One of the hardest skills that new moms have to master is breastfeeding. It's almost like going through college — mom can study up and think that she has all the answers, but that doesn't mean that she will ace the exam. Oh, and just like college, there are a lot of all-nighters.
According to research studies, breastfeeding can have notable impacts on the baby's health and intelligence, which has caused a large majority of moms these days to plan to nurse their baby. But the number of moms who make it to the baby's first birthday, which is the recommendation of the experts, is much lower. That's why we have set up this guide.
We want moms to be smart in their approach to nursing, since it can benefit the mother and the baby for years. There are some moms who might get an A on paper but who struggle physically with the job, and we want them to remember that the most important part is for the baby to be healthy and thriving and also that mother's health is a top priority. But for many women, these tips might help them reach their goals and graduate with honors.
Here are 20 ways smart moms do breastfeeding differently.
20 They Research A Good Latch
One of the biggest things to learn in those pre-birth study sessions is what a good latch is and how to get it. That can make all the difference in terms of making sure the baby gets all the nutrients he needs, keeping up the breastmilk supply and keeping the breastfeeding experience as enjoyable and pain-free as possible.
A good latch happens when the baby opens her mouth wide, keeps her tongue down and takes in the majority of the tip. You can tell if the latch is good if you can see the baby's entire jaw, all the way up to the ears, moving with each suck. The initial let-down might be intense, but any pain should only last a second. A smart mom will understand that and will research to learn the signs of a good latch because it's the basis of having a good breastfeeding experience.
19 They Prepare Before The Birth
Smart kids don't just show up for the test and get an A — they study beforehand. That's what smart moms do when they breastfeed. They know that they need to prepare for it ahead of time, and that includes learning all that they can. There are tons of books on the subject, along with a lot of materials online that can help a mom know what to expect and how to get it going.
One of the best ways to prepare for breastfeeding is to take a class. The local La Leche League often has courses, and so do many hospitals with birth centers. Moms can get some tips and also find out if they need any supplies, such as lanolin, which can help the woman's breasts from cracking. A smart mom is ready for the ultimate test before the baby is born.
18 They Change Their Menu
Moms-to-be have to make changes to their diet during pregnancy to ensure the baby is healthy, and as much as they'd like to return to normal, a smart mom will change her diet while she breastfeeds for the same reason. There are a couple of reasons that diet is important and one is that newborns can be sensitive to certain things. If the baby tends to have a lot of gas when the mom eats broccoli or beans or he has a lot more reflux with dairy products, cutting those out of the mom's diet can make life much easier.
In addition, there are a number of foods that can increase a woman's breastmilk supply. A smart mom learns that in her research, and she is sure to make some lactation cookies and buy some mother's milk tea so that she is guaranteed to have enough milk for her baby.
17 They Supplement When The Baby Isn't Getting bigger
There are a lot of women these days who believe that giving the baby any formula is a total failure on their part. They fight the idea of supplementing to the point where it could have tragic results. And while it is true that moms make more milk if the nurse, it is a terrible idea to ignore doctor's recommendations when the baby is failing to thrive. Some moms, especially first-timers, might not have a good enough milk supply in those first few weeks, and the baby might not gain enough weight. Some newborns have become so dehydrated that they have died, so supplementing can actually save their lives.
Instead of viewing supplementing as a failure, smart moms listen to the doctor and make sure that the baby is healthy. They can do other things to boost their milk supply, including pumping. And giving a little bit of formula early means they can continue to nurse in the long term with a healthy, thriving baby.
16 They Watch Out For Rooting
It's one thing to feed your baby when he cries. But smart moms understand that their baby is showing signs of hunger long before he starts to cry, and it's better to feed him before he starts to wail and is too wound up to nurse.
Rooting is one signal that all newborns show when they are ready to eat. They will turn their head toward a person's breast (even if dad is holding them) and kind of bang their little head. They will suck on their fingers and start to fuss long before the crying begins. It's harder to get a good latch when the baby is crying, so smart moms watch out for the early signs of rooting so that they can a better, more relaxed nursing session.
15 They Use Their Milk For Other Reasons
Breastmilk is nutritious, but it's not just good for baby's tummy. There are a number of other things that mom's can use their milk for, and if they are a smart mom, they won't hesitate to put a little on a break out so they avoid getting huge zits or face other issues.
Breastmilk has immunities and healing properties that can help a newborn stave off illnesses, but those properties can also be applied to an eye infection, if needed. Some people even choose to make soap or other products, if they have enough milk to spare. If nothing else, breastmilk should be rubbed on the tips of the breasts after each feeding to help those sensitive areas heal.
