The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for about 6 months because it is considered the best source of nutrition for your baby. However, not all moms find breastfeeding easy, particularly if there is an issue with milk supply.
How A Lactation Consultant Can Help With Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a skill that you and your baby learn together, and it takes time, patience, and practice. In the learning stages, it can be frustrating and uncomfortable, and many women encounter problems ranging from sore nipples and engorged painful breasts to clogged milk ducts and poor milk supply. If you are finding breastfeeding difficult, there is a solution. A lactation consultant is a trained professional who can offer ongoing, one-to-one breastfeeding support to mothers. They can help in a number of different areas, including:
- Nursing positions
- Poor milk supply
- Babies not gaining sufficient weight
- Emotional and physical barriers to breastfeeding
- Babies who cluster-feed (feed for prolonged periods)
- Babies who refuse to breastfeed
- Babies that fall asleep during feeds
- Expressing and storing breast milk
Signs Of Breastfeeding Problems
Many women find breastfeeding difficult, especially in the early stages. If there is a problem, it can become increasingly worse if not resolved quickly, and may lead to bigger problems later on. Don’t hesitate to seek advice from a lactation consultant or your pediatrician if you are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding. Signs there may be a problem are the following:
- Having very short or long feeding sessions
- Your baby still seems hungry after most feeds
- Your newborn is frequently missing feeds or is sleeping too long through the nigh
- Concerns about milk supply, such as your milk hasn’t come in after 5 days, or your breasts don’t feel like they are filling with mil
- Your baby isn’t gaining sufficient weight
- After 7 days, your baby has fewer than six wet diapers and four stools per day, or their urine or stools do not look normal
- You are experiencing severe breast engorgement, which is preventing your baby from latching on correctly or is not reducing by the end of a feed
- You have severe pain that interferes with feedings, such as sore or cracked nipples, or breast pain that may result from mastitis (an infection)
Problems With Milk Supply
When learning to breastfeed, many new moms worry that they are not making enough milk for their baby. This may be because their breasts no longer feel full, or because their baby seems unsettled or wants to feed for prolonged periods. These are not necessarily signs that milk supply is low. As long as your baby is growing and putting weight on as expected, and they are staying in a healthy growth percentile range just on your milk alone, your milk supply is most likely fine.
If your baby is not growing as well as they should on your milk alone, you may be making less than your baby needs. There are a number of factors that can affect milk supply, including:
- A slow start with breastfeeding or if not enough milk was removed from your breasts in the early days after birth
- Not breastfeeding often enough
- Ineffective latch or poor feeding position
- Supplementing breastfeeding with formula
- Hormonal conditions
- Anxiety, stress, or depression
- Previous breast surgery
- Retained placenta
- Certain medications
Problems with breast milk supply are a common issue, but the good news is that in many cases, these issues can be resolved with commitment and perseverance. A lactation consultant can help you if you are having breastfeeding problems, such as a reduction in your milk supply. They will work directly with you to try to identify the issue and to develop a personalized solution to overcome your breastfeeding problem.
Improving Nursing Position and Attachment
Effective attachment and positioning are key to ensuring your baby feeds well and that you produce enough milk. If your baby is not able to attach at the breast correctly, this can affect milk supply and cause discomfort when feeding, such as nipple soreness and skin damage. Your lactation consultant will work with you to develop an effective nursing position that is comfortable and works for you and your baby.
Encouraging Active Feeding
If your baby is feeding effectively, you should feel long, deep sucks and their cheeks should stay rounded as they feed. You should be able to hear your baby swallowing after every 1-2 sucks. Your baby should seem calm and should come off the breast themselves when they have had enough milk. Breast compressions and switching sides can help to increase milk supply and encourage your baby to feed for longer.
Skin to Skin Contact
Skin to skin contact is an important factor in milk production. Not only can it enhance the bond between you and your baby and encourage an interest in feeding, but it can also help to stimulate the milk-making hormones within the body. Babies who have regular skin to skin contact are also better able to latch properly to the breast.
While working to increase your milk supply, you will want to encourage your baby to feed as often as possible. Babies feed better when they are calm. Try to feed your baby when they are interested in feeding (turning their head and opening their mouth, licking lips, or becoming restless during sleep) but before they become upset and hungry. If your breasts feel full or you want to feed your baby, you can always offer them a feed, even if they are not showing obvious signs of interest.
When To Express Breast Milk
Expressing breast milk can help to stimulate milk production, particularly if the above steps do not result in an increased milk supply. You may also want to express milk for other reasons, such as if you have to be away from your baby, your breasts are engorged, you want to share feeds with your partner, if your baby is unable to latch well, or if they finish a feed too soon. Breast milk can be expressed manually, with a manual breast pump, or with an electric breast pump. Your lactation consultant can give you advice and show you how to express your breast milk most effectively.
Storing Breast Milk
If you are expressing your milk, it can be useful to store any extra breast milk you may have. Breast milk can be stored in a sterilized container or in special breast milk storage bags. It should only be stored in small batches (2-4 ounces) to prevent waste. Storage guidelines are as follows:
- Freshly expressed milk can safely remain at room temperature (up to 77° F) for 4 hours and for up to 8 hours for very cleanly expressed breast milk. If there is remaining breast milk in a bottle following a feed, this should be used within 2 hours at room temperature or refrigerated for the next feed.
- Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored safely at the back of a refrigerator for up to 8 days (when stored below 39° F).
- When freezing breast milk, store it at the back of the freezer. It will expand when frozen, so ensure milk is not filled to the top of the container. It can be frozen for up to 9 months when at 0° F or colder, or for up to 12 months when in the deep freezer (-4° F or colder).
To warm refrigerated breast milk, either place it in a bowl of warm water or run it under warm water. Frozen breast milk should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight. Microwaving breast milk is not recommended, as this increases the risk of scalding your baby with hot milk.
Lactation Services in St. Petersburg/Tampa, Florida
At the Children’s Medical Center, we have dedicated lactation consultants available to support moms and their babies. Our compassionate consultants offer personalized support to help you successfully breastfeed your baby.
If you would like to find out more about how a lactation consultant can help you, or about any of our other comprehensive pediatric services, contact us at our Trinity, Westchase, or Palm Harbor location. Alternatively, you can schedule a consultation online, using our convenient online request form.