In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1st to August 7th), we asked postpartum doula, certified breastfeeding counselor and local mom, Margot Simmons of The Daily Doula, to answer some of your most pressing breastfeeding questions.
How do you know if you have a good latch?
The surest way to know that your baby is latched well is that you’re comfortable – and so is she! A good latch means you don’t have any pinching or pain (unless you’re recovering from previous damage) and your babe is feeding easily and happily. Other signs of a good latch include:
• Her mouth being as wide open as possible as she comes onto your breast.
• Her tongue, bottom lip and chin touching your breast first as you’re latching.
• You can see little or no areola while she is nursing. Her mouth is filled with breast, not just
with the nipple.
• You can hear or see your baby swallowing.
• Your baby’s mouth is wide open with her lips turning out, not in. (I call this the upside
down Pringles look.)
If you’re having any pain while nursing – this is definitely the time to call in a breastfeeding professional for help. Don’t suffer in silence. This is why you hear the horror stories.
How do I know how much milk my baby is getting?
There are very few ways to actually know how much milk your baby is getting while breastfeeding. But, the good news is that you don’t really have to! So long as your baby is peeing appropriately and gaining weight – he’s getting enough milk!
That said, there are ways to measure milk intake – which can be especially helpful when transitioning to bottles, if you have to supplement, or if you just need a little peace of mind. As a professional, I use a highly calibrated milk intake scale that accurately measures breastmilk intake to 0.1 oz. By weighing your baby, feeding your baby, then weighing him again, we can get a good sense of how much milk he’s taking from your breasts. *
Is there anything that I can do when I’m breastfeeding to try and avoid my baby getting colic?
True colic is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child. So, it’s important to first remember that babies do cry – and that doesn’t mean they have colic! That said, making sure your baby has a healthy breastfeeding relationship with you – while it certainly won’t prevent a colicky baby from being colicky – can help you figure it out if your baby is ACTUALLY colicky or if she’s trying to tell you something else.
Babies typically will cry for one of 5 reasons:
• Gas pains
• Needing to burp
• Overstimulation / being tired
• General discomfort (like a dirty diaper, being cold, etc.)
If you’re meeting your baby’s needs on all of these levels, and he’s still having screaming fits, do take him to the doctor to rule out any possible underlying effects. And if the “diagnosis” is colic – the very best thing you can do is amass your personal support team so that YOU are as well taken care of as your baby until the colic passes.
What can I do about really sore nipples?
Not get them in the first place! Seriously. Just because you’ve decided to pursue breastfeeding doesn’t mean you’ve predestined yourself to having sore nipples. Leaning on professional breastfeeding help to get the correct latch from day 1 will actually prevent sore nipples.
That said – if you get there – there are a few things you can do:
• First and foremost: get professional breastfeeding help to figure out the cause of the sore nipples. Are you not getting a good, deep latch OR is there something anatomically happening that’s causing the pain (a lip or tongue tie, jaw misalignment from a long labor, inverted or flat nipples, etc.)?
• Squirt some breastmilk on ‘em and air dry. If you’re not keen on walking around topless to let this happen, consider a product like the Medela SoftShells that can be inserted into a nursing tank or bra and give your nipples some breathing room.
• Invest in a product that will ACTUALLY help promote healing. Too often my sore-nippled mamas will keep putting on lanolin, nipple cream or olive oil and then wonder why they still have sore nipples. The answer is because these types of items, while lovely and good at creating a moisture barrier, don’t actually heal cracked, sore nipples. If you’re dealing with severe nipple damage – using something like Medihoney paste or Silverette Nursing cups will actually help as they contain natural antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agents.
Can hand expressing be used to produce a reasonable amount of milk?
Yes! Absolutely. Hand expression done correctly can yield as much, if not more milk, than traditional pumping. You can certainly learn the art of hand expression through trial and error and online resources – or you can work with a professional like my dear friend, Francie Webb of The Milkin’ Mama who offers a slew of affordable and accessible ways to learn to hand express.
If true hand expression is not your game – I do also recommend moms invest in a manual pump. They’re so much easier and more portable than the clunky electric ones. My personal favorite is the Haakaa silicone breast pump.
*In partnership with The Parent Collective, Margot runs a bi-monthly feeding support group for anyone feeding a baby – in any way. On the first and third Wednesdays of every month, they meet at the Squash Building at Intensity where she always has her milk intake scale on hand.