If you are a breastfeeding parent or a doula who has a client who is struggling with breastfeeding challenges there are two simple rules I want you to remember and repeat. Feed the baby, Protect the Supply. This is your mantra.
Anytime an issue arises on your breastfeeding journey, come back to this rule and repeat this mantra to yourself in order to ground your thinking and make sound informed decisions around your infant feeding choices.
Oftentimes, we freak out when we have trouble, especially in those first few days of having a baby. We have to be logical and sensible for our children, that starts with how, when and what to feed them to help them to be nourished and thrive in this world. When you are experiencing pain, difficulties with positioning or not quite sure what it is...you find a way to feed the baby first and foremost. You have a plethora of options when it comes to the how and I don’t think people realize it. A baby can be fed by a breast or bottle yes, but they can also be fed by a cup, spoon, syringe or finger to name the majority.
Rule number one of breastfeeding, Feed the baby.
What do you feed the baby? That’s up to you. I recommend breast milk, whether it is yours or donor milk but that is my first choice when it comes to what. No signs of colostrum during your first day, perhaps you may want to supplement with formula just until you see the signs that your milk has come in. What kind of formula? I’m not obliged to say because while I’m not anti-formula, I follow the WHO code of conduct which prohibits the promotional advertising of artificial human milk. What I will say, it is damn expensive and to speak with your pediatrician about which ones might be best on your child’s digestive system, think plant based, organic and/or sensitive types. The best thing to remember is your baby only has the belly capacity of a small cherry in the first few days of life and therefore can only take in a few drops at a time. If you don’t have loads of milk coming out don’t worry, you don’t need and neither does your baby because where are they going to put it?! So, give it time, trust your body, trust the process. Call for help if you think you need it, or if you just aren’t even sure.
Rule number two of breastfeeding, Protect the supply.
If you see something that’s something, don’t compare your boobs to each other with producing and remember you don’t need much in those first few days. Focus on practice latching and skin to skin to promote bonding and encourage milk production through constant suckling. Stick to feeding often, at least 12 times or more in a 24 hour period. If you can’t get the baby to latch for any reason, protect the supply through stimulation of the breast every 2-3 hours with a pump or hand expression. This will keep the milk production up while you troubleshoot the root cause of your breastfeeding challenge.
Don’t go it alone, having an issue, seek professional help! Can’t afford a lactation consultant because it’s not covered under your insurance, it sucks, I know, then go to a local breastfeeding support group run by lactation professionals. Try my support groups or another of your choosing ask a friend, doula or other trusted parent resource, lastly La Leche League for international coverage.
Are you a doula or birth worker looking to learn more about this topic and other ways to support your clients and increase your breast/chestfeeding knowledge and skills? Take my doula education program course for doulas taught with Robin Kaplan, IBCLC and owner of the San Diego Breastfeeding Center.