Breast is best start for babies

Published 12:41 pm Monday, November 28, 2016

By Kayla Sellers, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor

For moms, breastfeeding can be intimidating. They’ve received advice from nearly everyone on everything, especially when it comes to nursing their baby. It’s hard for moms to know what to believe and what not to believe, particularly when the advice is coming from other mothers.

While everyone means well when they give advice, it can be detrimental towards a mother’s breastfeeding success.

Likely, the most common myth is that moms have a hard time producing enough milk to satisfy their baby. While it is true that some moms have medical conditions that inhibit milk production, that number is small (roughly 5 percent of women). It’s crucial for mothers and their support groups to know how to combat these myths and help mom be successful.

As a breastfeeding peer counselor, I see how this unfortunate mistruth scares new mothers into quitting breastfeeding or prevents them from even trying.

Since you can’t visually see how much a baby drinks during a nursing session, this can cause moms to panic, thinking their baby isn’t receiving enough milk. To ease a mother’s mind, she needs to know what signs to look for.

The best way to know what a baby is taking in is by watching what they put out. A breastfed baby should have six or more, wet diapers per day, and at least three dirty diapers per day, after day five of life. When baby is less than five days old, they should have one wet diaper per day of life (two days old, two wet diapers and so on). Up until they are three days old, they should also have one dirty diaper per day of life. If a baby doesn’t have enough wet/dirty diapers in a 24-hour period, the mother should seek assistance from her baby’s pediatrician and a lactation consultant.

Even if a baby isn’t having enough wet/dirty diapers, this does not always point to a milk supply issue with the mother, but most often, it is due to baby being latched onto the breast incorrectly.

A baby who isn’t latched properly onto the breast will have a difficult time transferring the milk they need, even if latched onto the breast for hours. Poor latches can also cause sore, bleeding or cracked nipples in the mother. Because breastfeeding is supply (mother’s milk) and demand (the milk baby actually transfers from the breast), if baby isn’t transferring milk efficiently, over time this can cause an actual decrease in a mother’s milk supply. If a mother is experiencing more than a discomfort while baby is nursing, it is likely that the baby isn’t latched properly onto the breast and the mother should seek help from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding peer counselor to correct the problem as quickly as possible.

In some cases, breastfeeding is going well, baby is having plenty of wet/dirty diapers, and latching onto the breast well, but moms are still concerned because of the baby’s behavior. The mother may feel concerned that baby is crying too often, that the baby suddenly wants to nurse more frequently or nurse for longer durations. None of these necessarily mean there is a concern for mom’s milk supply.

Typically during growth spurts, a baby will be a little fussier, and they will nurse more often or for longer durations. This is the baby’s way of communicating with the mother’s body to increase her milk supply to meet baby’s growing needs. The increased nursing is called cluster feeding and should pass in a few days to a week.

During this time, it’s critical that mothers not be encouraged to supplement with formula, as it messes with the natural supply and demand of breastfeeding. If a mom replaces a feeding at the breast with a bottle, her body will not receive the signal that it needs to make more milk and it can be detrimental to her success. Unless the baby has a decrease in the amount of wet and dirty diapers, the mother should continue to nurse on demand until the growth spurt passes.

Having support from family, friends and health care professionals can make the difference in a mom continuing or quitting breastfeeding.

For the benefit of both the mom and baby, knowing how to help her when she’s concerned can be exactly what she needs to push through the hard times. If you know a mother who is in need of breastfeeding support, WIC offers the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program to their pregnant and nursing patients.

For more information, call the Clark County Health Department at (859) 744-4482. Please visit the Clark County Health Department website at clarkhealthdept.org. Find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @CCHealthDept.