Breast milk production is based on the law of supply and demand, so to ensure that your production stays high, your best bet is to nurse, nurse, nurse. The first few days after delivery are particularly crucial, as that’s when you “program” your breasts to establish a healthy, flexible supply, Morton notes. “You can’t over-breastfeed a baby,” she says. “In fact, problems such as jaundice, excessive weight loss and impaired milk production are less likely the more you nurse in the first three days.” It’s also important to eat well, drink plenty of fluids, avoid excessive exercise and sneak in as many naps as possible. “Nothing is more detrimental to milk supply than fatigue,” Lawrence says.
If you do seem to have a problem—and some women do—you can use a breast pump to increase your production, Karp says. Start by pumping an ounce or two about 30 minutes to 45 minutes before your baby’s first morning feeding; she should fall into an eating routine fairly early on, so it will be easy to predict when she’ll want to nurse. Gradually work up to pumping two to three ounces two to three times a day, if necessary, and store the excess in the refrigerator or freezer.
Q: I’ll be going back to work when the baby is 12 weeks old. What’s the best way to introduce a bottle?
A: When your baby is nursing well (usually by 2 weeks to 4 weeks old), give her a bottle of pumped breast milk once a day. Don’t wait longer than 4 weeks of age, or she’ll be more likely to refuse it. Also try not to give more than one bottle per day—you don’t want her to begin to favor the bottle’s faster, easier flow.
Q: My nipples are raw and cracked. What can I do?
A: Painful, cracked nipples are most often caused by an incorrect latch, Morton says. So when you breastfeed, make sure your baby is positioned properly: with her belly against yours, so her neck is not turned. Also ensure that she positions the nipple far back in her mouth and draws in the portion of the areola below the nipple.
If adjusting your nursing style doesn’t help, consult a lactation expert as soon as possible; visit the International Lactation Consultant Association at ilca.org for a referral. In the meantime, for relief, try applying a touch of expressed breast milk, medical-grade lanolin (unless you’re allergic to wool) or an all-natural ointment such as Motherlove Nipple Cream. Wearing breast shells in your bra to expose your nipples to air and prevent fabric from rubbing against them can also help; ask a lactation consultant.
Master the latch For detailed instructions and photos of how to get the right latch, visit fitpregnancy.com/breastfeeding/latch.