August 1-7 is world breastfeeding week – a time set aside to spread awareness and encouragement for breastfeeding and the volunteers/organizations that help mothers succeed. In honor of this week I interviewed Dr. Alan Greene, Princeton graduate and father of four, about breastfeeding a newborn.
I was introduced to Dr. Greene last week when a poorly written press release arrived in my inbox. I used the misinformation in the release as examples of bad advice mothers are told that sometimes leads to cessation of breastfeeding. Dr. Greene read my post and clarified many of the points.
He is a dedicated supporter of breastfeeding. We chatted about the most difficult time for mothers – breastfeeding during the first 4 weeks.
Here are a few quick & easy tips for breastfeeding newborns, direct from Dr. Greene, and with added information from IBCLCs (lactation consultants).
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
The easiest way to tell if baby is getting enough milk is to pay attention to the wet/dirty diapers. I found a helpful printout put together by IBCLC Vergie Hughes for Ameda. It explains things very detailed and concisely.
How can I increase my supply?
If you notice any of those signs listed above, Dr. Greene gave four tips for increasing supply.
- Drink more water – Annie’s tip – always have a glass of water sitting next to where you nurse most so you can sip on it while you nurse.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps – This is way easier said than done, especially if the baby is not your first. Those early days of breastfeeding can be tough, trying to figure everything out. The more well-rested your body is, the better you will be able to handle it all mentally/emotionally. Dr. Greene stated moms should “take advantage of the sleepy feeling that happens when you nurse,” and should not fight it.
- Take Fenugreek – Fenugreek is an herb that is known in some women to increase milk supply
- Ask for back rubs – This is not scientifically proven to increase supply, Dr. Greene said, but it does help to decrease stress and help a new mom feel better. Annie thinks this is the best tip ever 🙂
How do you handle cluster feeds?
In the first 2 months, some babies experience what is called “cluster feeding.” This usually happens in the evening and tiny babies are just all around unhappy unless they are nursing. KellyMom.com describes cluster feeding as when a “baby may nurse every hour (or even constantly) between 6 and 10 PM, then have a longish stretch of sleep at night – baby may even sleep all night.”
Dr. Greene compassionately gave a few tips for dealing with these exhausting hours. First, if breastfeeding is well established, you can try meeting the baby’s need for non-nutritive sucking with a pacifier.
He also suggested using other aids like swings and slings. My personal favorite when Lucy went through this stage was the Sleepy Wrap, pictured to the left.
But over all, Dr. Greene said you just have to find a way to get through it. KellyMom.com has a wonderful resource. La Leche League meetings are a great place to find other nursing moms that experienced the same thing and can offer support and encouragement.
“It gets much easier as time goes on,” Dr. Greene encouraged. “For most, [breastfeeding] becomes second nature before too long, so don’t give up.”
Dr. Greene’s Tips:
Don’t give up, seek help if you are worried or having trouble, and learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. One thing that bothers him most is when moms will bring their babies in for the one-week well-child visit and say they switched to formula because they didn’t think they made enough milk.
A few common myths Dr. Greene said lead to this conclusion:
- Baby lost weight – It is normal for babies to lose weight in the first week. According to Mayo Clinic, babies will often regain their birth weight within 2 weeks and unless the baby loses more than 10 per cent of birth weight there is no cause for alarm.
- Baby seems hungry all the time – Some babies nurse more than others and frequent nursing can help establish and maintain milk supply, so stick with it.
Overall, it takes dedication, support and education to get through the “hump” of the first 4 weeks of breastfeeding a brand new baby. Remember, this is new for you and for the baby. Add exhaustion and a flood of crazy-weird hormones and you have a weepy, confused mama. (At least that is how it was for me!) Lactation consultants and compassionate La Leche League leaders are there to help, don’t be afraid to ask. It gets easier once you get through the hardest part.
What is your experience breastfeeding a newborn? Share your stories! In honor of world breastfeeding week, I’d love to hear what you experienced.