14 They Make Sure They Are Comfortable In Public
Different women have different attitudes about nursing in public. Some are fine with pulling up their shirt or undoing a tank strap and letting the baby eat no matter the circumstance, but others would feel better with a cover on top. Either choice is legal and appropriate, but a smart mom isn't bothered by other's opinions.
The most important part of this equation for smart moms is that they are comfortable. In some circumstances, that might mean that they need to take a seat someplace quiet, even if that means going to the dressing room at Target, like Jessica Alba did. For others, it's no big deal to nurse without a cover at the park. A nursing session doesn't go well if you are uncomfortable, so a smart mom makes it so, and she adapts to the situation, even in public.
13 They Invest In A Good Breastpump
These days most moms need a breast pump, so a smart mom will invest in a good one to make sure that they can provide their milk even when they are apart from their little one. The best model really depends on the mom and how she plans to use it, and that means a smart mom is going to research and analyze until she gets the right one.
A mom who goes back to work could make good use of a double electric pump. It can allow her to pump a couple times a day at work so her baby can continue to have her milk while she is working. Stay-at-home moms likely need a break or a date night every once in a while, so a single, manual pump might suffice, and it can even help boost the milk supply if necessary. A good pump can help a mom continue to nurse her child most of the time while allowing for times apart, so it's one of the most important apparatuses to invest in for smart moms.
12 They Drink A Lot Of Water
Hydration is the key to a lot of things. It helps our skin and our hair and does so much to improve kidney function and other health impacts. It also does a lot to improve breastmilk supply, so smart moms also keep a bottle of water nearby.
Doctors and lactation consultants recommend that women keep some water at her favorite spot to nurse, since moms can be overcome with nurse when they have a let down. It makes a lot of sense that it takes water to make breastmilk, so women who are smart enough to keep themselves hydrated are more likely to build a healthy milk supply. It's not a magic bullet for some, but it can really help.
11 They Nurse On Demand
In the first week or so of life, newborns might have to be awakened in time for their next feeding. But once the baby is thriving, some moms want to immediately get their baby on a schedule. But smart moms don't pay as much attention to the clock as to their baby's tummy.
Doctors and lactation consultants recommend that smart moms nurse on demand, which means that one feeding might be two hours later and the other is only about a half-hour away. The nursing sessions can be more frequent during a birth sport, but sometimes it can fell like a mom is nursing around the clock. But some moms know it is the smart way to d it, so they make sure they are ready for round-the-clock nursing.
10 They Set Small Goals
Getting through breastfeeding can be a struggle, and women should feel proud for every milestone. While we hope that all moms that can follow the American Academy of Pediatrics goal of providing breastmilk for the baby's first year of life, a smart mom will set small goals at the beginning as well.
For many, a goal of breastfeeding for a year can put too much pressure on a mom, especially when she is dealing with postpartum pain and hormones, exhaustion and the stress of being a new parent. Instead, she should focus on getting the baby back to his birth weight, on making it through the first month and then two and then three. Small goals mean that a new mom can celebrate each achievement, and it makes her feel successful early on and that can help her to reach her long term goals as well.
9 They Take Supplements
Many women are really into herbal natural remedies these days. That's because we understand the value of supplementing our own diets with other vitamins and minerals that might not be in the foods that we like to eat. Some women take vitamins for the first time since they were children when they get pregnant, but smart women know that they shouldn't stop after the birth, especially if they are breastfeeding.
Even the healthiest diets often lack a few of the best nutrients that can make a difference. Moms are likely to need more calcium, zinc, vitamin B and E as well as magnesium, phosphorus, iron and folic acid. These nutritious vitamins help he mom to be healthy and they are passed on to the growing newborn, so it's really great to continue taking prenatal vitamins or other vitamins to make everyone healthier.
8 They Don't Let Illness Stop Them
No mom wants to spread germs to her baby. That's why a lot of women start nursing when they start to get sick. But the smart women know that breastfeeding is actually protecting their child from getting their illness, so it's the not the time to give up. When you get sick, your body makes natural antibodies to fight the disease, and those antibodies get passed on to the baby through breastmilk, which means that it's a great time to help your baby by nursing.
Some women also get sick from breastfeeding by getting a clogged duct and developing an infection called mastitis. They might want to give up, since the infection can be painful and it can feel like they have the flu. Again, it's not the time to give up. Smart moms know that the baby breastfeeding can pull out the clog in the milk duct and help the mom get better faster. Don't let illness stop you from nursing, as that can just make things worse.
