For many people, childbirth and everything that comes after it is full of surprises. In my (fairly specialized) experience, one of the biggest surprises is when people find out that for non-gestational parents, inducing lactation sometimes becomes part of the conversation. Often, when I tell people that part of my specialization as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) is to help induce lactation, somebody will say something to the effect of, “Wait, what?” As if to say, “I know what those words mean individually, but have never heard them next to each other like that.”
Watch Jada Shapiro, maternal health expert, lactation counselor, and boober founder, in this Q&A on all things nursing, pumping, expressing milk, and understanding milk supply.
Breastfeeding: As a parent-to-be, you’re looking forward to the experience of connecting with your newborn this way. But you’ve also heard it’s going to hurt. You’ve been told that cracked, bleeding nipples, soreness, and anxiety about milk supply are all in your near future. Maybe you already experienced those things the first time around. But the truth is, pain and suffering do not have to be part of the breastfeeding equation. In fact, cracked, bleeding nipples and soreness are all signs that you need to tweak something in order to make the breastfeeding experience better—much better—for both you and your baby. Pain and damaged nipples should not be considered the norm.
When you are expecting a new baby, it’s normal to have lots of questions about pumping. It can feel like getting a breast pump for your milk is a top priority! Whether you plan to breastfeed/bodyfeed, exclusively pump and bottle feed or are not sure what your feeding plan will look like yet, having a pump available after your baby is born can be really helpful. In fact, most insurance companies will cover the cost of a double-electric pump and for those who end up needing a stronger hospital-grade pump—you can usually obtain one from a local hospital, pharmacy or lactation consultant’s office. In addition to having access to an electric pump, many nursing parents also like to have a hand pump like the Hakkaa or Elvie Curve. Finally, it is important to note that often the most effective and comfortable way to express milk is with your own hands. Hand expression is the best method for early milk (colostrum) removal, and lots of lactating parents continue to use manual milk expression throughout their nursing journeys!
Plugged ducts and mastitis are common conditions that can appear in lactating people. If you’re experiencing a hard, painful spot or lump it could be a plugged or clogged duct.
Ultimately the breastfeeding position or bodyfeeding position that works best for you and your baby is your ideal position! You may start with one or two positions and as your baby grows you may begin to find many ways to nurse. In any position, remember that your comfort and stability is as important as your baby’s.
Many new parents worry that their nipples are not adequate for nursing their new babies. While breastfeeding/chestfeeding with flat and inverted nipples can be more difficult, especially if your baby also has challenges achieving a deep latch, nipple size and shape may be less of a concern than a parent may have anticipated. With ideal latch and positioning support, many people can nurse their babies just fine, despite non-protruding nipples. It might be reassuring to remember that babies latch onto the areola, not just the nipple and that they can even “pull” an inverted nipple out with good sucking.
There are many reasons a nursing parent may decide to stop breastfeeding or pumping. It can feel like a big decision or just a natural next step, but no matter why you are choosing to wean, it is really important to protect your health (both physical and mental) during the process. It might be comforting to remember that all nursing parents do eventually wean and that the body is designed for the transition.
Are you experiencing pain while nursing? Cracked nipples? Super long or very short feedings? Slow weight gain? Shallow latch? Challenges with bottle feeding? Gassy/acid-reflux baby? Possibly combined with slow weight gain for your baby? Tongue-tie might be the cause of the problem. Medically known as ankyloglossia, this condition, present at birth, can restrict the tongue’s range of motion so it may interfere with compression and milk removal.
A nipple shield is a flexible silicone nipple that is worn over the mom’s nipple while she nurses. When should a nipple shield be used?
– Nursing with inverted or flat nipples:
Nipple shields are helpful for people with shorter, flatter, or inverted nipples, making the latch difficult for the baby. Feeding through the shield helps draw the nipple out, to make it easier for your baby to latch onto the breast.
– Breastfeeding a premature baby:
Nipple shields are also useful for some smaller or premature babies who haven’t fully developed their ability to suck and have difficulty latching on to the breast. A nipple shield can help a preemie create suction and position the nipple in a way they may not yet be strong enough to do themselves.