As you are preparing to breastfeed for the first time there are likely MANY questions you have about the breastfeeding journey you are about to embark on and many unknowns you may be anxious about. Here are 3 first time breastfeeding mom questions that I feel are most common and asked of me!
#1: How Do My Breasts Make Milk?
I always had concerned moms in my office asking how they were going to produce enough breastmilk for their baby because the don’t drink cow’s milk! I never realized it was such a popular belief that we make breastmilk by the milk we drink. Totally false! Let me explain how it’s done…
Your breasts are made up of small grape-like clusters of cells called alveoli that produce breastmilk. While it is VERY important to stay hydrated while lactating, you do not need to drink tons of milk.
Milk ducts throughout your breast then carry the breastmilk from the alveoli to the opening in your nipples.
All you need to produce breastmilk is a brain, breasts, and a nursing baby.
When your baby is placed at your breast a signal is sent to your brain that you need to produce breastmilk. This signal triggers your let down reflex and milk is released.
The let down reflex is simply the release of milk from your breast. Some moms may feel a burning or tingling sensation. Don’t be concerned if you don’t feel your let down, that is totally normal too.
Supply and Demand
If you have read other breastfeeding content from me or reached out to me you may have heard me talk often about the supply and demand system of breastfeeding. What does that mean?
The more you demand from your breast by bringing baby to breast or pumping, your body in turn supplies more milk. This makes sure you produce what your baby needs, but doesn’t over produce and leave you constantly engorged.
#2: What Does Human Milk Look Like?
Unless you have been around a breastfeeding mother and seen pumped breastmilk (or maybe you’ve done some research on the internet), you may be wondering what human milk looks like – or even tastes like…
The appearance of your breastmilk will change as it matures the first few weeks after your baby is born. It will also look different at the beginning of a breastfeeding or pumping session versus the end of the session.
Colostrum is the first milk you will produce. Some women will start producing colostrum as early as 16 weeks gestation up until a few days postpartum. Colostrum can be anywhere from thick & yellow to clear & runny.
Colostrum is sometimes referred to as liquid gold because it is packed with antibodies to build your babies immune system from day one, helps your baby poop, and is everything they need nutritionally for the first few days of life.
After baby is born, your milk will start to mature over the next 2 weeks. Mature milk is made up of foremilk and hindmilk.
Foremilk is the milk you produce at the beginning of a nursing or pumping session. This milk is often thin, runny, & light in color.
Hindmilk is the milk you produce towards the end of a nursing or pumping session. Typically you may notice this thicker milk that is white or yellowish in color after your let down reflex. The hindmilk is higher in calories and fat than foremilk.
You can check out this transition from foremilk to hindmilk while your are pumping. I always encourage moms who are having difficulty pumping to try and pump after a nursing session. Therefore, your breasts are already actively producing hindmilk which is what we want baby to get the most of!
#3: How Do I Care for My Breasts?
With all of the breast care products that are on the market it can be confusing for first time moms on how to care for your breast and what care products to use while breastfeeding. Let me break down all you need to do to take care of your breast and my favorite breast care products.
Taking care of your breasts throughout your breastfeeding journey is important, but even more so those first few weeks. First time moms deal with a lot of soreness the first week of breastfeeding as your nipples and breasts become used to nursing.
Here are three key tips to keep in mind while caring for your lactating breasts:
- Wash your breast daily with water & mild soap while bathing.
- Wear a comfortable nursing bra, instead of an underwire bra. Underwire bras and tight fitting sports bras limit normal flow of breastmilk through your milk ducts and can cause clogged milk ducts.
- Change your nursing pads often, if you have to use them. Soft cotton reusable, washable pads work best.
The Best Breast Care Products
Now that first week or two you may need some additional help of breast care products to help with moisturizing and soothing your sore nipples. Here are some of my favorite:
- BREASTMILK! As a breastfeeding mom you will come to learn the MANY ways that breastmilk can be used – so much more than just for baby’s nutrition. Breastmilk is great for sore/cracked nipples. After nursing express a few drops of breastmilk onto the skin or in your hand and rub around the nipple.
- Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is a great, natural option to keep your nipples moisturized while baby nurses often at the beginning. The great part is you don’t have to wipe your nipples off every time before baby nurses, like with most nipple creams.
- Earth Mama Organics Nipple Balm. This nipple balm is made up of all natural ingredients. Free from parabens, petroleum, and artificial fragrances. *They do have a vegan nipple balm too.
- Honest Mama Nipple Balm. I may be biased because I love all of The Honest Company products for mama and baby. But, this nipple balm is another great all natural breast care product that is safe for baby as well.
Help for The First Time Breastfeeding Mom
Being a first time breastfeeding mom can be extremely overwhelming. I know I didn’t have a lot of woman in my life that had breastfed before, so if I wouldn’t have had the education and job experience that I had working with moms and breastfeeding professionals it would have been tough.
Also, I know sometimes reaching out with issues/problems to those that we know personally can be challenging at times. It is important to know that there are plenty of resources around you when is comes to breastfeeding support.
While in the hospital you should receive support from the L/D nurses and lactation consultant. Sometimes that support continues after discharge, but other times not.
The Le Leche League has groups all over the world that are there to provide educated support to moms and a peer-to-peer environment to learn and support one another – which is also very helpful! Sometimes it’s just nice to know you aren’t the only one who has or is experiencing a breastfeeding concern/problem.
Lastly, my door is always open if you have any questions, concerns, or issues that arise. Reach out to me here.