Breastfeeding Tips for the First 3 Months
The first 3 months of breastfeeding will probably be the most challenging. You are recovering from labor, a possible c-section, sleep deprivation, steep declines in pregnancy hormones and a host of other personal and family transitions. Which is why I’ve complied this overview of breastfeeding tips and advice.
If you can power through the first three months you can give your baby a great nutritional foundation that can positively impact their health, brain and immune system for life.
These are basic breastfeeding tips and an overview of what you can expect the first 12 weeks or 3 months.
The first week of breastfeeding is all about acclamation and initiation. For moms breast-feeding for the first time this is obviously the introduction of the breast-feeding experience in general, for the second time moms or beyond this is a new experience for the baby and so in some ways is a new experience for you, the mom as well.
Just like every pregnancy can be different, every breast-feeding experience can differ as well. The first weeks of breast-feeding were very different for my daughter versus my son. So the first of many breastfeeding tips is keep your expectations open.
I went in expecting my son to take to the breast just like his sister did but that was not the case at all. He had a hard time latching and was barely eating enough those first few days, which I believe contributed to his jaundice.
Before the “real milk” comes in, your body produces colostrum* which is nutrient dense and caloric gold for your new baby.
According to La Leche League International, colostrum is the first “milk” a mother’s body gives new born babies. It is a yellow, sticky and very nutritious substance that gives your baby immunity to the germs that are in the surrounding environment. Colostrum is also a laxative that helps the clearing of meconium. Colostrum is great for all babies but especially preterm who often see health increases after drinking their mother’s colostrum.
Somewhere between 3 – 5 days after birth your milk will come in, if it does not that could be a sign of retained placenta and should be brought to your doctor’s attention immediately.
“Colostrum is nutrient dense and caloric gold”
It is typical in these early days of nursing to experience, cracked, sore and bleeding nipples. I remember being freaked out when I saw a small amount of pink residue in a bottle of pumped milk. It was streaks of blood from my nipples mixed in with milk. I used Motherlove Nipple Cream Certified Organic Salve and by the end of the first week my nipples were no longer cracked or in pain, it was a total life saver.
*Some women report colostrum coming out of their breast before even giving birth during those last few weeks of full-term pregnancy.
Weeks 2 – 3
By the second week your milk will be fully in, this is a period where your baby is telling your body how much milk he or she needs. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand, the more you demand, the more your body will supply.
Ways to signal demand to your body is nursing and / or pumping often and drinking water.
Lactation Consultants suggest “feeding on-demand” in the early weeks and not rely too much on a rigid schedule. This is one of the breastfeeding tips I’m glad I listened to. Feeding on-demand in those early weeks made me feel like a literal cow who simply sat and produced milk around the clock. However I was laying a strong foundation that helped me meet my long term goals.
“Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand…”
Feeding session times can vary in this stage because your baby will just be getting the hang of latching and sucking. As the weeks go on, your baby will become more efficient and the length of feedings will decrease significantly.
Generally babies are full after 10-30 minutes. I distinctly remember watching the clock with Savannah because she would often finish after 7 or 8 minutes. Based on the things I read that wasn’t enough time but I could tell she was satisfied, always had positive weight gain and at her 6 month check up was in the 60% weight percentile, go figure.
Make sure to establish the habit of alternating breasts. Some women nurse from both breasts in one session, both of my children tended to get full after nursing on one breast so for next session I offered the other breast. My body adjusted to this method with no issue.
Both of my children had “wellness visits” around 2 weeks at their doctor’s office. This was basically to check that they had at minimum gained their birth weight back*.
*Babies typically lose weight after being born because they aren’t connected the umbilical cord and receiving that effortless direct food like in the womb. In the time it takes you and the baby to get feeding established they do lose weight but most will gain it back and sometimes even more by the 2 week mark.
You made it a full month! Some moms who started off feeding on-demand, choose this one month mark to introduce a schedule. Those who plan to put their baby in daycare at 6 weeks should implement a schedule at this time too. This will make the transition back to work much smoother. This is a breastfeeding tip I wish I had followed.
Week 6 is a MILESTONE!
This was definitely the week I started coming out of the fog. This week you will typically be cleared to return back to work, begin having sex again and meet your doctor for your postpartum follow up visit. For many women this is the week you can realistically see how breastfeeding will fit into “real life”.
For some moms, working full time and breastfeeding is just not feasible. Others make it happen by pumping at work and storing the milk for future use.
Working and Pumping
For moms not wanting to carry the more popular, automatic breast pump, I seriously suggest a manual one. I actually tried a manual one early on while nursing Savannah and loved it so much I never went back to my automatic one.
Nursing pads were also a tremendous help at work. There were times I wasn’t able to leave a meeting or get off a call , so my breasts would often leak. The lightweight cotton pads kept my clothes from being ruined when things went off schedule.
I used Lansinoh Stay Dry Nursing Pads. They were thin enough that I often forgot they were in my bra yet absorbent enough to take care of the job properly.
You are at the 2 month mark! Kudos to you lady! You should notice your breast filling up on a somewhat predictable schedule based on your nursing schedule. Also some, not all, babies begin to sleep longer stretches at night around this time. Don’t get too excited! You won’t get 12 hours of sleep just yet but they may start sleeping in 4 – 6 hour chunks.
If your baby suddenly starts sleeper longer, your body will adjust to this drop in demand. Some moms choose to still wake the baby at the 3 hour mark to feed. I was not in that camp, I let the baby SLEEP! If they were sleeping I felt that meant that’s what their body needed.
89% of American employees qualify for FMLA which covers 12 weeks of unpaid leave. If you are going back to work this is a good time to get on a schedule if you have not already. If you haven’t started pumping this is a good time to start. I highly recommend pumping and freezing around this time. Milk spills or sometimes your baby will want more so it’s best to just have a little in reserve. Some women choose to take galactagogues, which are foods that boosts your milk supply. Galactagogues can help add even more to your freezer storage. Frozen breast milk is good for a year.
At this point you are no longer a novice! You’ve probably dealt with a handful of breastfeeding blunders and sweet moments.
Some women report significant baby weight loss at 12 weeks as a result of breastfeeding. Your body burns about 20 calories for every ounce of milk it produces. If you aren’t at your ideal weight by 3 months don’t worry you aren’t in the minority. Don’t let “snapback culture” and curated social media pictures discourage you.
At 3 months you are at the halfway mark of the American Academy of Pediatrics 6 month minimum breastfeeding recommendation.
Most American women have returned to work by 12 weeks postpartum. So for some women 3 months is their ultimate goal before transitioning to formula. Some moms decide to go another 3 months to hit that 6 month mark, others continue for a year and beyond. There is no one right way to do it. And that is my final breastfeeding tip: do what makes sense for you. People will have their opinions, but you know what is best for you and your baby. Breastfeeding has many benefits for mom and baby but it still is a very personal choice.
These are the basic breastfeeding tips that will help you through the first three months.
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Cieara is a wife and mom of two, passionate about empowering parents to not just survive but thrive. She offers practical and expert advice on topics related to parenthood.