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Getting Started With Breastfeeding: A Guide

Because it's a must to prepare for this journey.

Motherhood

When I was pregnant, I just knew I was going to breastfeed my daughter once she arrived. But when I had a C-section 10 weeks early after being diagnosed with severe preeclampsia, I had no idea what breastfeeding really required. Every mom's story is different, but there were things I wish I would've known about breastfeeding before going into the OR (I had no clue the short-lived journey would start just a few days after).

Whether it's the power of pumping, methods to boost your milk supply, and of course getting the little one to latch, there's so much that goes into learning how to breastfeed, and it can be a bit overwhelming and tempting to give up. To help with that, we've curated a guide for you to dig in before your breastfeeding journey.

When To Start Breastfeeding

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Once you decide to breastfeed, it's vital to mentally prepare right away, because your life will change for quite a few months ahead. A couple of days after her arrival, I was still in the hospital and hadn't yet seen my baby girl when the lactation consultant wheeled in a pumping machine. I told her I wanted to ultimately breastfeed and she immediately showed me how to pump (if you have a full-term newborn, you could start breastfeeding as soon as an hour after giving birth, according to Medela). The gist is, it's vital to start as soon as possible.

How Often Should You Breastfeed?

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Breastfeeding in the first 24 hours can be a wildcard. You and your bundle of joy are working on finding a rhythm together, and each baby will be different. When your liquid gold (a.k.a. milk) makes its arrival, your newborn could eat up to 12 times a day (yes, even in the overnight hours). While it's a well-known fact that getting up to feed a baby at two in the morning every day is exhausting, this can also serve as a beautiful time for you to bond.

Breastfeeding sessions can last between 10 and 45 minutes. While your little one might not get on a schedule right away, they'll get the hang of it over time.

Does Breastfeeding Hurt?

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A rule of thumb is that breastfeeding will be uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be too painful. Fortunately, there's nipple cream that doubles as a lifesaver. While I didn't breastfeed like I hoped (ultimately, my supply was just too low but that's another story), I did pump my breasts until kingdom come, and I don't know what I would've done without nipple cream. Since everyone is different, it's best to see a lactation consultant about any concerns you have.

How Much Breastmilk Is Enough?

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It's understandable to wonder if your newborn is really getting the nutrients they need. If you're staying consistent with feeding every 2-3 hours, they should be just fine. A couple of signs that a baby isn't getting enough breastmilk include:

  • Your baby not gaining weight,
  • Your baby taking too little or too much,
  • Latching goes beyond discomfort and is extremely painful.

Because we like to celebrate wins too, signs that a newborn is getting enough milk include:

  • Your baby gaining weight,
  • Regular pooping and peeing (at least 6 to 8 wet diapers a day after their fifth day of life),
  • Latching every two to three hours,
  • Hearing your baby swallowing while breastfeeding and seeing breast milk in their mouth,
  • Your breasts could also feel softer and less full compared to before feeding.

How To Boost Your Milk Supply

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Hydrate girl! Drinking lots of water does wonders for boosting your milk supply. As new moms, it can be hard to even find time to get a sip of water, let alone enough for the day. But knowing that it can help increase your breast milk supply could be enough to stay motivated.

Other ways to increase your supply include: keep feeding on demand (every two to three hours), switching back and forth between breasts (this is especially helpful if the baby falls asleep while eating), pump between feedings, and getting as much rest as you can. There are also a few nifty products out there like lactation cookies.

Breastfeeding Vs. Formula Feeding: Which Is Better?

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Any way a mother decides to nurture her child is her decision. Once I came to terms that breastfeeding wasn't going to work out the way I hoped, I realized that #fedisbest and what really matters is that she's getting the nutrients she needs.

Breastfeeding does have undeniable benefits, from boosting a newborn's immunity to helping with brain development. But if formula feeding is your only option or just the one that works best for you, it's not a bad one. It just might not be ideal. For me, I didn't have the capacity to breastfeed, and my little one came home on a high-calorie formula. It took a while to come to terms with this being our journey and getting over the guilt of not being able to breastfeed her once she was developed enough to latch, but after almost three months of being home, she's doing just fine (and sis doesn't play about her meals).

Whatever you decide, don't give in to the pressure to go one way or the other. Know that you're doing your best and the person who knows what's best for your newborn is you.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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