Breastfeeding Or Formula: The Truth About Feeding Your Brand New Baby

Posted in New Mommy Series
on September 6, 2016

The “New Mommy Series” is a series of blog posts that are jam packed full of useful information that you need to know when you have your baby.

The first in this series covers something all new mommies need to know about…breastfeeding.  This post covers several challenges that may arise during your baby’s first few days of life that may affect breastfeeding. Being prepared for these scenarios before your baby arrives, will hopefully create less anxiety and stress over your baby’s nutrition.

Many of the topics I cover in this series, are things that, as a Mother Baby Nurse, I would love to scream from the rooftops so all new “parents-to-be” could hear them.  I know that after most parents have gone through the delivery of a new baby,  they are not in the best state of mind to be hearing or learning all of these important things about their baby’s first few days of life.  It can be overwhelming.

I hope you find this first post about breastfeeding helpful.  Feel free to leave comments and questions as well, and I will do my best to respond and get answers for you!  Enjoy…

The truth about feeding your baby from a postpartum nurse's perspective.

Beginning Your Adventure in Breastfeeding

I always say to my patients,

“Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, but it doesn’t always come naturally.”

Most new moms expect that their brand new baby will leap with joy right up to their breast, find the nipple, latch on, feed for 10 minutes, have a full tummy, & go right back to sleep for 3 hours.  This is not reality.  Sometimes, babies are able to latch really well, especially after delivery during their “awake period” (usually the first 2 hours of life).  But, most babies need a little coaxing, proper positioning, and so on to be able to breastfeed well.

When selecting the hospital you will be delivering at, make sure you inquire about their breastfeeding practices.  Ask if they have lactation consultants readily available to help while you’re in the hospital; ask if they offer lactation support after discharge; and also ask if they have breast pumps available on the maternity unit for use if you should need one.

Some challenges you may face if you’ve chosen to breastfeed, can stem from a few sources: your anatomy, your baby’s health & temperament, & your reality after delivery.

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Challenges for Mom:

First, let’s discuss some challenges you may have with your “anatomy”.  Brace yourselves…we are going to start discussing anything and everything involving boobs and nipples.  Hopefully this does not make you squirm! ?

Not all boobies are made the same.  During your pregnancy you should notice some breast change.  For example, your breasts usually grow larger, and your areolas darken.  Some women even experience leakage of colostrum (your 1st breastmilk) long before the baby is born.  Seeing some breast change is a positive sign that you are going to be able to make enough milk to feed your baby.

Make sure you mention to your nurse and/or lactation consultant if you have had breast augmentation surgery in the past, struggled with infertility, or didn’t experience any change in your breasts throughout your pregnancy.  There are various situations that could affect your long term milk supply. They can help you assess your situation and help you continue on your adventure through breastfeeding.

Another thing we assess in the breastfeeding world, is your nipples.  I know, exciting right?  Nipples are not created equal.  And, the nipples you began your pregnancy with, may not be the nipples you end up with 10 months later.  Your nurse at the hospital will assess your “nipple situation” and be able to assist in various ways.  But, just let me encourage you, to take a good honest look at your “nipple situation”, and be prepared for the possibility that you may experience some difficulty.

  If you have larger breasts with bigger-than-the-average nipples, the nurse can show you how to get a nice deep latch or educate you in pumping. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

If your nipples have become little Houdini’s and completely disappeared on you and are no where to be found, we can help you create what we affectionately call a “nipple sandwich” to help your baby latch.  If that doesn’t work, there are various apparatuses that can be fit to you, like nipple shields and shells, to help bring out your nipple to aid your baby in latching.

If you are experiencing some challenges with your anatomy, talk to your nurse and/or lactation consultant at the hospital.  They can help you develop an appropriate plan for you and your baby.

Often times, brand new moms get so excited that their baby is sucking at the breast, that they don’t take the time to focus on having a good latch.  Your baby should have a wide open mouth, be drawing breast tissue into the mouth, have a good suck swallow pattern (sometimes in which you can hear swallowing), and be able to maintain feeding for several minutes before falling asleep.

  Your nurse and/or lactation consultant will be able to assist you with holding your baby, and positioning for a proper latch.  Your nurse will assess your latch and be able to give you some pointers.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to tackle this mission alone.

If you do not have a proper latch, your baby will not be able to draw in the milk/colostrum in this early stage, and your nipples may become sore and/or cracked.

The hospital should be able to supply you with lanolin for your nipples if they do become sore, but there are some other options out there as well.  Hand expressing colostrum (your first breast “milk”) onto your nipples and letting it absorb into your skin will help to heal your nipples.  Other things my patient’s love are Motherlove Nipple Cream & Hydrogel Pads.

