The impending birth of our fifth child has my mind racing about all things “new baby”. One thing a lot of new moms have trouble with is breastfeeding. I’ll save the bottle or breast debate for another time and place. I’ll assume that if you’ve taken the time to read this post, you’ve already made your decision for once your baby gets here…or maybe you’re already breastfeeding. You’re tired (there’s the understatement of the century!), and maybe a little discouraged because things aren’t going quite as well as you had hoped they would.
I am by no means a professional expert. You can take my advice, or you can leave it. It’s up to you. One thing I can tell you, however, is that I’ve successfully breastfed four infants for longer than a year each. So, without further ado, here are my breastfeeding tips for beginners.
Take advantage of help while you are still in the hospital.
The nurses you will meet during your stay usually have years of experience helping new moms learn all the ins and outs of breastfeeding. You’d be surprised how much they can help. Most hospitals also have lactation consultants on staff. If one doesn’t happen to wander into your room soon after your baby is born, request a visit! They are paid to be there to help you. Many pediatricians’ practices also keep lactation consultants on staff. If your hospital doesn’t have one (or if you don’t use a hospital), contact your pediatrician’s office for assistance. The sooner you take advantage of help, the better. Be an expert before you head home!
Hopefully, you’ve already started your research…before your baby gets here. But if you didn’t, better late than never! There are a couple of points to keep in mind. The sooner you try breastfeeding your baby after birth, the better. Give it a try as soon as they hand your baby to you. Trust me, it’s a truly amazing moment!
There are a lot of common problems, many with fairly easy solutions. Things like improper latch or positioning, lip and tongue ties, low supply, over-supply, thrush can all make breastfeeding challenging…but not impossible! There are things you can do to correct these problems…some are easier than others. Learn all you can about common problems so that you can recognize the signs and get the help you need!
Nearly all breastfed babies lose some weight during the first few days following birth.
This was a shocker to me the first time around. I’m so glad that someone had the foresight to mention it to me before my daughter was born. My oldest was fairly small to start with…she was born at 5 pounds, 15 ounces. I had pre-eclampsia, and had to deliver a tad early. We were both healthy after birth, but if I hadn’t known to expect a little weight loss, I would have been really scared since she was already so small. I might have been talked into supplementing by some well-meaning, yet overly nosy people in my life. So give breastfeeding a fair try. Make sure you give it longer than a week!
Position is everything. Make sure you are comfortable!
Find your favorite spot…couch, bed, wherever. Get enough pillows to support your back. Make sure you have something to drink nearby. You’ll be thirsty, I promise. Find a nursing pillow that makes both you and baby comfortable. Personally, I like the Boppy, but a lot of people like other brands. I even know a couple who made their own! Find whatever pillow best fits your body best. If the pillow you got at your baby shower isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something different!
Make sure to get a well-fitting bra (or 6)!
This is something that will be difficult, even impossible, to do before your milk comes in. There will be no doubt in your mind when that happens! Your size will change dramatically on that magical day. You will need a nursing bra before then, obviously, but it’s a good idea to wait to invest heavily in these garments until you know what size you will need for the long run. Have an expert determine the size you need. Try on several different styles if you can. Sometimes, you’ll have to order your size. There isn’t a store in town that carries my size (I’m kind of a big girl). So, I have to order mine.
Try out La Leche League for some great fitting and affordable bras. It’s always a good idea to have several, because, well, leaks happen. I also have different styles depending on what I’m going to do. I have some that I can sleep in, others that I live in during the day, and a couple that work well under clothes I wear to church. You just have to find out what fits your habits.
Get a good pump.
This is especially important if you plan to go back to work. Make sure you have parts that fit you…yes, they come in different sizes. You are going to be miserable if you’re working with a pump that is uncomfortable, and you might be tempted to give up breastfeeding. Even if you are planning on staying home with your baby, a pump is still a good idea. I always try to pump a little so that I can have a small stock of milk in the refrigerator…just in case I have to go out unexpectedly.
Many insurance companies will pay for pumps these days. It’s a good idea to call ahead of time to find out the procedure for getting one through your insurance. Sometimes, your doctor has to write a prescription, and sometimes, you only have a certain window of time to get one. It will be well worth your time to find out!
Every baby nurses differently.
Try not to compare your nursing experience with your best friend’s. Don’t even compare your older child’s former nursing habits with this younger child’s habits. Every baby is different. My oldest took forever to finish each feeding. I had to plan on at least 45 minutes for her to eat. She was just a slow eater (and still is!). My second was a speedster, but she liked to eat a lot more often than my first. Number three had to play around a lot before he finally got down to business. My fourth was another speedster. Who knows what number 5 will do!
Trust your instincts.
If you think something isn’t right, get help. Don’t wait. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get the breastfeeding relationship reestablished. On the other hand, don’t let well-meaning friends and relatives (and even sometimes medical professionals) convince you that something is wrong when you know everything is going quite well. Trust yourself. You’re the momma. You know you, and you know your baby!
When Rhino was about 9 months old, we got thrush. I knew there was something wrong, but my doctor couldn’t “see” any problems. This is quite common with thrush. Sometimes there are obvious white patches in the baby’s mouth. Sometimes, a mother’s pain is the only symptom. I had to find a doctor who would believe me in order to get the problem solved. Again: trust yourself! Stand up for yourself and your baby. Don’t let anyone else tell you that it’s time to wean just because you run into a little problem. That decision is up to the two of you.
Don’t give up!!!
Breastfeeding can be hard. There’s no doubt about it…it’s exhausting. Being a mother is hard! You’ve made a great decision for your child’s nutrition. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Don’t give up! Get help when you need it. Take care of yourself. Trust yourself. I wish you the best of luck on this new adventure!