Breastfeeding isn't a walk in the park, especially for a first time mom unfamiliar with the demands that encompass the art of breastfeeding. Although humans have been breastfeeding for about 5 million years, the 21st century has brought about a lot of new scientific research and even more products geared toward the breastfeeding mother, making the decision to breastfeed even more complex and confusing.
Just remember that every woman's breastfeeding journey will be different, but, the end results should be about the same: if the main source of nourishment for a child is his or her mother, breastfeeding should be thought of as nothing short of miraculous. Keeping that in mind, it is so important to enjoy one's breastfeeding journey and embrace watching infants grow into healthy toddlers, all the while knowing that only a mother's body could have made that possible.
So sit back and relax. We've compiled a list of 20 things that experts, lactation consultants, pediatricians, and breastfeeding support sponsors all look for as indicators of a true breastfeeding champion. Embrace your little one and know that moms who can answer 'yes' to these 20 things are a natural at breastfeeding.
20 Is The Baby Packing Enough Pounds?
"Weight gain in a newborn is the easiest way to tell whether or not they are developing healthily," says pediatrician Wendy Wu. For breastfed babies, however, it is important for parents to not over obsess with an exact number of pounds and ounces.
Since each baby develops at his or her own pace, especially when they are breastfed, it is normal that some babies do not reach the weight estimates that some doctors say your baby should reach by a certain time. Always ask your child's pediatrician to factor in the fact that your child is breastfed and usually, as long as he or she is gaining steadily, you can give yourself a high five mom, that means you are doing a great job.
19 At Least Three Wet Diapers A Day?
If your child is producing three or more wet diapers and at least one soiled diaper each day on an exclusively breastfed diet, you're a natural at breastfeeding, mom. Most pediatricians will tell you that you can, as a general rule of thumb, count the number of daily diapers. After all, what goes in, must come out.
Though after about 4-6 weeks of age, most babies can have infrequent bowel movements since breastmilk is more nutritious and faster absorbed than formula. Sometimes an older breastfed baby can go up to one week without any soiled diapers.
18 Can You See & Hear A Swallow?
As weird as it may sound, being able to see and hear your little one swallow while he or she is feeding is a great indicator of your milk flow. Once you see the suckle and swallow you will know that your infant is surely getting your milk.
Many breastfeeding mothers often wonder whether their child is getting enough, or whether he or she is latching properly, so hearing your little one swallow should set your mind at ease. According to MOBI, milk flow is at the heart of feeding it is important to pay attention to how your baby reacts to your milk flow.
17 A Little Bit Of Soreness?
Despite theories and rumors, breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. At the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, it is normal to have a little soreness as your body adjusts to your little one's suckle, but it should not be painful.
"Dry, cracked, or bleeding nipples can be a sign of serious latch issues", says Teresa Pitman, lactation consultant. It is also normal to experience discomfort toward the beginning of your breastfeeding journey as your milk comes in. You may also experience temporary engorgement, but if these symptoms last or become unbearable you should seek assistance from a lactation consultant or a medical professional.
16 Does The Baby Have Flared Lips?
We've all seen the selfies with the celebrities sporting duck lips, but did you know that flaring lips can actually have a purpose? Flared lips are actually a sign of a good latch. A good latch is when more than just your nipple is in your baby's mouth at a time, part of your areola should not be visible while he or she is eating as well, this is so you don't feel a lot of concentrated tugging while he or she is trying to extract milk.
So if you see flanged lips on your little one congratulate yourself mom, you two are naturals! Just remember that it takes work, so if you do not see duck lips on the first attempt, there is still time.
15 Cheeks Don't Look Sunken?
Are your little one's cheeks sunken in while he or she is eating? If they are you should consider readjusting your latch. Your little one's cheeks should appear normal as they are eating. This shows that they are not overworking to try to stimulate a letdown nor are they sucking too hard to get any milk.
