The Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding Checklist: Tips For New Parents
There is a lot of information out there on breastfeeding or chestfeeding, and it can feel pretty overwhelming as a new parent. Some sources oversimplify a complex situation, while others leave you confused and stressed about feeding your baby.
If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby, here are some tips to help you out.
Is Breastfeeding or Chestfeeding Right For You?
An essential step on your breastfeeding journey is to have a frank discussion about breastfeeding with yourself and your partner. New parents are under enough stress and breastfeeding isn't always possible or realistic for every situation. Feeding your baby is crucial, regardless of how they get their nutrients.
All cases are valid whether you want to breastfeed, are unable to breastfeed, or choose not to breastfeed. Don't feel pressured into making a decision that doesn't fit your needs and lifestyle.
Prepare Yourself for Breastfeeding or Chestfeeding Before Having a Baby
Breastfeeding may appear simple for those who have never done it, but it's not as intuitive as some expect.
Before the arrival of your little bubs, you can stock up on some essential supplies. You may want to purchase the following:
- A nursing cover offers some privacy while breastfeeding in public; but is not necessary.
- Nipple cream helps alleviate the tenderness and dryness of nipples, helping prevent cracking, bleeding, and pain.
- Nipple shields are a thin silicone barrier that fits over the nipple and helps with positioning so that the baby can get a better latch.
- A breast pump allows moms to pump milk and store it for later. This tool is beneficial if the breastfeeding parent will be away from the baby for a little while.
- Milk storage bags hold the pumped milk and can be frozen to build a milk supply.
Even if you plan to breastfeed, we recommend that you pick up some formula (or get samples), just in case. Despite your intentions, breastfeeding may not go as planned and having formula on hand gives you another way to feed your little one.
Get the Number of a Lactation Consultant
A lactation consultant certified by the IBCLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) is someone that can be a part of mama village. These professionals can help you find your rhythm if breastfeeding is difficult. They can also address concerns like if you're worried about not producing enough milk, if your baby has issues latching, and more. The hospital, your OBGYN, or midwife will likely have great resources to connect you with a lactation specialist. We recommend getting their number before the baby arrives so you have in on hand in case you need the support.
Talk to Your Doctor
Another vital breastfeeding resource is your general practitioner. These doctors should have your medical history and can advise you on how any medical conditions or medication may affect your ability to breastfeed.
How to Breastfeed
Once your bubs arrives, placing them skin-to-skin will help initiate the breast crawl and breastfeeding. However, sometimes, breastfeeding isn't as intuitive as it may seem. Here is our simple breastfeeding guide to help you get started.
A hungry baby will let you know when it's time to eat. When your little bubs is starting to get hungry, they will show some early signs, such as:
- The rooting reflex is when they turn their head and open their mouth when touching the area around their cheek/mouth.
- Stirring and stretching.
- Licking their lips.
- Putting their hands in their mouths.
If you miss these cues, your baby will escalate their efforts by crying. Don't worry, you can gently calm them down by cuddling with them, placing them skin-to-skin on your chest, and talking to them.
Breastfeeding is time-consuming and can make you feel sore in the early days. Though your baby's needs are important, take an extra minute to make yourself comfortable, as you'll likely be sitting or lying in the same position for a while.
Use pillows for support—if you have a pregnancy pillow, it's great for propping yourself up. Depending on your needs, you may want to grab a device that can offer background music, audiobooks, television shows, or something else that can help you relax as your baby feeds.
You can also set up a breastfeeding or chestfeeding station with the items above plus snacks and water.
Putting your baby to the breast seems straightforward, but there are a few signs to recognize. The baby's mouth should be open wide, with their nose and chin pressed against the breast. You should hear them swallowing if they are sucking deeply and in rhythm. If you feel pain or discomfort in your nipple, take the baby off the breast and try to have them latch again in the correct position.
Even if your baby is hungry, they may not latch on immediately. Try not to stress out about it. Keep your baby to your breast in a comfortable position—if they still don't latch, hand express some milk and try to feed them again. Expressing helps make them aware of the milk source, and they will likely latch on.
Feed and Burp Often
Newborns have little stomachs, so they feed every two to four hours. You may need to wake them up to feed to ensure they get the necessary nutrients.
Once the baby stops eating from one breast, burp them and offer the other breast. Burping is an integral part of feeding. As they swallow milk, air bubbles can become trapped in their stomach, making for an uncomfortable crabby baby. Coaxing out a burp after feeding reduces gassiness and helps prevent future spit-ups.
Anticipate Cluster Feeding
Cluster feeding happens in the first few days and around growth spurts, so breastfed babies may appear more ravenous and want to feed more seemingly out of nowhere. This amplified hunger is completely normal and can happen every 20 minutes to 2 hours. Cluster feeding helps signal the mom's body to produce more milk. Anticipate cluster feedings to happen around three weeks, six weeks, three months, and six months old.
Breastfeeding Isn't Always Easy
It can take many weeks of breastfeeding before you find yourself in a good place. Even then, if you have any issues or questions, bring them up with a medical professional early.
If you have any breastfeeding concerns, don't try to keep forcing it, there may be a reason for difficulties. Share your concerns with your doctor or lactation consultant as soon as possible.
You might not "get" breastfeeding immediately and that's okay. Some professional help and advice may be the thing you need.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself Too
Having and breastfeeding a baby is a highly emotional journey. Make sure to tend to your well-being, reach out to your village, and ask for help if needed. Stress can negatively affect your milk supply, so taking care of yourself actually helps you feed your baby.
As hard as it is to put yourself first sometimes, breastfeeding will seem more manageable if you are getting enough rest, staying hydrated, and having a little time to yourself—take a bath, read a book, go for a walk, or something else you enjoy. Filling your own cup may help you feel more capable as a parent—even on the hard days.
Fed is Best
Remember, even if you have decided to breastfeed, it might not be in the cards—and that's perfectly okay! No matter how you feed your baby, their full tummy is what matters, not how they get their nutrients.
We wish you the best of luck on your breastfeeding journey, and enjoy the bonding time with your baby in your arms no matter how your baby is fed.