At this point (and really since a couple months in) breastfeeding is EASY. But it wasn't always! In the beginning it is very challenging. (Read my past post on breastfeeding here) So I hope these things I have learned can help someone who is just starting out breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed in the future!
Ok so here we go!
- Educate yourself- This is so important. Do as much research on breastfeeding as you can-- the more you know about all the benefits for mom and baby the more passionate you will become about it and the more passionate you are the more dedicated you will be and more likely to stick to it and power through. Talk to friends/family that have breastfed successfully before. In addition, take a breastfeeding class during your pregnancy. Almost every hospital offers one, and you can also take one through WIC. Taking a class will give you an overview, let you know what types of things to expect, and teach you some tips and tricks to try. It also connects you with a lactation consultant which will be an AWESOME help to you. If for whatever reason you can't take a class then be sure to connect with a lactation consultant and meet with her before having your baby. And bring your hubby (or whoever will be helping raise your baby) with you too!
- Have support- Surround yourself with as many people as you can that will support you and your breastfeeding goals. Your hubby can be a great support (That's why I said to bring him to the class with you), but it's also important to have people that have "been there" before. For me it was my mom and my cousin Stefani. They were able to answer my questions no matter how silly it seemed. Your lactation consultant can come into play here too, both lactation consultants at my hospital gave me their personal cell phone numbers and told me to call or text ANY time I needed anything. Even still, it's good to have friends/family as well. If you have absolutely nobody other than your LC, then I would highly suggest joining a breastfeeding support group or the La Leche League. You are going to have questions, and you are going to have times when you feel like giving up-- so you need someone to encourage you to keep truckin' and offer suggestions and advice.
- Trust your body & your baby- Sounds simple enough but it's harder than it sounds. First I'll cover trusting your own body. Know that it is actually EXTREMELY rare that you actually have low supply if you have never supplemented. It might SEEM as if you aren't making enough but trust me- you are. In the beginning babies tummies are SOOO tiny! They are filled by just a teaspoon of colostrum, which is the perfect amount your body makes. There will be times when you feel like you do nothing but feed and you might wonder if baby is getting enough-- he is. When your supply regulates a few weeks-months in you all of a sudden won't feel "full" and you'll think your milk has dried up-- it hasn't! As long as baby is gaining weight on their own curve and producing wet diapers then you are making enough milk. Let that be your guide and don't supplement unless baby isn't doing the previously mentioned- because supplementing WILL cause your supply to go down. Remember it's all supply and demand! When I say trust your baby what I mean is feed baby when he's hungry. Don't schedule feedings. Learn hunger cues and respond accordingly. Baby knows best in this case usually ;)
- Nurse baby ASAP after birth- I know this is more difficult with c-section births but most hospital staff are very accommodating to this if they know your wishes prior. It's best to get help and get baby latched on during his alert period right after birth (before they go into their sleepy stage where it becomes more difficult to get baby awake enough to get a good feeding in). I nursed Jackson within minutes of his birth and I think that made a huge difference!
- Make your wishes known to your partner, doctor, and the hospital staff- most hospitals are pro-breastfeeding and will do what they can to help you and encourage you. Occasionally though you'll run on to hospital staff that will give formula, etc. without your consent. Make SURE that they know you are breastfeeding and that nothing is to be given to baby without your consent and without a valid medical reason. You don't want your efforts to be sabotaged just because they didn't know better. It's a good idea to make sure your doctor and especially your husband/partner knows your wishes too so that they can be your advocate if necessary.
- Know your options- If you are having lots of difficulty know that there are sooo many options out there to give your baby breastmilk if nursing isn't going as planned. You don't immediately have to give up and switch to formula (disclaimer: I'm not knocking formula-- just that if you want to give your baby breastmilk it's important to know what options are out there!) If you are having trouble with your milk coming in or jaundice, etc, ask about an SNS (Supplemental nursing system). Google it for more info but it's a nifty way to supplement with your own pumped milk/colostrum or formula if needed without having to use a bottle and while still stimulating your breast to encourage the milk to come in. If you are having latch troubles see a lactation consultant ASAP to get it checked out and follow her instructions for getting it fixed. If you have damaged nipples (usually happens from too many bad latches) or flat/inverted nipples, ask about a nipple shield or breast shells. There's lots of things that can help with your difficulties. If worst comes to worst and you just cannot feed baby from your breast then you CAN pump and bottle feed your baby breastmilk. Know though that exclusively pumping comes with a big commitment and carries its own difficulties but it IS possible! (If you choose to do that then you will need to rent or buy a hospital grade pump). There is also donor breastmilk available as well. I was blessed to not have to use any of the aforementioned things but I have had friends that have and they are truly thankful for their use so that they could give their babies the best food!
- Ask for help- It's ok, really. We all have difficulties and challenges. You are learning, and baby is learning. Never be afraid to ask (and demand if you have to) help while you are in the hospital and also after you have gone home.
- Invest in Lanolin cream and a pump- ok lanolin cream is going to be your lifesaver in the beginning. Even if you have a PERFECT latch, point blank your nipples are gonna hurt like hell for a while. They just aren't used to it and it takes a while. Use lanolin after every feeding- trust me it helps. As for a pump even if you are going to be a stay at home mom and plan to seldom to never give your baby a bottle, I would still get at least a manual pump. First of all in the beginning you are super engorged and while you shouldn't pump a lot (causes oversupply), sometimes you HAVE to just so baby can get latched. Also you might want a date night this century. Or just a little break. Or to give dad a turn in feeding. You get the idea. Not to mention when your little one starts solids it's good to be able to mix his cereal with breastmilk. So definitely look into purchasing a pump and a bottle or two.
- Know it gets easier- Those first 6-8 weeks are so hard. But know it gets easier day by day. It seems like forever from now but pretty soon this will be a distant memory. Take it day by day for a while. Set small goals. You can do this- our bodies were made for it!
- Take care of yourself- This is easy to overlook. I know I did those first few weeks. Turns out I wasn't drinking near enough water- I didn't get dehydrated thankfully but well let me just say postpartum hemorrhoid + iron supplements + lack of water..... and you get the idea. Ouch. Don't forget to drink plenty of water, eat plenty of food/snacks, and get as much rest as you can (definitely use the sleep when baby sleeps philosophy!). Accept help when you can with household stuff and even watching baby for an hour or two so you can sleep. My hubby would take Jackson in the early morning and let me sleep in the first few weeks. Remember you have to stay healthy too!
Alrighty well that's my list of ten tips to get through those first weeks of breastfeeding. If I left anything out feel free to add in the comments! :)
I can hands down say that breastfeeding is one of the BEST decisions I have made and I know I will nurse all my future babies as well!