Whether this is your first child or second child, I want to take a moment to welcome you here to this space. Some of you may access this article before your infant arrives, and some of you after. Learning about breastfeeding and how to create a smooth feeding relationship is important at any stage.
So when we are thinking about breastfeeding success sometimes our families have other ideas about what that means, and their suggestions may conflict with what you have learned or what your goals are. It’s important for me to assert that surrounding yourself with supportive people who aren’t busy telling you horror stories is critical to success. It’s really sad that your cousin’s friend’s daughter wouldn’t breastfeed and only took formula, but that really has nothing to do with you and your journey. The same goes for your bestfriend’s torn up nipples; not really about you and just serves to increase worry.
What’s real versus what’s not real is this:
Infants need to eat often and they will yell if that doesn’t happen. Your job as a parent is to offer to breastfeed every time your baby seems hungry whether that is a cluster of feeds that occurs many times over two hours, or on a rhythm of every 2-3 hours, including nights.
Scheduling feedings is good for adults but bad for babies. They need to eat way more than you might think. This means when your baby is brand new they communicate their hunger by squirming around, trying to eat their hand, trying to latch to your husbands ear - basically anytime they go poop or pee they made room for more milk. I try to tell people if the infant is awake at all it’s an early feeding opportunity.Babies need to be held and placing them in direct contact with your skin will enhance breastfeeding/feeding behaviors. Immediately after breastfeeding/chestfeeding your baby’s expectation is to be on your body. That doesn’t change much over the next few months. Everyone wants to swaddle a baby and put them down, babies don’t want that though. If there is a layer of clothes between you and your baby while they are feeding, how do they know they are in the right place? Many times they act confused, or don’t open their mouth wide enough.
Infants grow and thrive on an exclusive breastmilk diet. Your milk has everything your baby needs, including immune system support! The milk changes to meet the needs of your baby. Studies show that as an infant ages, the components of breastmilk change. For an example as the quantity of milk goes down like when you have a weaning child, the immune properties go up. This absolutely doesn't meant that you should withhold food if you have a low supply. It just means that your labor making milk is important. Formula is a tool and I don't feel like its helpful to demonize it.
Breastfeeding has never been solely about breastmilk transfer. It is about meeting the emotional needs of the infant at the breast/chest. Soothing and reassuring your baby. Teaching your baby who they are, in relation to who you are. With breastfeeding/chestfeeding my goal is to help parents build and emotionally intact infant. It can be done many ways and you will have your own version.
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be painful, but you might be a little bit sore for the first few weeks. Real pain with feeding means something is wrong. So when people share that their nipples were bloody at first and then they toughened up what I am hearing is: “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I started to get better, and finally my latching stopped hurting my nipples.”
My question to you as a mother/parent is, why not just learn how to do it without the cracked nipples and pain the first time? I know, It’s a good question right? :)
Anatomy of the Breast
What do you know about your breasts/chest? I have found that most people never really think about the breasts/chest in relation to their biological purpose. They are mostly just with us along for the ride, filling out our clothes with no real purpose until it comes to feeding. During pregnancy the glandular tissue starts to change because of hormones. They become tender, they fill out, and you may see more veins develop on your breasts, and upper chest area.
Breast changes at the beginning of pregnancy tend to be glandular and important to function and making milk, breast changes towards the end of pregnancy are mostly padding or fatty tissue. The important part of breast/chest changes is that they are normal and we expect them. It is during this time that you may experience the breast/chest changing position or being lower placed. You might hear friends say that breastfeeding makes breasts sagging but it’s not breastfeeding- its actual pregnancy that does that.
The human breast/chest area comes in many sizes and shapes. A small breast can make just as much as a larger one. What we are hopeful to see is breast growth during pregnancy and more veining on the outsides. If you skin is darker you might not notice it. You will notice darkening of the areola, and some women notice more pronounced Montgomery glands. Those help lubricate the outside of the nipple. Some people see the kertin plugs in the breast which look like crusty skin on the tip of the nipple. That’s normal!
Here is a picture of the breast.
Notice the grape like clusters depicted in the inside of the breast- those are the part of the breast/glandular tissue that make the milk. The pathway to the nipple from the areolar clusters is called a duct. They are small tubes, and carry the milk. There are many convoluted paths to the breast and they weave through the breast. There isn’t a straight pathway to the nipple. Some of the breast is fat, some is the working part of the breast which I like to describe as the engine of the breast!
(c) Copyright 2023 Serena Meyer RN IBCLC