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Dear First Time Mom,
Breastfeeding isn’t always miserable.
That’s right. One more time for the people in the back: Despite what the internet wants you to think, breastfeeding actually just works sometimes. It is possible to breastfeed your baby without a big dramatic saga full of pain, self-doubt, and heroic perseverance. Sometimes it just works. Not every time. But, it does happen. It happened to me.
My baby latched right away and nursed well (even born at 36 weeks). My milk came in (aided by pumping) with minor discomfort. Apart from one sore nipple from one bad latch early on, breastfeeding was smooth sailing. I nursed without incident until my son was a year old and had a super easy time of weaning.
I am not telling you this to brag about my own accomplishments or make anyone feel bad if this wasn’t her story. My goal is to let you know that there is hope that you too will have an easy time of it. Before I had my son, I heard so many breastfeeding horror stories that I had steeled my resolve to fight this battle. I expected that pain and suffering were inevitable and it would take great sacrifice to breastfeed my child. Sometimes it does. But, not always. There is a chance that you will be just fine. A little soreness and minor discomfort and you’re golden.
Preparing to Breastfeed
I do agree with most mommy bloggers out there that breastfeeding isn’t a natural thing that you inherently know how to do. It does require some preparation on your part.
1. The best thing I did to prepare was to watch this video: Breastfeeding: Getting a Good Latch Every Time
It is excellent. She is a little over the top, but thorough and very clear. In my opinion, she tells you everything you need to know to be prepared to breastfeed your child. She also mentions in her other video (Breastfeeding: Getting Started) that you should avoid any artificial nipples until breastfeeding is well established. I did not give my son a pacifier until he was 2 weeks old and it was longer than that before he had a bottle.
2. Give Lactation Consultants a chance!
Once your child is born, take advantage of the lactation consultant(s) at the hospital , birth center, etc.. Or as my husband called them, the lactating consultants. I have read horror stories about lactation consultants being pushy and grabbing your breasts without asking, etc. That wasn’t my experience either. We had great lactation consultants (they asked permission before touching my breasts). **Spoiler Alert** Lactation consultants will have to touch your breasts to help you. It is also important to establish breastfeeding as soon as possible and I could see how they could come across as pushy to a mom who had a tough labor and delivery. However, breastfeeding was important to me and I appreciated their quick arrival and assistance. Both of our lactation consultants were gentle and respectful. They were extremely helpful and made sure we were comfortable breastfeeding before we left the hospital. They also helped me figure out how to pump so my milk would come in quickly since my baby was early.
Also, if you do end up having problems, lactation consultants are a great resource even after you’ve gone home and anytime during your breastfeeding journey.
Even when breastfeeding comes easily it is still a huge commitment. It takes a lot of time and dedication to breastfeed a child.
All that being said, I do have a few thoughts and suggestions.
Breastfeeding Fun Facts/Tips/Must-Haves
1. Modesty – Breastfeeding (pregnancy and childbirth in general) have a way of taking the most modest of women and changing her (don’t worry, your modesty will return soon). In those first few weeks, you will lose count of how many people (in my case women only, apart from medical personnel) will see your breasts. Your mom, sisters, mother in law, cousins, aunts, girlfriends, etc. Why? Because you have to expose your breasts every two hours for an extended period of time. If you kick everyone out every time you breastfeed you would never see anyone. Most women are polite and don’t look, but at this point, I promise you won’t really care anymore. You will start caring again around the time you are able to nurse under a cover. It works out nicely.
Side note: I’m not taking a stand on covered vs uncovered nursing. I am more comfortable nursing covered after the initial adjustment period. Do what makes you comfortable.
2. Nipple Cream and Nursing Pads – Let me save you from ruining some of your clothes as I did. Lanolin stains. Use coconut oil instead. Very effective, doesn’t stain, and doesn’t make a huge sticky mess. Nursing pads a great in the beginning, but I didn’t have to use them the entire year I breastfed. I used reusable ones and kept a few disposables (free samples) stashed in my purse, the car, and diaper bag in case of emergency.
3. Getting Comfortable – The first week or so nursing will require an unobstructed view of your breasts and your baby. Don’t even bother trying to cover up. It’s a lot to juggle and figure out and you need to see what’s going on. Either get comfortable with those closest to you seeing your breasts or kick them out of the room. You only make it harder on yourself when you try to cover up. There is plenty of time for that once you’ve got the hang of it.
4. Water & Snacks – Those first few weeks the second the baby latches you will feel like you’ve been lost in the desert for a week. Make sure you have water with you when you start nursing. After you guzzle that down, you will be ravenously hungry. Have your favorite snacks within reach too. Trust me.