While staff at the hospital is there to support you, there is no possible way for you to learn everything you need to know about how to feed your baby in your 24-72 hour stay.  Try to learn as much as you can about breast feeding before your baby arrives.  Read books, take classes, watch YouTube videos about latching and such….take it all in with a grain of salt, because once again, it’s not always a perfect scenario, right?….and then you will feel more prepared and be able to understand your nurse/lactation consultant when they discuss your breast feeding plan with you.

The best advice I can give you, is to not come in with the expectation that breastfeeding is a walk in the park.  Initially, breastfeeding can come with some challenges, especially if your anatomy isn’t ideal.  But, that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t provide your baby with nutrition.  Thank goodness someone in history decided to develop and invent a device to attach to our boobs in which to suck out milk…AKA a breast pump!  Ha! ?

If worse comes to worse, you can always pump and give your baby a bottle with breast milk.  Just try to be flexible and patient.  Not every boob or baby is the same.  And, breast feeding doesn’t always come naturally like I said before.  But, that’s ok.  Most insurances now, will cover the cost of a breast pump.  Talk to you OB/GYN about this option for you.  Your doctor will write you a script for a breast pump, and often times the pump can be delivered to your hospital room prior to your discharge home.

Challenges For Baby:

There are various situations that may arise when you have your baby that could compromise breastfeeding.  Just remember the goal in the end, is to have a healthy mom, healthy baby, and to send you home together to start your new life as a family.

Sometimes, babies are tongue tied and have a difficult time latching.  Sometimes, a baby literally comes out and is starving and could eat an entire steak dinner.  Or, sometimes, you have the opposite problem, where you have a difficult time keeping your baby awake long enough to eat.

All babies are born with little personalities and none of them come with an instruction manual….unfortunately.  Each baby is different.  I’ve had moms that were able to exclusively breastfeed their first child for a year, but yet their next baby acts like a banshie at the breast and won’t nurse at all.  Just try to remember to be patient with yourself and be patient with your baby.  It’s a new learning experience each time.

There may be instances where your baby’s pediatrician might request that your baby be given some formula.

For instance, if your baby is jaundice, getting protein into his system to flush out the bilirubin in his blood, will precipitate him getting healthier and you getting closer to taking him home.  Your baby getting jaundice, is not an indication that you did anything wrong.

Some babies are more prone to jaundice.  If you have O+/- blood type, we’ve found those babies are more prone to jaundice.  If you or your partner were jaundice as babies, your baby is more likely to become jaundice too as it is a familial trait.

Most babies do get jaundice, but whether or not we treat your baby in the hospital with phototherapy (AKA a baby tanning bed) and additional nutrition from both you and/or with formula, is based on levels of bilirubin cells in the blood and their age in hours.

Your post partum nurse will be able to walk you through this if needed.  No need to study a medical textbook about it.  Just know this may be an appropriate time to supplement your infant’s feeding with some formula.  Feeding the baby lots of protein, found in both breast milk and formula, will help push the bilirubin out of the baby through poops and pees. And, since most brand new moms don’t make a lot of breast milk at the beginning, sometimes formula is necessary to get your baby better.

Another thing we monitor for in the hospital is weight loss.  It is perfectly normal, and expected, for your baby to lose weight the first few days after delivery.  Once your milk comes in, your baby’s weight should increase.

The nurse will weigh your baby every day to see how much weight the baby is losing.  There are many factors that cause the baby to lose weight, such as how much IV fluid you got during your delivery, how many poops and pees the baby has had, how well the baby has been eating, etc. Usually at 10% weight loss, your healthcare provider will suggest pumping to see how much volume of milk is in your breasts, and may strongly recommend supplementing with formula until the baby begins gaining weight.

Once again, this is all stuff that is out of your control, right?  Many new moms come into the hospital with big plans about how they are going to feed their babies, and that’s ok…it’s good to prepared with good information.  But, just try to remember to be realistic and adjust your expectations and goals as you acclimate to your new baby.

I know many breastfeeding organizations and even some lacation consultants will tell you that formula isn’t good for your baby.  I’ve known some moms that are downright terrified to have to give their babies formula, or want to go ahead and give a supplement but are too afraid to ask for formula because they fear being judged.  I do not agree with this type of behavior from medical staff who is supposed to be there to help you on your own personal journey.

Truthfully, there are times when formula is necessary, and thankfully we have it readily available to us.  Giving your baby some formula does not make you a failure as a mom.  And, most babies even after they’ve had formula, go right back to breastfeeding.  Honestly, I’ve seen it a million times. ?

