Many women go into motherhood planning to breastfeed. But often, the stress of a newborn coupled with other family responsibilities can make it feel like an impossible task. In fact, 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they would like. That’s why I’m joining forces with KnowYourOTCs to give new moms advice on how to make the most of their breastfeeding experience.
Advice for New Moms on Overcoming Breastfeeding Obstacles
Moms who stop breastfeeding before they would like usually say it is because of concerns about their milk supply, difficulty with getting the baby to latch, pain and mastitis, or an overall lack of support and education.
Education is paramount in the medical world and in parenting too, and breastfeeding is no exception. One bit of advice I always suggest for new moms-to-be is to educate themselves about breastfeeding BEFORE the baby is born.
Attend a breastfeeding class. Learn what to expect and how to overcome early obstacles of nursing.
If you run into challenges with nursing, that’s OK! Just breathe and then check out my top four pieces of advice for new breastfeeding moms.
#1 Maintain A Healthy Diet
Coming home from the hospital with a newborn is incredibly exciting but also exhausting. The lack of sleep and change in hormones can wreak havoc on a new mom’s emotional and physical health. Many new moms go hours without a proper meal and forget to hydrate.
A lack of self-care certainly affects a mom’s physical health. But it also affects her ability to produce milk and successfully breastfeed.
One of the biggest obstacles that women have with breastfeeding is low milk supply. Drinking water and overall nutrition are extremely important for breastmilk production. Generally speaking, a breastfeeding mother should drink 12 cups of water a day (2.8 liters).
Pro Tip: Keep a bottle of water next to your rocking chair to drink after each feed.
Before taking a vitamin or other type of dietary supplement to fill in nutritional gaps, speak with your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional to avoid impacting your milk supply or baby’s development.
#2 Limit or Avoid Certain Foods
What a nursing mom eats transfers to her child through her breastmilk. Therefore, it is important to avoid certain things that can lead to discomfort or even be dangerous for a baby.
If your baby experiences eczema, hives, wheezing, bloody stools, vomiting, abnormal fussiness, or excessive gas after breastfeeding, speak with your pediatrician about possible reactions to foods you eat.
Pro Tip: A food diary may be helpful in determining a relationship between something you eat and your baby’s symptoms.
You should also avoid certain foods while nursing because of their potentially dangerous effects, including:
- Alcohol – according to the CDC, breastfeeding women should avoid drinking alcohol. However, drinking up to one standard alcoholic drink a day has not been shown to be harmful to a breastfeeding baby. It is best to wait at least two hours after a single drink before nursing. If you plan to drink more than one standard alcoholic beverage, pumping milk for your baby is important.
- Caffeine – an occasional cup of caffeinated coffee is fine while breastfeeding. You should not exceed three cups per day. Don’t forget other drinks that contain caffeine as well, such as tea and soda.
- Fish High in Mercury – certain fish can contain high levels of the naturally-occurring chemical mercury, which can impact a newborn’s brain and nervous system development. Mercury can pass from a mother to her baby through breastmilk. Avoid certain fish, including tuna, grouper, swordfish, and mackerel, which contain higher levels of mercury. And, in general, try to limit seafood to no more than three servings per week.
#3 Safely Treat Symptoms When You Are Sick
Getting sick while caring for a newborn is never fun. But breastfeeding can add a whole new layer of stress.
Nursing moms may feel nervous about breastfeeding while sick for fear of passing the illness on to their baby. But it is NOT possible to transmit infection through breastmilk.
In fact, breastfeeding while sick can actually provide your baby with important antibodies to help them stay healthy.
Many moms also hesitate to take any medicines when not feeling well in fear they may transmit to the baby through breastmilk. The truth is that only a very small amount of medicine ends up in breastmilk – less than 1% of the dosage taken by the mother.
In such small amounts, most over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are harmless to the baby. However, always consult with your pediatrician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional before taking any medicines while breastfeeding.
Here some important tips to keep in mind when taking medicine while breastfeeding:
- Only Treat Your Exact Symptoms – avoid taking multi-symptom medicines or those that contain more than one active ingredient. If you have a fever, treat the fever with a single-ingredient fever reducer rather than a multi-symptom cold medicine.
- Take Only as Much as You Need to Feel Better – also take the medicine for the shortest possible time. And only take it if you really need it to feel better. Avoid taking long-lasting or extra-strength medicines. They stay in the bloodstream and milk supply for a longer period of time than regular-strength medicines.
- Work on Timing – the best time to take an OTC medicine is right after breastfeeding. Most medicines are at peak concentration within 20-30 minutes of taking them. By taking a medicine right after you feed your baby, you can treat your symptoms and give the medicine time to wear off and be at a lower level of concentration when it is time to feed again.
When starting a new medicine, call your pediatrician immediately if your baby experiences a rash, vomiting, difficulty breathing, extreme fussiness, or any new symptoms or changes in behavior. Reactions are rare. But if they happen, stop taking the medicine until your baby sees your pediatrician.
There are certain prescription medications to avoid when breastfeeding. Make sure your doctor knows that you are breastfeeding when prescribing any medications.
#4 Consider Nice-to-Have Nursing Supplies
When packing your hospital bag, bring your breastfeeding essentials with you. My favorite breastfeeding must-haves include a few button-down shirts for easy feeding, nursing bras, breast pads, a breastfeeding pillow, and nipple creams.
Having quality items both with you in the hospital and at home can make a world of difference in a successful breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding is not always easy, so don’t be hard on yourself. Many products on the market can make breastfeeding simpler, and maybe a tad less painful.
Also, I can’t stress enough how important it is to speak with lactation consultants in the hospital. A lactation consultant is a great resource to help with any breastfeeding difficulties you might experience during those first few days with your newborn. A lactation consultant is also is a fantastic contact to have AFTER you leave the hospital!
BONUS: Breastfeeding and COVID-19 Vaccines
Unfortunately, the clinical trials for the current COVID-19 vaccines did not include pregnant or breastfeeding women.
That being said, speak with your OB/GYN because there are some women, depending on their risk profile, who are absolutely getting COVID-19 vaccines while pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
According to the CDC, “the COVID-19 vaccines authorized now are non-replicating vaccines, meaning they are able to create an immune response but do not reproduce inside host cells. Because non-replicating vaccines pose no risk for lactating people or their infants, COVID-19 vaccines are also thought to not be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. Therefore, lactating people may choose to be vaccinated.”
Speak with your doctor because protecting yourself and your baby is important and totally possible with the vaccines.
Final Thoughts on the Best Breastfeeding Advice for New Moms
You can read every book, watch every video, and take every class. But no one can be 100% prepared for life as a new mom. Breastfeeding is natural, but it does not come naturally to ALL mothers.
The best breastfeeding advice I have for new moms is to expect the unexpected, and give yourself some grace to go with the flow whenever necessary.
And remember that there is no such thing as only one way to successfully breastfeed your baby!
Most importantly, it is okay if you have tried your best, but it doesn’t work out. The most important thing is the ability to bond with your new baby. If breastfeeding is causing a level of stress that interferes with your ability to bond, talk to your doctor or a local lactation consultant.
I’m proud to take part as a blogging ambassador with the CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) Educational Foundation and KnowYourOTCs.org. This post is sponsored! While I have received compensation from the CHPA Educational Foundation, all opinions are my own.