Breastfeeding mothers will begin producing milk (lactating) within 72 hours of establishing breastfeeding. Breastfeeding exclusively during the first two weeks of life is important (avoid formula feeding) to develop a good milk supply. Although your nipples will be sore during the first two weeks of breastfeeding, it is best to avoid pumping or substituting a bottle in order to elevate your milk hormone level as high as possible to insure good milk production long term.
Nipple care is especially important during the first two weeks of lactating. Keep the nipples dry. If you use breast pads, change them frequently. Let the flaps down on your nursing bra to get air to the nipples. Use a skin protectant such as Lansinoh. Vitamin E oil is also a favorite. These products do not have to be washed off prior to breastfeeding.
Nipple shields are rubber covers for the nipples that allow the baby to latch onto the rubber nipple rather than your own nipple. Mothers are often tempted to use these to avoid the pain of the infant latching onto a sore nipple. These shields will decrease the nipple stimulation essential for good milk production. They also decrease the amount of milk the baby ingests. We discourage the use of nipple shields.
During these two weeks you may become “engorged” periodically. Engorgement is when the breasts are full of milk. Over the days and weeks to come your baby’s appetite and your breast milk production will find a balance. You may become so engorged that your breasts are painful, or the baby is unable to attach to a full nipple. Heat, massage and even pumping for one minute prior to breastfeeding can be very helpful.
While breastfeeding, drink lots of water, take your prenatal vitamins, calcium supplement and fish oil capsule to improve the amount of milk you make and the nutritional content. Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking while breastfeeding. Consult your medication list for over-the-counter safe medication use.
Mastitis is a breast infection. Breast infections during lactation can be serious. If you have a fever over 100 degrees with red, swollen, tender areas in the breast, please contact the office immediately. Washing your hands before handling the breasts and nipples will reduce the bacteria that can enter thru tender nipples in the first few weeks of lacatating.
Local lactation specialists offer education and support for breastfeeding moms. You can find listings in the phone book. A local group called La Leche League offers support, education and encouragement. The hospital offers a one day breastfeeding class taught by a lactation specialist.
Breast pumps can be a useful tool for breastfeeding moms, especially if you will be returning to work and want to continue breastfeeding. The Medela pump is one of the best available to women. Consider renting an electric pump for home use. Check at medical supply stores for availability.
Check these web sites or consult a lactation specialist for information about pumping and storing breast milk safely.
A great deal of information is available on line: