As much as we spend time creating our birth plan and choosing care providers, it is imperative to educate ourselves on the nitty-gritty details of how breastfeeding looks and works for long term success with nourishing our babies with the best form of nutrition. 

  1. Breastfeeding is an extension of the physiological process of pregnancy and birth, so as much as a mother would protect her birthing experience, it's vital to protect early days of breastfeeding as well. Safeguarding these days will not only set the tone for future establishment of mother-baby relationship, but also potentially keep most breastfeeding issues at bay. Skin to skin contact, delayed cord clamping, and encouraging the baby to breast-crawl, are some of the practices that all contribute towards increased maternal and fetal satisfaction.
  2. There is wisdom in acknowledging and following traditional postpartum practices. These forgotten pearls of knowledge preserved and transmitted via generations by sage women ensured that the mother receives proper support during the early days--which may be quite bumpy and hard--so she has to do minimal amount of house work and other chores. This maximized the amount of time she got to spend with her baby, and a constant train of foods and warming techniques from her support network helped to heal her body and easier let down of milk. A postpartum plan considering all these factors can prove to be a game changer for you as well!
  3. In the first 3 days of postpartum, due to the production of colostrum; a thick, yellow, pre-milk substance packed with protein, digestive enzymes, nutrients and immune molecules, it may seem as if nothing is being produced--but the fact is that this is all your baby needs. Wet diapers, passage of meconium, and a baby with awake and asleep cycles is a good sign that he/she is receiving enough nourishment.
  4. Milk comes in 2-3 days postpartum (5-6 days for cesarean birth). The more often baby is at the breast, sooner the milk “comes in”. It is said that when the milk flows, so do the tears! Be kind to yourself. 
  5. Learning how to hand express is a great tool that you can strap under your belt. Hand expressing breast milk helps heal sore nipples, prevents engorgement, can prove specially beneficial if your newborn won't latch for any reason, and hand expressing helps in stimulating relatively faster production of milk for you to supply to your infant. 
  6. It's important to learn the correct anatomy of a good latch.  Ideally, your primary health care provider should be able to set you up for a successful breastfeeding journey, however, if this component is absent from your prenatal care, be sure to grasp the concepts through a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist in your area. Hopefully, they can show you what a good latch is (asymmetrical areola in baby's mouth, optimal positions during nursing, audible suckling etc).
  7. Early days of postpartum are hard, as mom requires her own physical and emotional healing and integration of birth experience, plus a newborn with needs to care for, so having an honest conversation with your health care provider of what to expect is necessary. 
  8. Mothers often run into stumbling blocks in the beginning, but that doesn't mean you quit. Instead, you figure out a solution. Ask your lactation consultant to provide you with credible resources, both in written and video format, as well as providing contacts of local support professionals if breastfeeding is facing issues due to various factors.
  9. Set realistic expectations and replenish your nutritional stores to fasten the process of healing and bonding with the baby. Expect to breastfeed baby whenever he wants; which can look like every 30 minutes, or every 1-3 hours. Foods to focus on: Have quality fats, proteins, and vitamin rich foods, grass-fed or pasture-raised meats, quality eggs, warm and mushy foods, bone broths, and lots of snacks. You will be thirsty, so drink lots of fluids and electrolytes. Generally families are choosing cute baby clothes and the next best stroller for the baby, but they become secondary when mother is tired and she has a human to care for. Just as positive birth videos are encouraged for birth preparation, mothers nursing their babies videos can also play an important part in aligning your expectations. 
  10. Build your tribe. Choose people in your surrounding who offer positive words of affirmation. In this day and age of online mommy groups, make sure they are pro breastfeeding and anti shaming. Support groups where mothers have breastfed their babies and share their experiences, all the while also emphasizing that an actively informed birth where the mother is the decision maker will serve you in manifold ways for long term breastfeeding relationship with your child. When your support network stresses on the power of intuitions that mothers are blessed with (and trusting and following them will help this gut feeling grow strong) will facilitate boost your self esteem and help you feel empowered and autonomous in your ability to breastfeed.

[Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels]