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On the laundry list of overwhelming new-mom responsibilities, feeding reigns supreme. It’s something that you feel a societal obligation to do constantly and consistently, especially during those first few months. But it’s also accompanied by an onslaught of obstacles that make the process… rather challenging.
“Between choosing to breastfeed or formula feed, to deciding to begin supplemental foods, moms want what is best for their baby, but often do not get solid answers because everyone and every child is different,” explains Nicole M. Avena, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University and author of What to Eat When You Want to Get Pregnant. “Many moms struggle with pumping and returning to working full time with an infant, which is one of the main reasons many infants are switched to formula.”
Read: How To Get Started: Breastfeeding and Pumping Schedules
On top of an uneven load of parental responsibilities, many moms receive mixed messages about feeding. “Social media postings by breastfeeding support groups can be interpreted as harsh by fragile new mothers, and mommy wars occur in the comments section over failing to ‘try hard enough’ to breastfeed, or ‘giving up’ and formula feeding,” explains Susan Landers, M.D., neonatologist, physician, speaker, educator, and author of So Many Babies. “What’s more: Office nurses in pediatricians’ and family practitioners’ offices do not always give the proper advice over the phone, even though specific telephone guidance is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).”
The good news? There’s tons of support out there for new moms seeking assistance with feeding, from lactation consultants, mom support groups, and online resources like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), and La Leche League International.
If you’re looking for some quick tips, here are some key ones from parenting and feeding experts that will likely come in handy during your feeding journey.
Most new moms struggle with breastfeeding, even if only at first. Formula feeding becomes increasingly tempting, especially given the amount of advertisements. “The message is ‘formula is the American way,’ and therefore it must really be better, but this is not the truth,” says Dr. Landers. While breastfeeding is certainly not the easier solution, and it’s important to acknowledge that formula feeding, too, comes with its set of challenges, Dr. Avena points out that breastfeeding is beneficial to the baby's overall health. “Your breast milk contains antimicrobial and probiotic microbes that are not found in formula,” she says. “If you are returning to work, go over a plan with your boss to pump when necessary and ensure the baby has enough breastmilk accessible at home while you are away, for another caretaker to use during feedings.”
Read: Exclusive Pumping 101 Everything You Need To Know About Exclusive Pumping (EP)
Figuring out when your little one is hungry or needs to feed might feel like a guessing game at first, but over time, you’ll learn their feeding cues, like lip licking, suckling on objects, fussing, putting their hands in their mouth, loss of interest, and antsy behavior for fullness, notes Dr. Avena. “Taking notes and keeping a journal to see when your baby is hungriest, antsy, and when they take the most milk will help when starting supplemental feedings,” she says.
In the hospital, you were likely encouraged to hold your baby “skin-to-skin,” which involves you removing your shirt and holding your naked newborn to your chest—and your partner doing the same. This is extremely beneficial in the early weeks, as it allows you to get to know your baby’s feeding cues. “Skin-to-skin holding stimulates oxytocin release, which stimulates maternal infant bonding and milk ejection,” explains Dr. Landers.
Breastfeeding might be one of the most natural things to occur to your body, but that doesn’t mean it always comes naturally! Don’t feel the pressure to go it alone. If you don’t have mom friends to reach out to for emotional support, consider joining a mom support group, which can be beneficial to both mom and baby, especially when nursing your first child. “Find a local support group to attend, and ask informed questions regarding breastfeeding and practices that have worked for other moms, to get real-world advice,” says Dr. Avena.
Most hospitals have a team of lactation consultants on staff or are affiliated with a group in your area. These professionals are trained to help new mothers adapt to breastfeeding and can help moms to increase their supply, improve latching, and maintain baby bonds upon returning to work. “Many moms discontinue exclusive breastfeeding because of controllable reasons, and a lactation counselor may be able to help,” says Dr. Avena. “If you are struggling with breastfeeding, you should meet with a lactation consultant, who can help you with any problems, answer your questions, and provide reassurance.” And while an IBCLC can really help you feel confident, troubleshoot, and provide helpful guidance, it’s okay to try things outside breastfeeding too. Remember, it’s what’s best for you and your baby.
Jenn Sinrich is an experienced writer, digital and social editor and content strategist in Boston, Massachusetts. She’s written for several publications including SELF, Women’s Health, Martha Stewart Weddings, Reader’s Digest, PureWow, and many more. When she’s not busy writing, editing or reading, she’s traveling, working out and enjoying the simple things in life with her husband Dan, new baby daughter Mila and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi.
The information and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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