Heather Evans, BSN, RN, IBCLC, C-EFM is the Baby Café Facilitator at West Chester Hospital.
Evelyn Agbomi, MSN, RN, RNC-LRN, is the Special Care Nursery Manager at West Chester Hospital.
Dawn Thomas, IBCLC, is a Lactation Consultant at West Chester Hospital.
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and the focus for 2022 is on providing education about breastfeeding and its many benefits.
The top 10 suggestions for breastfeeding success include:
1. Take a breastfeeding class before you deliver.
2. Understand milk production. It will take 3-5 days for your full milk supply to develop. The initial milk is a thick and yellow substance called colostrum. Colostrum is the best first food for your baby.
3. Understand supply and demand of milk production. The more the breast is stimulated, the more milk the mother will produce.
4. If you are struggling with breastfeeding or are in need of help with your breastfeeding journey, seek professional support from International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Please note that latching should not be painful.
5. Hold your baby skin to skin early and often. This will help your milk supply.
6. Practice self-care and set realistic expectations. Eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep.
7. Join a breastfeeding support group. UC Health’s West Chester Hospital offers Baby Café weekly, a free breastfeeding support group. Call 513-298-3310 for more information.
8. Prepare early for returning to work.
9. Obtain a breast pump prior to delivery. Most insurance plans cover this cost.
10. Don’t compare your breastfeeding journey to other mothers’ journeys. Each mother/baby couplet is unique.
Finding balance is important for new parents. Breastfeeding babies eat every 2-3 hours which interrupts parental sleep patterns. To prevent exhaustion and baby blues, parents should plan for self-care each day:
- Try to have food on hand that is easy to prepare and eat while holding the baby.
- Fill water bottles and place them where you will sit when breastfeeding.
- Allow friends and family members to help with infant care whenever possible so you have some time to rest.
- Take naps during the day in order to tolerate missing sleep overnight. Ask those family or friends who are supporting you to watch the baby during the day so you can sleep deeply if only for 2-3 hours at a time. This will alleviate the exhaustion that comes from interrupted nighttime sleep.
- Make a point to get some fresh air and change of scenery each day (even if it is just a walk to the mailbox or a trip to the grocery store).
If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or angry, unable to eat or sleep, or are crying frequently, reach out to your healthcare provider for additional support.
Returning to work can be one of the most stressful experiences for new mothers. Depending on the length of your maternity leave, it is recommended to begin pumping and offer expressed breast milk once per day at four weeks of life. This will give the baby lots of time to learn to switch between bottle and breast. Before returning to work, plan when and where you will pump; plan meals/snacks and track water intake and plan for milk storage. Contact your day care provider and discuss how your breast milk should be prepared for their use. Providing your expressed milk in smaller amounts (1-2 ounce versus 4-6 ounce) will reduce how much is wasted.
Remember, a small amount of breast milk can have long-lasting, positive benefits for both mothers and infants. One benefit includes immunity support, which can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and childhood cancers. Breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of childhood obesity and diabetes. In addition, the risk of maternal postpartum depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac disease, osteoporosis and some cancers are decreased as well. References are included below for additional information and support.