5 Things to Know About Breastfeeding Before Baby is Born

Village BirthUncategorized5 Things to Know About Breastfeeding Before Baby is Born
breastfeeding tips

5 Things to Know About Breastfeeding Before Baby is Born

If you are planning to breastfeed, it is so important to approach this journey with intention and education. Oftentimes, parents focus solely on the birth for their prenatal education, and they rely on the notion that breastfeeding is part of the birth process and that it is natural. While these things are true, lactation is influenced by certain circumstances.

Breastfeeding is unchartered territory for both mother and baby, so having some foundational knowledge prenatally is extremely helpful. Here is some information to enlighten this initiation, with concepts and practical tips to have in mind.

Physiological Birth Sets the Stage for Breastfeeding

The hormones that drive a physiological and vaginal birth, are what also initiate milk production. According to Judith A. Lothian, PhD, RN, LCCE, FACCE, “Birth practices including induced labor, routine interventions, epidural analgesia, and separation of mother and baby disrupt the process of early breastfeeding for mother and baby. Normal, natural birth sets the stage for uncomplicated breastfeeding.”

If you are considering medication or any augmentation in birth, know that it doesn’t come without risk. Some medical practices may interfere with breastfeeding. That being said, some births truly need intervention, or one may elect to have an epidural (and you deserve it!) The impact of these interventions depends on timing and duration. All is not lost should you elect to augment physiological birth. Constant skin-to-skin at the first available moment will help those hormones get online, and that brings us to our next foundational bit of information.

Keep Baby Near You

You likely already know about the importance of skin-to-skin. The WHO and CDC both promote the practice of immediate skin-to-skin in the first hour of life, as studies show how powerful this physical contact is in initiating the breastfeeding relationship.

This physical experience of baby on mom’s naked chest stimulates the release of hormones between both baby and mother for breastfeeding. It stimulates digestion and an interest in feeding in the baby. It also regulates their nervous systems. Pheromones released from the baby’s body, sends the message to the mother’s body to begin lactating.

This chemistry between baby and mother continues well past the first hour. Keep baby close to ensure a successful feeding relationship in those early days. When sleeping, baby should be in-room, very near by. Refer to this article to read about the practices of co-sleeping, room-sharing, and bed-sharing, and all the recommended safety practices.

Put Baby on the Breast Right Away and Feed Often

Every baby is different, but it is quite common for a newborn to not feed much within the first 24 hours. This is because they may be tired or sore from birth, and their digestion is adjusting to their new way of receiving nourishment. Even if the baby doesn’t seem interested in the breast, it is important to bring the baby to the nipple, so they will begin sucking. Sucking is a reflex. It is automatic for the baby, and this sucking will help stimulate milk production in the mother.

By day 2, baby should be actively hungry and consuming milk every 2 – 3 hours. If they are not, then call a lactation consultant.

If you need to be separated from baby right after birth, ask for a breast pump to simulate sucking, which will send the message to your body to begin lactation. The expressed milk may then be given to baby.

Rest and Nourishment Support Milk Production

Rest, food, and hydration are paramount for milk production. Prioritize sleep as best as you are able at this time. We know it’s hard! Fatigue can increase stress and cortisol levels, which interferes with the production or oxytocin and prolactin, two important hormones for milk production. Limiting caffeine, warm baths, dark and quite bedroom, and getting the support from your partner to prioritize rest are all helpful strategies.

Your body also needs lots of calories and water to make milk. Include a nutrient and protein rich diet. Drink a big glass of water every time you breastfeed. (Hot Tip: Drinking from a straw will make it easy to consume lots of water).

Sometimes Breastfeeding Needs Help

There might challenges that can be overcome, or it might not be working due to physical factors. Here are your options for support and solutions:

  1. See a lactation consultant
  2. Pump and bottle feed. You may also try feeding with a syringe or spoon if you want to avoid “nipple confusion.”
  3. Oral ties assessment. Take your time making this decision and get a few opinions.
  4. Breastfeeding support group
  5. Donor milk
  6. Formula

While breastfeeding is a natural experience, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Both baby and mother are doing this activity for the first time, so expect a learning curve. Most everyone struggles in some way in the early days, and this understanding hopefully brings some grace and patience to the experience. If breastfeeding isn’t working and it is something you wanted deeply, it is ok to grieve. Many feel a strong instinct to breastfeed, and it can be devastating when the hurdles become too much to bear. Choosing not to breastfeed in any circumstance is a loving and nurturing choice to meet your baby’s needs.

If you are in the Northeast Los Angeles and Pasadena area, Evonne Smith, IBCLC is our in-house lactation consultant! She teaches our Breast and Bottle Feeding Class, offers lactation consults, and leads a regular lactation support group. You can find more information on the Village Birth website or at www.newnorthbaby.com/lactation/

This information is not to replace medical advice. Please see a international board certified lactation consultant or health practitioner for individualized care. Village Birth does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference.

Village Birth offers doula services, childbirth classes, newborn care classes, lactation and pregnancy support for Los Angeles. Our space is in Sparrow’s Nest in Pasadena (bordering Eagle Rock) where we hold classes, support groups, workshops, and meetups.  Interested in learning more about the birth process and options available in your birth setting? Check out Village Birth’s prenatal classes.