Written by SMH Lactation Specialist Sheera Thomas, RN
The transition to becoming a mother is often accompanied by feelings of overwhelming joy — and overwhelming uncertainty … uncertainty about breastfeeding, safe sleep practices, immunizations, and on and on. To help ease some of that uncertainty — at least the questions about breastfeeding — we’ve put together a roundup of tips, facts and proven wisdom from Sarasota Memorial lactation specialist Sheera Thomas, RN.
1. Breastfeeding comes naturally to some, but it is NOT easy for everyone. Thankfully, our community has a number of resources — from prenatal education to in-home consultations — that can help new moms overcome breastfeeding challenges.
SMH lactation experts recommend taking a breastfeeding class before baby is born and visiting with a lactation specialist after the birth. Some hospitals, like Sarasota Memorial, have a team of certified lactation specialists, ensuring every woman who delivers gets one-on-one breastfeeding guidance.
Sarasota Memorial offers three, free Breastfeeding Support Group and Latch Clinics that are held in Waldemere Medical Plaza and at Forty Carrots. Look for upcoming dates and times on our calendar. For any-time breastfeeding support, you can call SMH’s Breastfeeding Help Line at 941-917-7413.
Other vital, free community resources for nursing moms include services from SMH community partners Healthy Start Coalition (which offers in-home visits) and La Leche League of the Suncoast (support groups and services).
2. Having a solid support system can make all the difference in those early days, weeks and months of motherhood. Find your tribe … or tribes.
For mom-to-mom support, drop in on one of the Sarasota Memorial Mother-Baby Group meetings. Let baby play while you connect with other moms who are at the same stage of the motherhood journey. Moms and babies 6 months and younger meet at 2 to 3 pm in the first-floor classroom of the Health Care Center at Clark Road. Mothers and babies age 6 months (or who are crawling) to 1 year meet from 12:30 to 1:30 pm in the same place.
Can’t get to an in-person support get-together? Look for a breastfeeding group or moms support community online. Digital communities can be an effective source of support and guidance for those with limited mobility or limited access to transportation.
3. You have the legal right to nurse your child anywhere, any time. Florida breastfeeding laws clarify that women have a right to breastfeed any place they have a right to be, public or private. (Florida Statute 383.015, 1993)
4. Federal law requires most employers to allow employees breaks so they can pump breastmilk at work (Break Time for Nursing Mothers Act; Section 2, FLSA, 2010).
5. Drinking dark beer will NOT boost milk production (it’s an old wives’ tale!), but there ARE some foods that can do just that. Barley, oats, quinoa, almonds, green leafy vegetables and water are effective lactogens, meaning they boost breastmilk supply. (Almonds make a great snack while breastfeeding; keep a stash next to your usual nursing spot for those late-night sessions.) Nursing moms should avoid peppermint, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, which can decrease the milk supply.
6. Many nursing moms experience a blocked duct or breast infection (mastitis). The best treatment for these? Frequent feedings to empty the breast. Do not stop or reduce feedings, if you have mastitis or a blocked milk duct. If a blocked duct doesn’t resolve itself in 24 to 48 hours; becomes red, painful or swollen; or if you have concerns, contact your doctor.
7. An occasional alcoholic beverage is fine, but alcohol does pass through breastmilk, so avoid habitual use. To avoid having to dump that precious liquid gold, nursing moms should wait two hours after drinking an alcoholic beverage before breastfeeding; however, if you cannot wait that long or your breasts are uncomfortably full before the 2 hours, then pump and dump.
8. Talk to your pediatrician about breastfeeding, before baby is born. During your prenatal visits or research to choose a pediatrician, be sure to ask about the physician’s stance on and knowledge of breastfeeding. You’ll want a pediatrician who supports breastfeeding and can help you troubleshoot any challenges. (Need help finding a pediatrician? Our HealthLine physician referral team is happy to help; call 941-917-7777.)
9. Establish a breastfeeding routine before pumping, when possible. Breastfeeding is all supply and demand, and pumping too much or too soon could create an oversupply, which could put mom at risk for clogged ducts, mastitis and discomfort.
New moms who will be returning to work should aim to pump once a day, every day and store that milk in the back of the freezer (labeled and dated), starting about 2 to 4 weeks before the end of their maternity leave. Once back to work, breastfeeding moms should pump when baby would normally be feeding; this replenishes the freezer stash.
10. If you experience any of the following, reach out to a lactation support person or group for help right away: breasts or nipples are sore; nipples are cracked; baby is not latching or staying latched; milk supply seems low; you think your baby is not getting enough milk; you feel like giving up.
And remember Sarasota Memorial and its community partners — all members of the Breastfeeding Advocates of Sarasota County — are here for you, at every step and stage of your breastfeeding journey.
SMH Mother-Baby Discharge Facilitator Sheera Thomas, RN, has been an OB nurse for more than 20 years. She is an internationally board-certified lactation consultant, a certified childbirth educator, and—perhaps her most demanding role—a mother of four.