Preparing for serene breastfeeding (or almost!)

Although milk production and breast-feeding are natural biological phenomena in the evolved mammals that we are, breast-feeding is not necessarily innate. For young or expectant mothers who have chosen to breastfeed, or who are still considering it, breastfeeding often requires physical and emotional support and guidance, information and misinformation, to ensure that the project is carried out in optimum conditions. Here a few tips to help you prepare for breast-feeding breastfeeding (or almost!).


First of all, don't worry! Breastfeeding is a learning process for both mother and baby. Both have to discover and tame each other, with each new baby. Cases where mothers are absolutely unable to breastfeed are rare, but many breastfeedings soon come to an end: not enough milk, pain, sleep and many other reasons...and with good reason! Young mothers are often left to their own devices in this adventure when they've just given birth, when they're not sufficiently informed and when hormones are playing out a rollercoaster between happiness, love and doubts about being up to the task. Will I make it?

- Skin-to-skin contact, the welcome feed when your baby comes out and the feeds over the following hours are essential! Baby finds you, you observe him, you discover him, and good old oxytocin (the love hormone and par excellence that of pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period) plays its part. Right from birth, your baby will receive colostrum, a thick, yellow liquid that's a real superfood for your newborn. It's important to know that this colostrum doesn't turn into milk until 3 days after birth (a little longer if you've had a caesarean section), the famous "milk rush". So it's normal if your baby loses a LITTLE weight in the first 3 days! If you want to breastfeed and your baby is perfectly healthy, there's no need to supplement with a bottle, as the flow is faster and the effort less. Sucking requires a certain (beneficial) effort on the part of your baby, who will have to work his jaws like an athlete until he gets used to it.

- Ouch, ouch! Yes, it's quite common to feel a little pain when sucking in the first few days, with the milk ejection reflex. Your breasts are hypertensive, and what's going to relieve them is to get baby to suckle... and you'll have contractions(again?!). These will put your uterus back in its place, and help it return to its normal size in no time! Coat your nipples with your own milk and wear mother-of-pearl shells or silver cups to prevent and heal any cracks. This pulling sensation may last a few days or the first 2-3 weeks, and sensitivity will vary from one woman to another. This sensation will fade, and breastfeeding that goes well ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT HURT. If this is the case and it's painful, pay close attention to the baby's posture and the position of his mouth on the nipple, get help, and don't remain in pain! Engorgement can occur, and can be quickly treated with the right gestures (warm water, massage, clay poultice, and, above all, suckling your child - it's certainly painful with engorgement, but it's radical, you need to drain it!)

- Is my baby getting enough to eat? When it's not possible to quantify the amount of milk coming from the breast, moms often wonder whether their milk is enough, and this can become a source of anxiety. Your midwife will weigh your baby at each home visit during the postpartum period, and then your pediatrician, to calculate whether your child is putting on enough weight. For your part, make sure your baby wets his diaper regularly. Let your child empty your breast before removing it. After all, milk changes even during feeds, and the good fats come last. Once the first breast is finished, move on to the second, which will act as a dessert...don't deprive him of it! At the next feed, start with the breast you finished with. And forget about the watch! Breast milk is easier to digest than artificial milk, so your newborn will digest it faster and eat more often. Breastfeeding is the natural law of supply and demand. The more you feed, the more there is. On the other hand, if you limit feeding times and space them out, your production will drop and your baby won't have enough milk to feed on exclusively. 

Stress and worry are normal, but they don't do breastfeeding any favors. Take advantage of these (many) moments to look at your baby from every angle, to settle down, as we live in a fast-paced society. Drink plenty of water (and appropriate herbal teas) and rest between feeds - the housework will have to wait. Continue to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle, just as you did during pregnancy (yes, the malt in beer is galactogenic, as our mothers say... but take the 0% alcohol version!) Some plants and foods are galactogenic, while others can reduce your production in large doses. Take particular care when taking medication: always check and seek professional advice, and avoid putting creams or lotions on your breasts. Likewise, weaning is an important time for you and your baby, at any stage of growth (and also after the loss of a baby when milk comes in). Don't hesitate to ask for support to help you make the dietary and emotional transition as smoothly as possible, because it's important to remember that breast-feeding is only a small percentage of what breast-feeding provides.

Rebeca Foëx-Castilla
Mom of Ethan, Amos and Numa
Doula graduate
Read her MotherStory