My mom is lucky enough to be in California right now, helping out my sister who gave birth to a newborn on Monday. We just chatted about how everything is going, and she asked me some questions about breastfeeding. My sister hopes to breastfeed this little one longer than she’s managed before. Here is some advice I gave her in response to her questions:
- Skip the Night Bottle idea. Although it sounds so nice, letting your partner feed baby at night while you get some much-needed sleep isn’t usually a good idea. In reality, mom will awaken when baby cries for that 3 am feeding. She’ll have to wake her partner (who is likely to sleep right through it all) to remind him to go fix that bottle. Off he goes to the kitchen to measure, pour, warm and return. All the while, baby is crying and mother is… what? Sleeping while her baby cries? Probably not. Holding the baby? Maybe. Whether holding or lying still, her milk is definitely letting down and filling up those nursing pads. All that milk is wasted while she tries to sleep through baby’s noisy gulps. Now, even if she manages to get into a sleep-through-it-all routine, this itself is still a potential problem. In order to keep up her breastmilk supply, she needs to be feeding baby or pumping every time baby wants to eat. By sleeping through one feeding every night, she sets herself up for milk supply problems, all the while allowing her frozen milk supply to dwindle.
- Introduce the Bottle around 2 Weeks. It’s smart to allow mom and baby to grow good and dependent on regular breastfeeding before introducing the bottle. 2 weeks of feeding on demand, with no breaks, will set mom up for a good milk supply. It also gives baby plenty of time to learn how to latch on before introducing a whole new skill – bottle feeding. But, don’t wait too long. By 3 weeks old, introduce the bottle! Bottle feeding early on lessens your chances of ending up with a baby who won’t take any bottle.
- Start stocking up on milk now. Where does the breastmilk for that first bottle come from? Mom can pump, in addition to her regular on-demand feeding. But, that’s going to be a lot of hard work! The easiest way to get a few bottles of milk stowed away is to collect milk during feedings those first few weeks (and beyond, if it works for you). To do this, place a breast shell on one breast before starting to feed baby. Feed baby on the opposite side, and watch as your letdown fills up that shell. Keep cleaning the breast shell between feedings and emptying it into a refrigerated bottle. At the end of the day, freeze what you’ve collected, which may be a half to a full bottle, depending on your letdown.
- It’s fine to use a pacifier. Although experts used to worry that early pacifier use may interfere with establishing breastfeeding, studies have shown that this is not the case. Apparently, even a newborn gets the difference between an object used for self-soothing, non-nutritional sucking and mom’s breasts – the source of food. If you plan to use a pacifier, don’t hold back. Go ahead and let baby suck to sleep!