An infant who has to work too hard to get milk can become fussy and in extreme cases, begin to refuse the breast. If you notice your little one sucking too hard try to readjust and relax. But if you can say 'yes' to the question as to whether or not your baby's cheeks appear normal during a feeding, you deserve a round of applause, you're a natural, momma.
14 Does The Baby Pause?
Many moms question why their baby will abruptly stop during a feeding then begin again a few moments later. There can be a number of reasons. Some child development specialists say that a baby who stops to pause and looks up at mom is using that time to bond and build attachment with his mother.
MOBI says that a pause could mean that your baby needs to pause so he or she can swallow if you have a forceful letdown. And others say the pause is just to look off into the distance to ponder life's greatest mysteries, or at least that's how it seems. So if your baby pauses during a feeding there is a pretty good chance he or she is getting a good amount of milk and you are doing everything right. Great Job.
13 Ever Feel The “Let Down?"
The let-down reflux as it is known in the breastfeeding community is the pins and needles sensation moms get when their body signals the need for milk to be released from the breast. It's a reflex that happens when nerves in the breast are stimulated, usually by your baby's sucking, and signal the release of oxytocin, a hormone that prompts tiny muscles around your milk-producing cells to contract, squeezing milk into the ducts.
The letdown should not be painful. If letdown is a bit painful, you may be suffering from clogged ducts or mastitis, a very serious obstruction of milk ducts, if this is the case you should seek medical attention as it could affect your supply.
12 Milk Mustache, Anyone?
While your little one is drinking can you see your milk begin to pool on the sides of his or her mouth? If so, this is a good sign that your milk is flowing and that he or she has a great latch. Plus, what's cuter than a little baby milk mustache?
If you do not see a milk pool around your little one's mouth, do not fret, some babies whose moms have a slower milk flow will drink the milk quicker than it will pool. This is okay. Just make sure you are looking out for signs of infant growth like wet and soiled diapers and steady weight gain.
11 Is Your Baby Zen?
One of the best indicators that you're doing this whole breastfeeding thing right is when your baby is calm and peaceful after a feeding. You know how you feel really content and warm after a great meal? Well, it works the same way for your little one.
If your baby detaches from the breast and seems fussy or agitated, then chances are he or she is not getting enough milk and it may be time to switch sides or try to massage the breasts to stimulate more milk flow. But try not to worry moms, if your little one is not calm after a feeding you can try a variety of things like new feeding positions and milk enhancing herbs to make the experience better for your little one.
10 Does The Baby Fall Asleep After Eating?
Nighttime feedings are the best for a fussy baby. Especially during periods of growth spurts or teething. If you notice your baby falls asleep after eating and stays asleep for at least 3 hours, congrats mom, you are a natural at breastfeeding.
Some researchers say that if your baby falls asleep during a feed though, and it seems he or she hasn't been eating for a while but was fussy at the start of a feed, or wakes up crying shortly after falling asleep, it is highly likely that your baby may just be very tired, or he or she gave up after trying repeatedly to encourage let down. The best thing to do is to monitor your baby to see what is going on.
9 Do You Feel Lighter?
Do your breasts feel lighter after nursing your little one? If so, that means you are doing this breastfeeding thing right. When you first begin breastfeeding you might notice your breasts filling significantly, to the point where you may find yourself running toward your baby or pump looking for some relief.
But as your little one grows older and your milk supply begins to regulate to accommodate his or her needs, your breasts may feel normalized and less full, this is okay as long as you still get that letdown sensation when your little one latches. Either way, you should feel somewhat lighter after each feed. If you don't you may need to pump to alleviate further engorgement.
8 Can You See The Baby's Nose?
Is your baby's nose visible when he or she is latched? If so, that's awesome. Babies breathe exclusively out of their nose for the first few months of life. They are what the Huffington Post refers to as obligate nose breathers. It is not until they are much older that they learn how to breathe out of their mouths. So if you can see your little one's nose while he or she is eating, that is a good thing, since it means they can breathe. So if you said 'yes' to this question, time to jump for joy, mom, you're a breastfeeding natural.
