LLL Today #3 – Resources and Reassurance for the Newly Lactating Parent

The struggle and exhaustion that accompany the early days of breastfeeding and chestfeeding are very common. Many parents and caregivers are surprised at how hard it truly is and automatically suspect that they must be doing something incorrectly based on the challenges that they encounter. What’s more, every baby is different and each new breast/chest feeding relationship is unique so that even an experienced nursing parent will likely face a different challenge with each child that they feed.

I felt lucky that breastfeeding my four children went quite smoothly throughout their newborn periods. Then baby number 5 came along and we struggled for five weeks to get to a point where I could nurse comfortably. With support and persistence we made it through and he is an easy nurser now, at 7 months.

Some of the most common barriers to early milk production and chestfeeding/breastfeeding include pain, latch, and supply.

The keys in setting the foundation for a successful breastfeeding/chestfeeding journey are:

–         Understanding the mechanics of milk production

–         Recognizing symptoms of normal discomfort as well as signs of hunger and satiety in newborns are.

Discomfort in the first few weeks of breastfeeding/chestfeeding is common. Your nipples are adjusting to the needs of your baby and it can be unpleasant. However, a deep pain that does not improve throughout the feeding or with latch and position changes is a sign that you may need assistance from a LLL Leader or lactation professional.

Because a proper latch is essential for comfort, I recommend newly lactating parents to check out LLLI or LLLUSA website (1). You will find guidelines to ensure a productive and comfortable latch. There are also helpful videos or illustrations linked on these pages. Parents and caregivers can receive additional support by reaching out to a LLL Leader online, by calling their local Leader, or the national LLL helpline if it exists, or through attending a virtual or in person support group.

Newborns have tiny stomachs. Between the first and third days after birth babies only require between 5-27 ml of daily colostrum. The amount continues to increase each day. For a healthy newborn there is no need to supplement with formula before your milk “comes in”. In fact, it is the act of staying close to the baby (skin to skin if possible) and offering breast/chestfeedings on demand that will signal your body to produce the amount of milk required by your newborn.

LLLI has a useful infographic which can be found at LLLI.org titled “Increasing Breastmilk Supply” (2). It explains the supply-and-demand mechanics of milk production and how to increase supply.

Newborn feeding cues begin quite subtly. These include eyes moving under eyelids before obvious wakefulness, mouth movements, rooting, moving head from side to side, and eventually, distress or crying. By keeping your new baby on your skin or close by you can more readily recognize and respond to early hunger cues. It is easier to latch a newborn before they are crying.

Much to the dismay of concerned parents everywhere, it is impossible to gauge just how much an exclusively breastfed/chestfed baby is consuming. Parents and caregivers should look for signs of satiety in their newborn to be sure that their baby is nursing efficiently. A baby who is receiving enough milk will become calm with feeding and produce the expected number of soiled diapers each day.

On day 1 parents should expect to see at least one meconium diaper and by day 5 the baby should be having at least three bowel movements per day. That number should increase as the baby gets older.

If you are in the midst of these early days of breast and chestfeeding, breathe deeply, keep your baby close and on your skin, feed on demand, get in contact with a local Leader, and, most importantly, know that this gets easier.

(1)  Positioning and Latching. [Brochure]. LLL USA. https://lllusa.org/positioning-and-latching/
Positioning. [Brochure]. LLLI. https:/llli.org/breastfeeding-info/positioning/

(2)   https://llli.org/increasing-breastmilk-supply/

Erin Simmons Kreho