For new moms, and even for experienced ones, breastfeeding can be a mystifying process. For some mothers, it is a beautiful bonding experience. For others, it is difficult and emotional. Your experience can even vary from child to child! One thing is for sure, there are a lot of opinions and misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding that have made it a widely discussed subject for years. However, breastfeeding doesn’t have to be confusing. Let’s take a look at the miraculous process of breastfeeding, and then answer some frequently asked questions.
The Biology of Breastfeeding
Throughout pregnancy, it is no secret that your body is changing. After all, you are growing a human! Along with the typical growth that happens in your belly as your little one grows, your breasts are also getting ready to nourish your little one after birth.
The glands in your breasts that make milk will begin to develop and grow with the help of hormones like prolactin, estrogen, and progesterone. One of the first signs that you might feel very early on in pregnancy is tender, sensitive breasts. You will also notice your breasts growing in size during the first and second trimesters. You may need to look for a bra that is slightly bigger to more comfortably fit your changing breast size. Your areola, which is the circular area around your nipple may become larger and darker. These are all indicators that your body is preparing for milk production.
Breast milk is essentially produced on demand. The more your baby eats, the more milk will be produced. This enables you to accommodate your baby’s appetite and needs at all stages of development.
Types of Breast Milk
During the first few days of breastfeeding, your body will produce colostrum. This is often referred to as liquid gold because it is yellow in color and is packed with immunoglobulins and vital nutrients that are essential for boosting the baby’s immune system. It is packed with everything they need to get a good head start in life! Colostrum is all your baby will need for approximately the first four to five days.
Around the third or fourth day, your milk will “come in”, increasing in volume and making your breasts feel heavier and more full. This is a transitional phase when your body is producing a combination of colostrum and mature milk.
After about the second week of your baby’s life, you will be producing mature milk, which tends to be thinner at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey and thicker as you go on.
Everyone’s body is different, but your body is fully equipped to provide your baby with everything they need to thrive.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I start breastfeeding?
After your baby is born, you should breastfeed as soon as you are able. You should attempt to breastfeed within the first hour after birth. Not only does breastfeeding take some time at first, but your breasts are also full of vital colostrum and the sooner your baby is able to be nourished by this liquid gold, the better!
How do I know if my baby latched properly?
A good latch is so important for both you and your baby. It will help keep your milk supply steady and abundant, as well as prevent sore nipples. When your baby is properly latched, their mouth will cover your entire nipple and some of your areola. Their lips will be turned outward, much like fish lips, and their nose and chin will be touching your breast. It can take some trial and error at first to get a good latch, so don’t give up! If you notice your baby is only sucking on your nipple, gently break the seal with your finger and attempt to reposition them.
What are the best positions for breastfeeding?
There is no right or wrong position to breastfeed in, as long as your baby is safe, latched on well, and you feel comfortable. Many parents find that to start with, the laid-back position and the cross-cradle position are helpful places to begin.
For the laid-back position, simply lay back and get comfortable, using pillows to support your body. Place the baby on your stomach with their head at your breasts. Allow the baby to find your nipple and latch on. This can be one of the most comfortable ways to nurse.
The cross-cradle position is one of the most common ways to breastfeed. Sit comfortably and cradle your baby at the level of your breast. Using a nursing pillow can help to provide support. Hold the baby in the opposite arm of the breast that you want the baby to eat from, using your hand to support their head. Use your other hand to help guide your nipple into the baby’s mouth.
Is my baby getting enough breast milk?
With bottle-feeding, it is easy to tell exactly how much milk your baby is getting, but with breastfeeding, many mothers feel concerned that they are not making enough breast milk for their baby. Rest assured, it is very rare that a mother is not able to provide enough milk. As previously mentioned, breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. As your baby wants more to eat, your body will produce it. Keep an eye on your baby to make sure that they are gaining weight steadily, going through 6 to 8 wet diapers a day, and having regular bowel movements. If all of these are in check, you can be confident that your baby is getting exactly what they need!
You Are Not Alone
Breastfeeding is a journey that can feel overwhelming and anxiety-producing, but there is no need to fear! It is normal to need help in the beginning and to have worries and fears associated with this new phase of life. You are not alone, and we here at Bright Future want to help you be successful! Our International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are here to listen to your concerns and help you get started. We would love to help you and your baby get off to a Bright start! Sign up for a Lactation Consultation with Bright Future today!