A friend of mine is pregnant with her first and plans on breastfeeding. I told her I would give her some advice that I found helpful in my breastfeeding journey. And then I decided to just blog about it. Why not? Perhaps some other mommies-to-be will find this helpful. Or humorous. Who knows, we will see.
I am by no means an expert in breastfeeding. I did breastfeed Hayes until he turned 1 and started on whole milk. And the breastfeeding journey with Keller has been successful so far. So, I must know what I'm doing a little, right?
Ok, here goes. Katie's list of breastfeeding tips and things to expect and other random things:
After your baby is born, spend time staring at your new child and bonding and getting over the shock of giving birth. Make sure you get some skin to skin contact with your baby. Then, ask the nurse to help you with getting the baby to latch on for the first time. You will likely be in shock and tired and not totally feeling up to the task, and it is nice to have help, especially if it's your first time. Heck, I even needed the help my second time. With both boys, they started bouncing their little heads around looking for food not long after birth. Then, we jumped in to help them find the food and latch on. It was incredible how well they latched on the first time...like they were born knowing how to eat.
After giving birth, your uterus needs to contract back to its normal state. Breastfeeding/pumping causes your uterus to contract and it doesn’t feel good. Be ready for these intense cramps when you are nursing for the first few days. By the way, it hurts whether you are breastfeeding or not…
Go ahead and get used to having your lady parts man-handled. Who knows how many people saw your lady business while giving birth. Someone helping you get your baby to latch is nothing compared to that show.
Anytime your baby starts rooting, try nursing. Even if it's only been 10 minutes since the last feeding, try nursing. That fist goes in their little mouth, get ready to whip it out. This is especially important in those first few days. You are both learning and practice makes perfect! Also, the more often you nurse, the faster your milk comes in. For this reason, lots of guests those first few days can be awkward. Do not feel bad asking people to step out or excusing yourself to nurse.
Nipple confusion. It’s a real thing. Hayes had 2 bottles while he was in the hospital and I am convinced that it led to the difficulties we had with latching in the first few weeks. It is way easier for a baby to drink out of a bottle than it is to breastfeed. I recommend holding off on bottles for a few weeks. I plan on starting Keller on bottles at 7 weeks so that we get some practice in before daycare starts.
It's going to hurt. Your body is not used to having a small person eating from it, and it will take some time to get used to this process and the new sensations it brings.
The pain will get better. Or maybe, you just lose the ability to feel anything. Regardless, it gets better:)
A bad latch can make you hate life. Seriously. With Hayes, I didn't know the difference between a bad latch and a good latch. I'm pretty sure 98% of feedings in the first few weeks were with a bad latch. So I had lots of pain. With Keller, I can tell a bad latch right away and we start over. I actually haven't had the pain that I did with Hayes, and I think this might be why.
You might have bleeding and blisters. And they are not fun. But they do go away. Making sure the latch is good is important in making the pain go away and even preventing blisters.
After your baby is born, have a doctor or nurse check out their frenulum. Hayes's went to the very tip of his tongue, which made his latch awful. Once we got his frenulum clipped, his latch was perfect.
What does a good latch feel like? Hmm....it's hard to put this into words. Let's try this. A bad latch is excruciating, pulsing pain. It feels like the latch isn't very deep and the baby doesn't have very much of you in their mouth. You can feel every little suck and every little suck is a new surge of pain. A good latch might hurt a little at first, but you feel like the baby has a deep, constant suction. Maybe "tugging" is a good word for how a good latch feels...
When they say drink lots of water, they aren't kidding. Drink lots of water. At least one large glass with each feeding. And make sure you eat plenty. Not drinking enough water and not eating enough will make your milk supply drop. And it will also make you feel sick. You need to eat enough to meet your nutritional needs and your baby's.
