Though breastfeeding is considered a natural way to feed a newborn, it may not always come naturally. Both mother and baby may take some time to learn what works best. Continuing a longstanding commitment to caring for women and their families, Northwestern Medicine caregivers provide new mothers with resources and support for breastfeeding, including classes, the most up-to-date educational materials and access to lactation consultants who are internationally board-certified.
Feeding your baby
Deciding how you'll feed your baby is an important choice only you can make. Specialists agree breastfeeding is best for baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics identifies breastfeeding as the "ideal method of feeding and nurturing infants."
Research shows human milk for babies provides many advantages for general health, growth and development. It also decreases the risk for certain infections and diseases. Ideally, your baby should have only breast milk for the first six months. It is best to continue breastfeeding for at least one year.
The internationally board-certified lactation consultants, along with your physician and your baby’s pediatrician, want breastfeeding to be successful for you and your baby. Our trained lactation staff will work with you during your hospital stay to ensure you are comfortable with breastfeeding. Lactation rooms are available for breastfeeding mothers who visit our hospitals.
Breastfeeding help in the hospital
Northwestern Medicine postpartum nurses serve as a new mother's first resource for breastfeeding. Many of these postpartum nurses have earned special certification as lactation counselors and can guide a mother in the basics of positioning her baby and coaching the newborn to latch onto the breast. Mothers who need additional assistance can request help from a certified lactation consultant.
Whatever feeding method you choose, our internationally board-certified lactation consultants will help you learn the proper techniques to feed your baby. Our postpartum nurses are specially trained to help you learn proper breastfeeding techniques. Certified lactation consultants are also available for more complex breastfeeding concerns, such as:
- Breastfeeding twins or triplets
- Breastfeeding premature babies (less than 37 weeks)
- Breastfeeding infants with congenital anomaly, neurological impairment or other medical conditions that affect the infant's ability to breastfeed
- Breast anatomy concerns, including flat or inverted nipples
- History of breast surgery or trauma
- Ineffective breastfeeding
- Medication use
Lactation consultants collaborate with postpartum nurses to help new mothers with more complicated needs. This includes developing pumping schedules for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) who cannot yet breastfeed and assisting with breastfeeding as the baby matures. Lactation consultants also facilitate free, weekly support and information groups for mothers with newborns in intensive care. New parents can also view educational breastfeeding programs in their rooms using the hospital's on-demand video system and patient education television.
Breastfeeding classes and support groups
Women who plan to deliver at Northwestern Medicine hospitals are encouraged to attend breastfeeding classes led by certified lactation consultants. Participants learn about feeding techniques and positions, pumping and breast milk storage. Instructors also recommend husbands, partners, mothers or sisters attend, as they can be supportive and informed coaches when a mother begins breastfeeding.
Feeding at home
Though breastfeeding is considered a natural way to feed a newborn, it may not always come naturally. Both mother and baby may take some time to learn what works best.
How to increase your breast milk supply
- Make sure that your baby is alert and ready to breastfeed.
- Breastfeed your baby frequently, every 1 to 3 hours; avoid trying to put the baby on a schedule too early.
- Breastfeed long enough to stimulate milk production, at least 10 to 15 minutes on each breast.
- You can switch back and forth during a feeding to encourage let-down and to keep a sleepy baby awake.
- Breastfeed at both breasts at each feeding.
- Make certain that your baby is latched on properly and is compressing the milk reservoirs under the areola.
- Get some extra rest for a few days; relax before each feeding.
- Avoid pacifiers and bottle-feeding.
- Drink a large glass of water at each feeding.
- Add extra protein and vegetables to your diet.
- Do not take birth control pills, certain medicines (including Sudafed and Benadryl) or alcohol.
- Do not smoke.
- Decrease the use of nipple shield.
- Use a supplemental breastfeeding device.
- Pump one hour after feeding for usually 15 minutes, until the flow stops and then for another minute or two (another let-down may occur).
Management of sore nipples
- Breastfeeding in only one position may cause repeated friction on the same area if a baby is not latched properly
- Dampness from leaking milk and wet breast pads may lead to soreness
- The baby latching on to the nipple and not the areola
- Thrush, a yeast infection of the breast tissue. It is uncommon during the first few days. Signs include red patches surrounding the nipple, intense pain during a feeding or pain between the feedings. The baby may have white patches inside his mouth.
- Please note that cracked bleeding nipples may produce a little blood in your breast milk and you may notice some old, brown blood in your baby’s bowel movements. This will not harm your baby.
- Use proper body positioning and latch-on techniques
- Breastfeed frequently
- Use areolar expression to soften the areola
- Avoid using soaps and lotions that can cause drying
- Change breastfeeding positions often
- Remove your baby from the breast carefully
- Express a few drops of breast milk, spread it on your nipples, and let air dry
- Change bra liners or shells every time they get damp
- Start feeding on the less sore breast first, as your baby will breastfeed more vigorously at the first breast
- Breastfeed more frequently. You can limit your breastfeeding time to ten minutes at each breast if your breasts are emptying well in that amount of time
- Apply ice to the areola and nipple just before the baby latches on
- Ensure that your nipples are dry
- Take your bra off while at home and/or wear loose, comfortable clothing
- Breast shells can be worn over the nipple and inside the bra to prevent clothing from rubbing an injured nipple and to promote air circulation and healing
- Use lanolin and preferably Aquaphor
- Treat thrush when it occurs. The baby may need to have a medication prescribed by a pediatric provider. A mother’s nipples must also be treated with an antifungal cream