The #1 thing you can do during Covid-19 in pregnancy for breastfeeding success

By Carrie Bruno

March 20, 2020

Carrie is the founder of The Mama Coach. She is a RN, IBCLC lactation consultant, sleep consultant and mama of two little guys. She leads the North American team of Mama Coaches and is committed to making motherhood easier.

Qualified, non-judgmental support is key when a mama is learning to breastfeed.

Prior to Covid-19, finding support was not that challenging.

But now, we are all practicing social distancing, which is key in preventing the spread of Covid-19, but one side effect of protecting public health, is that access to support and resources when you are learning to breastfeed have temporarily decreased.

I think about all the mamas who are supported in breastfeeding clinics, in homes, in our feeding circles, and that looks different now. As Mama Coaches, we will continue to show up and support you virtually. You can book us here.

But what else can you do?

I took yesterday to think about the best thing I can suggest to pregnant women to help them feel ready to breastfeed.

The answer seems clear to me.

ANTENATAL HAND EXPRESSION

If you’ve followed us for a while, you’ve likely heard us talk about it.

Antenatal hand expression is when you express and collect colostrum while you are still pregnant. Sound so crazy, we know. But we have seen it work in practice time and time again. It has these benefits:

  • Learning how to handle your breasts to breastfeed is a learned skill. Learning how to be comfortable handling your breasts when expressing milk will make breastfeeding your newborn so much less awkward!
  • You are building an ample milk supply. Antenatal hand expression is a relatively new practice and as health care providers we used to only suggest it to women who were at risk of needing to supplement their babies (diabetic mamas, twins). I have been a practicing Registered Nurse in women’s health for 15 years and an IBCLC lactation consultant for five. I have seen women who have struggled with milk supply with their first baby see incredible results when doing antenatal hand expression with their subsequent babies. There is research that shows that doing antenatal hand expression at the end of your pregnancy can have long term positive impacts on your prolactin levels (the hormone that helps you make milk) as you continue to nurse your baby.
  • You are building a freezer stash for your baby! Sometimes babies are born at risk of needing supplementation because their blood sugar drops (small for gestational age, large for gestational age, diabetic mamas, if you had a stressful delivery are a few examples). This need for supplementation can change the trajectory of a mama’s breastfeeding experience. If a baby receives a formula, they may not want to nurse as often as they would have in that initial postpartum period. Newborn’s are wired to want to nurse frequently after delivery as this is what helps your milk “come in”.  Having a freezer stash of colostrum allows mamas to give. their babies their own colostrum if needed, instead of formula. Just pack it in a freezer bag and bring it with you when you go to the hospital!

It is important to talk to your health care provider about whether you are a candidate to do this. Here is some more info about some mamas who shouldn’t do antenatal hand expression:

  • You are under 37 weeks gestation (you need to be term!)
  • You have a low lying placenta or placenta previa.
  • You have a history of pre-term labour.

Check out our article here with instructions on how to hand express. It includes a video and step by step instructions. If you feel like you need more help, a Mama Coach will bring you supplies to your door and then video conference with you to help talk you through it. This includes an ebook on hand expression and our breastfeeding guide. Book this with a Mama Coach here.

It is an overwhelming time for everybody, but especially if you are pregnant and wondering how you will manage a new baby through all of this. We are here with you mamas. Check out our article on managing pregnancy and breastfeeding through this pandemic. Reach out and we will help. Any questions or if you want one on one virtual support from a Registered Nurse. We are here. We are often covered through private insurance or Health flexible spending accounts as well.

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