching or you are pumping and not getting anything, hand expression is the way to go,” Robinson says. “All moms need to know how to hand express. When you come in, be sure to have a nurse show you how to hand express.”
7. Use of a pacifier should depend on whether your baby is taking breast milk or formula
Robinson tells mothers who are breastfeeding not to use a pacifier for four weeks. If baby gets fussy, it is easy to give him or her a pacifier. However, baby may then suck on the pacifier and miss a feeding opportunity. This also may delay mom’s mature milk coming in, Robinson says. At four weeks, a pacifier is recommended during sleep to help reduce the risk of SIDs. For formula-fed babies, Robinson says after day two or three a pacifier is beneficial during sleep because it does help prevent SIDs.
- If you’d like to speak to a lactation counselor or schedule an appointment, please call The Breastfeeding Warm-Line at 912-819-8231. If no one answers, please leave a message.
- The Telfair BirthPlace also offers monthly breastfeeding classes the first Saturday of each month. To view a schedule and sign up, click here and search Telfair BirthPlace as the category.