Also, remember that it is your prerogative  to change your mind about how you choose to feed your baby, and you shouldn’t feel judged for whatever choice you make.  No judgement here for you formula feeding moms, or for you moms who realize breastfeeding just isn’t for you. Each new mommy and daddy have to make a bazillion different decisions regarding their baby’s life.  You just have to have confidence that you are doing what’s best for you and your family.

Challenges in Your New Reality As A Brand New Mom

There are so many factors that come in to play after you have your baby that may be a challenge to your breastfeeding plan.

Sure, we’d all love to have a quick, painless vaginal delivery in which there is no damage to our “nether regions”, and we can quickly breastfeed and bond with our baby without there being any complications.  But, as I’ve learned after working many years in Mother Baby, you can’t plan your delivery.

As much as new mommies love to fill out fancy birthplans, even down to which Mariah Carey medley they’d like playing as the baby emerges from their womb, often times deliveries don’t go as planned.  And, quite honestly, when your in the heat of the moment, you probably could care less what’s going on around you as long as the baby is born quickly.  Am I right, mommy veterans?!

As I’m sure most of you know, there is a lot that can happen during the birth of a little human.  Sometimes there are complications that arise.  Most of which are completely out of your control.  The only control you really have is to pick a medical team that you have full confidence in and completely trust.  Cause when it boils down to needing to make split second decisions that could effect yours and/or your baby’s life, you want to have confidence in the Doctor or midwife that you’ve chosen.

Some moms end up laboring far longer than they’d planned.  Some moms end up needing a c-section…which is major abdominal surgery.  Some moms hemorrhage after delivery and need blood transfusions.  And, some moms need medication before and after delivery to lower their blood pressure, which leaves them feeling quite sick.  I don’t mean to frighten you about your impending delivery, but I just want to forewarn you that these things do happen.  Hopefully not to you. ?

The choice you make regarding your feeding plan for your baby, might change or be altered a bit after your delivery.  I know almost every new mommy comes into the hospital with the best of intentions to exclusively breastfeed, but sometimes those plans change.

I’ve had new moms who aren’t prepared for the pain they experience after delivery.  They either have extremely sensitive nipples, or some experience horrendous contraction-like pain while nursing (which is normal and actually a positive sign the baby is nursing well…but probably not the most pleasant feeling in the world…if you catch my drift! ?).

I’ve had moms who’s babies literally revolt at the breast and act disgusted, which I’m sure fills that mom with confidence. ? Sometimes the babies can be little stinkers and not cooperate to breastfeed.

Sometimes new moms don’t realize the time commitment involved in breastfeeding.  Usually the baby needs to eat every 2-3 hours…and yes that includes at nighttime.  And, in fact, the babies are usually more awake at night to feed because that is when your breastfeeding hormones that help you produce milk are at their highest.  Some babies want to do what we call “cluster feeding” which means feeding every hour or even sooner.  We see this a lot with day 2-4 babies, until mom’s milk comes in.

Exclusively breastfeeding is work.  It takes a lot of time and dedication.  And, in order for it to be successful, you have to be committed.

But, in the end, breastfeeding can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Moms who breastfeed tell me they feel bonded to their baby in a really special way.  Breast milk is specially made for your particular baby.  Your body knows what your baby needs…which absolutely remarkable.  And, of course, breastfeeding offers immunity and vitamins and minerals that formula can’t give.

 This post is not to discourage you away from breastfeeding…honestly it’s not!  But, I wanted to give you a candid look inside the world we see as Mother Baby nurses working with hundreds of moms and babies every year.

These insider tips and truths are things you may have never heard before, but need to know before you have your new bundle of joy.

My ultimate goal as a nurse and as a blogger, is to give you the information, let you run with it, and support you in your choice of whether to breastfeed, formula feed, exclusively pump, do both or your own concoction.

As long as you and the baby are healthy and growing, that’s all that matters.

I hope you find this post helpful.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.  I’d love to hear your story and answer any questions you may have.  If I don’t have the answer, I have a plethora of nurses, midwives, doctors, lactation consultants, & mommy experts at my fingertips.

And, please remember, here at Lattes, Lilacs, & Lullabies, we strive to be supportive of each other and encourage one another.  Please be mindful of each other’s personal choices.  Thanks so much for visiting today!

The truth about feeding your baby from a postpartum nurse's perspective.

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  • Reply Cheri Maslowsky-- NICU

    Stephanie! So well said! This should be required reading during early labor!!!! Great job as usual!

    September 6, 2016 at 9:47 pm
    • Reply Stephanie Wilson

      Thanks, Cheri! ?

      September 7, 2016 at 6:05 am

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