7 Does The Baby Look For You?
Does your little one root or look for your breast before a feed? The rooting reflex is a good sign that your little one wants to eat, can smell your milk, and is waiting for you to feed them. But even more than that, it shows that he or she enjoys when you feed him or her. This shows that you guys make up a great team. You both are naturals at breastfeeding. If your baby does not look for your breast and just cries instead, try expressing a bit of milk to alert your little one of where he or she is supposed to eat.
6 Does The Baby Seem Happy Or Relieved?
If your baby is anything like mine, he or she will work up quite a sweat letting you know it is time to eat. And once they finally latch and start to eat, a look of relief will come over them like your milk is the best thing in the world.
A healthy, happy baby will latch on, nurse, and seem generally content on the breast. Baby may come off and need a burp or want to switch sides while nursing, but typically will nurse quietly until finished. And when they are finished nursing, most babies will come off and seem satisfied. They may fall asleep, or they may stay awake, but they shouldn’t be fussy or act like they need to eat again. Some babies will be a little fussy until they burp, and then settle down, which is normal.
5 Does It All Fit?
When you feed your baby does most of the tip of your breast disappear into his or her mouth? It should. Nursing on the nipple alone can be dangerous. It can cause pain for mom and mean a lot of extra work for your baby. The American Pregnancy Association says that the most important part of successful breastfeeding is the latch.
They suggest trying to get as much of the lower portion of your areola into the baby's mouth. If your baby is not properly latched on to your breast, feedings could be painful. So if you notice that your areola is fully secured into your baby's mouth know that you're doing awesome!
4 Can You Feel It Deep Down?
When your little one is latched, do you feel the milk coming from deep within your breast? If so, that means that your milk flow is normal and that you are doing it right. Not feeling milk extraction deep within the breast could mean that your little one is not emptying the breast which may lead to hard, painful, tight breasts.
If you notice breast lumps developing after a few feeds where your breast is not completely emptied, try massaging the area with the lump after using a warm compress and expressing the milk. Other helpful methods are to direct your baby's chin toward the lump, as La Leche League suggests, or to pump and massage the area.
3 Are You Losing Pounds?
Many women lose weight while breastfeeding. If you notice the pounds coming off as your little one is putting them on, congratulations, you are benefiting from one of the many perks of breastfeeding.
According to the Mayo Clinic, although the average breastfeeding mom needs an additional 300-500 calories per day to keep up with the demands of being the sole source of nourishment for your little one, it is still likely and safe to lose about 1-2 pounds per month after the initial weight loss that happens when the baby is delivered. So if you are one of the lucky moms to be dropping pounds, celebrate.
2 Do You See Arms And Legs?
Your baby's hands are great cues as to how he or she is feeling, especially during feedings. Think of his fists and arms as a gas gauge. The Mayo Clinic uses these cues to help moms determine where their babies are on the hunger scale. If his or her arms are up and his hands are in fists he or she probably needs to eat but, if his arms are down and his hands open he is probably satisfied.
Usually, before your baby eats, his hands should be held in fists near his face when he or she is anticipating the nursing session. For most babies, their hands remain fisted during the letdown and as he's becoming satisfied and the milk flow slows and his hands should gradually uncurl and drop down from his face. So do your baby's hands seem relaxed after a feeding session? Woosah Mom, you got this!
1 Are The Girls Moving?
This may be the most cow-like I have ever felt in my life, but as it turns out, it is actually a good thing. Can you see your breasts move as your little one is eating? Think utters being milked. Okay, maybe not that drastic of movements, but gentle movements nonetheless. If you see some movement, La Leche League says that you are on the right track.
Gentle breast contractions during your little one's suckle are normal. Actually, Breastfeeding Support calls this stage in eating "flutter sucking" or comfort nursing. Typically your baby will just stay latched after eating to comfort themselves, and this is when the flutter will occur. As weird as it may be, it's a good thing and all a part of the journey. Great job, Mom.
References: Interviews with pediatricians, La Leche League, Parents.com, MOBI Motherhood, American Pregnancy Association, and The Mayo Clinic.