7 They Figure Out The Night Feedings
Night feedings might be the hardest part of breastfeeding, after the first month or so. Women hear that formula-fed babies sleep for longer stretches and they consider giving up so that they can have a little more shut eye themselves. That's why smart moms realize that if they can figure out the night feedings everything else will start to fall in place.
For some, the best solution is to share a room with the baby so that you can respond more quickly. Others prefer to bed-share, although doctors warn that it could be dangerous to co-sleep without precautions. It can take some babies more than a year to fully sleep through the night, although most sleep for five or six hour stretches at around the five-month mark. It might seem like this phase will never end, but smart moms remember that the night feedings are only a temporary issue and the baby will sleep longer soon.
6 They Strategize Their Breastfeeding Sessions
This is a trick that can help moms, although we don't recommend that you do it in the first few weeks with the baby. When the baby is tiny and needs to be regaining weight, the baby definitely needs to eat every couple of hours or even more often. But once he is thriving, smart moms can strategize their breastfeeding sessions. For example, nurse right before leaving the baby home with daddy to go to the store so you don't have to worry about him getting hungry while you are gone.
This is especially useful for working moms. They should try to nurse the baby right before they leave them at daycare and then plan out the timing for their pumping sessions accordingly. They should try to nurse again soon after picking up the baby too. It's important — and smart — to figure out a strategy that allows as much time nursing as possible, since that helps in keeping the milk supply up.
5 They Wait On Bottles And Pacis
Plenty of smart, successful breastfeeding moms give their babies bottles, especially if they have to go back to work. It's a part of the journey. But the key for success is that you should wait a little bit to introduce it to the baby. While some people say that it's not a big deal, others say that newborns can get confusion, which can cause them to reject the breast. But if you wait a month or so, it doesn't happen.
We don't want to hate on pacifiers either. In fact, research has shown that pacis might actually help to avoid SIDS, and that is definitely worth allowing the baby to have a soother. But again, it might be better to wait a few weeks to make sure that the baby gets the hang of nursing first.
4 They Talk To Experts
Smart people know that they aren't always equipped to understand things. They might be an expert in one area, but that doesn't mean that they know everything. So they know that one of the wisest things they can do is to talk to someone who is an expert in that area.
For breastfeeding moms, that means talking to a lactation consultant. Most hospitals have trained lactation consultants on staff, and many midwives are trained as well. In addition, many insurance companies allow for free tele-consultations with experts. They can provide feedback on the latch and give tips to help with the milk supply. It's smart to learn all that you can from the experts so you can practically become one yourself.
3 They Pump And Dump When Necessary
We absolutely understand that there are times when a new mom might like to have a glass of wine during a girls' night or date night. It's OK for a woman to have a life outside of motherhood, even if she is breastfeeding. But the smart mom makes sure that she has pumped enough milk for the baby, and she will pump after she indulges and dump the tainted milk.
Building up a supply of pumped milk can be difficult, but it allows moms to have some time to themselves. It's OK to have the occasional indulgence, as long as the baby doesn't have to partake, so pumping and dumping is the smart moms way to have a night out while still being a responsible nursing mother.
2 They Don't Put Up With Pain
Moms always say that they would be willing to go through any pain for their baby's sake, and while we believe them, smart moms know that if they are breastfeeding, they do not have to put up with the pain. In fact, it makes it worse for the mom and the baby if they do.
While the first few weeks can include a lot of soreness and the first few moments of nursing might hurt, a nursing session won't hurt if the baby has a good latch. A mom might be hesitant to unlatch the baby and try again, but it's the best thing to do, since a bad latch can cause the breast tips to be damaged. The baby can get frustrated and stay hungry, and the mom's breastmilk supply can suffer. The smart move is to not put up with the pain and unlatch and try again.
1 They Keep Going After The First Birthday
Women who breastfeed should be applauded for every milestone they reach. The ones who give their baby the beneficial colostrum in the first few days after the birth are to be commended, and if they make it a few months before going back to work, that's awesome. Making it to the first birthday is an amazing feat for many, and it is the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But a smart mom will keep going even longer.
That's because research has shown that breastfeeding longer has been tied to more success for the baby. Some studies say that breastfed babies are smarter and healthier, and every milestone helps a little bit more. Smart moms won't limit themselves when the circumstances can allow them to continue, although there are very valid medical and social reasons that might mean the perfect time to quit happens earlier. A smart mom knows when it's time to wean, and she's confident that she has done her best for her little one.