To make eating and drinking easier, get it ready before you nurse so you can do so while nursing. Think about finger foods to eat. Chances are, baby will want to eat when you are ready to and having food that is easy to eat with one hand will help, lots. Although, it is amazing what you get good at doing with one hand. By the end of maternity leave with Hayes, I could eat soup with my left hand while nursing and not spill a drop. Impressive, I know.
Eating rules aren’t as strict as they were during pregnancy. From what I’ve read you can eat pretty much anything, although it might be good to avoid foods with a family history of allergic reactions. Some foods you eat can also make baby have gas…like dairy.
Nipple shield. It could save your life. It saved mine when Hayes and I had no clue what we were doing. Lactation consultants say "noooooo!" I say, do whatever gets you through the feeding. It goes on you and makes it easier for the baby to latch.
I can't live without nursing sleep bras. They are comfortable and easy to shove out of the way for feedings. Medela runs small, Motherhood Maternity runs big. But I have some of each and use them all.
In the beginning, I recommend shirts/nursing tops that you can pull down to nurse. It's easier to manage when you are figuring what they heck you are doing.
Nursing pads are useful if you like to avoid large wet spots on your shirt. Eventually, my milk supply was manageable and I didn't need them. But, they are necessary in the beginning.
If you need to remove the baby from your breast for any reason and they are still latched on, don't just pull the baby off. That will HURT. Take your pinky and place it in the baby's mouth between their teeth and your to break the suction.
Do I like burning 500 calories a day just feeding my child? Yes. Yes I do.
I think only moms who love to breastfeed might think this. Or maybe only I think this. But there is just something seriously adorable about a baby who is nursing. Especially when they are awake and looking around and eating furiously. I've told Ryan multiple times that I feel sorry for him for not being able to breastfeed, because he misses out on the cuteness that I just can't even explain.
The bonding with your baby while breastfeeding is indescribable. And worth the pain and blisters. For me, anyway.
Sometimes, milk will just squirt out. And when it squirts out and hits your baby in the face while they are trying to latch on, it's hilarious.
Breast milk is easier to digest than formula. Also, babies digest breast milk faster.
Everyone’s breast milk has a unique flavor. The flavor of your breast milk is also affected by what you eat, which is a great way to expose your baby to different flavors before they start eating food.
I totally tasted my breast milk once. It was sweet, kinda like cantaloupe juice.
In the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” they use windex as a cure-all. Breast milk…kinda the same. You can use it on baby acne or scratches to help healing. Also, breast milk is great to use on your own nips if they are sore, cracked, etc.
Mastitis is an awful infection that occurs in your breast tissue. You feel like you have the flu, you get crazy high fevers, and you have sharp breast pain. If you develop a high fever, get to a doctor asap. You can start an antibiotic immediately to clear it up. Ignoring symptoms is not a good idea. Also, you should still breastfeed while you have mastitis. Your milk isn’t infected and you don’t want to decrease your supply or end up with clogged ducts while sick. I had mastitis 5 times with Hayes. Terrible!
Don’t heat breast milk in the microwave! Use a bottle warmer or pan of water on the stove. Also, breast milk separates after pumping. Swirl the breast milk, don’t shake it!
Nursing through illness is a good thing. You pass along antibodies to your baby. It’s not easy for you, but still good for baby.
So you know how bottle nipples just have one hole? Well that’s not how your nips work. There are many different “holes” that milk comes out of. Crazy!
In conclusion, breastfeeding can be hard. It's lots of work, especially for a first time mom. Well, it's a lot of work for a second time mom who has a newborn to feed and a toddler running around. But taking care of a newborn is a lot of work regardless of the feeding approach you take. I am so glad I have been able to breastfeed both of my boys. I was sad when Hayes was done and I will be sad when Keller is done. It was hard to figure out, but once I got the hang of it, it became second nature.
Like I said, these are all based on my experience only. Everyone has a different experience and opinions and tricks. I got my best advice from friends who had recently breastfed or who were currently breastfeeding. And the best advice ever, just do what works for you. No one knows your body or baby better than you. Trust your instincts as a mom.