If you were to ask my husband, he would tell you that I am the worst at packing a suitcase for vacation. My suitcases are always overfilled, I usually have one of those orange “heavy” stickers flagged on my checked luggage, and I have the worst time deciding what to bring (or not to bring). I think it’s a combination of the nurse in me, mixed with the mom in me, which makes me feel impelled to pack for all types of elements. I may get chilly and need a sweater at dinner. What if it rains? What if someone gets sick? What if someone gets stung and needs an antihistamine.On the flip side, my husband and friends never complain when they need something and I am to the rescue!
You’re probably asking yourself: What in the world does this have to do with lactation?! Just like how I pack a suitcase for a vacation, being as prepared as possible is hugely important for setting up your foundation for lactation. Being an IBCLC from the pediatric perspective taught me very quickly just how important those first days after delivery are. If there are hurdles early on, it can really start a snowball affect and make reaching your lactation goals more difficult.
Here are just a few things that I think are important that will help you be as prepared as possible for those first few days, and even weeks after delivery:
- Take a prenatal class and understand the basics of breastfeeding. Get to know the holds. If you think it would be helpful, practice the holds with a stuffed animal or doll. You don’t need to know the scientific composition of breast milk, but it will be helpful to understand the difference between colostrum and mature milk and when and why that transition will occur. (Prenatal classes available for schedule: https://babyeyeslactation.com/scheduling/ )
- Colostrum: I really wish we could get away from saying phrases like: “is your milk in yet?” This implies that colostrum is not milk. Colostrum is milk, its just very highly concentrated milk. It is enough for your baby; it just needs to be given on demand and frequently. Baby’s stomach is only the size of a marble (5-7ml capacity) after delivery, so this highly concentrated colostrum is the perfect food at that time. Baby will be receiving colostrum right after delivery until approximately day 4/5 when the mature (more abundant) milk transitions.
- Limit visitors. I know everyone wants to come and visit but it is really important to set aside time to focus on babies first few feedings and maintaining a good latch. It is important to know that these feedings are typically frequent and this frequency is important to stimulate the mature milk to transition by days 4-5. With visitors, it is very easy for the frequency of feedings to be delayed or early feeding cues to be missed.
- Feeding time. “How often and how long did the baby feed?” will be asked frequently in the hospital. Babies should feed on demand about 10-12 times per day. How long the feeding lasts, typically depends on how good the latch is. If baby is not latched well (therefore not “drinking” or transferring much milk) then time is really not that important. (Video link of good latch and drinking at the breast https://ibconline.ca/breastfeeding-videos-english/ )
- Latch: The phrase “No Pain, No Gain” does NOT apply to breastfeeding. If the latch is not correct, then mom is going to be in pain and baby is probably not going to be getting the milk as efficiently as they could be. There are a lot of things new happening at the breast, so there will likely be some tenderness, but there should not be any fist clinching or breath-holding by mom when baby latches. Again, this is NOT ok and will likely not “pass with time”. So, please seek lactation support quickly if this is occurring.
I understand that no one really wants to anticipate that breastfeeding isn’t going to go perfectly, so my best advise is to be as prepared as possible by understand the basics of the breastfeeding process and understand when to seek support. Use your mommy gut, and if things just don’t feel right or seem highly complicated, then find a lactation consultant quickly. The sooner these breastfeeding hurdles are resolved, the smaller your snowball will be.
So before baby arrives, start learning the basics and try to get your “suitcase” ready 🙂