5. Nursing Covers – After the initial no cover phase, but before you’re really comfortable, the covers like this that have the stiff piece that allows you to see what your doing are great. Once you have it figured out, an all around cover like these are my favorites. It is nice to feel covered front and back now that you’ve returned to modesty. It frees up your clothing choices too. As your baby gets older, it gets easier to nurse without a cover while also remaining covered, at least around females. I always used a nursing cover if males (other than my husband) were present. Again, my personal preference.
6. Nursing Bras – My favorites are ThirdLove. Most nursing bras don’t have the same feel as a regular bra and I never feel like they looked right on me. ThirdLove bras made me feel a little more put together than the others I wore, while still being comfortable and able to nurse easily. I love their regular bras too and when I got back in mine after weaning it was like “Ahhhh”. My biggest advice is to stay away from removable liners when you are out and about. I had an unfortunate experience where instead of pulling up the cup on my nursing bra, I pulled out the liner. Thankfully, my cousin was sitting next to me in bible study and could hold my baby while I got things situated. Not a fun time.
7. Nursing pillow – I had a small baby and I have a short torso and maybe that makes a difference. I used a small nursing pillow for the first little while and then didn’t bother. The nursing pillow was loaned to me, otherwise, I wouldn’t have bought one and would have been fine without it. It falls into the category of nice to have. Regular pillows work pretty well. My advice would be to borrow one if you can until you know you need one.
8. Nursing positions – There are a lot of them. Give them all a chance. More than once. They take some getting used to and it takes a few tries to not feel odd. Be open to new positions as you progress through breastfeeding. A position that wasn’t great with a one week old may be great with a 6-month-old.
9. Pumping – Obviously, how often you pump or if you pump at all will be determined by your lifestyle. I can only speak to my own. I am a stay at home mom, so I didn’t have to pump while at work or anything. I did struggle with how much to pump, if at all. I ended up having to pump at the beginning to get my milk to come in and to keep my supply above the demand for my little guy for the first week or so. I quit pumping once we were well established and he was gaining well. I started back again briefly when I night weaned to have a little stash in the freezer. We started trying for number 2 and I didn’t want to lose my supply and not have enough to get my son to a year. I also used it to make his baby cereal when he started solids. Now, I need to throw a bunch out that is still in the freezer unused. If you are a stay at home mom, don’t stress about pumping or a freezer stash.
Pro Tip #1: I used my Instant Pot to sterilize bottles and pumping parts.
Pro Tip #2: If you do need to pump, get a pumping bra or tank top to allow you to pump hands free. Game changer.
Pro Tip #3: If you put a little coconut oil inside the flange where it narrows, it makes it a lot more comfortable on your breasts.
10. Haakaa Pump – Get one. Just do it. It’s great. It helps with engorgement, keeps you from leaking everywhere, and creates a small stash to cover the needs of a stay at home mom. I used this off and on throughout my entire year breastfeeding. As my son dropped feedings, it was a great way to relieve a little pressure without stimulating production. You can use it by itself or on one side while you nurse on the other. I watched YouTube videos to learn how to use it, but I never found a really great one that is worth a link (sorry!).
11. Comfy Spot – I nursed on the love seat in the nursery or in bed. Gliders are great, but I’m really short and struggled to find one I thought would be a comfortable height for my arm. Also, they are really expensive. I never had an issue breastfeeding on the love seat or propped up in bed. To each her own though. As long as you’re comfortable.
12. Nursing in a Baby Carrier – This is a really awesome skill to learn. I wasn’t able to do this with my son until he was around 4 months old. Baby needs good head control and there is a learning curve. It’s a game-changer though. Nursing while walking around the grocery store, etc. is wonderful. Personally, I love Happy Baby Carriers!
13. Tips to Increase Supply – You will see tips everywhere about how to boost your supply. Drink this. Eat that. Follow this pumping routine. Stand on one foot and pat your tummy and rub your head. All these “tips” had me worried low supply was going to be a real problem. Turns out it is very rare. Most likely, you will be just fine without going to these lengths. There is a certain ice cream that is supposed to help though… I could get behind that tip. 🙂
14. Weight Loss – May you be one of the woman whose baby weight melts away breastfeeding. I was not. You may not be either. I’m sorry. When you’re ready, I have a review of the app Noom specifically for breastfeeding moms.
15. Returning Cycle – May you also be one of those woman whose cycle doesn’t return while breastfeeding. Mine came back 2 months postpartum when my son dropped a night feeding. I feel a little cheated… not gonna lie.
I hope this post has encouraged you and provided you with hope and some information to feel prepared to breastfeed your child. Try not to stress until you know you have a problem.
If you do have issues breastfeeding, find a lactation consultant and fight your battle. Don’t give up too quickly or too late. Supplement if you have to while you work on it. Breastfeeding is great, but fed is best.
A Recovering Anxious First Time Mom
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