When I was pregnant with Clara I read EVERYTHING there was to read about pregnancy and the newborn period. We attended Lamaze, parenting, and CPR classes. I was as prepared as I could possibly be.
Somehow with all of my preparation I was still completely surprised in some areas, especially with breastfeeding.
Not everyone wants to breastfeed, which is totally okay! I understand why it may not be the best solution for some, and there is nothing wrong with formula feeding. That being said, I do hope that I can pass along my tips and help another mother on her breastfeeding journey.
Some of my tips may make nursing sound intimidating. Full disclosure, it was at first. My purpose today is not to scare anyone, but rather to give you confidence that if you reach a breastfeeding roadblock, know that you are not alone and you can overcome it! Nursing is now very easy for us, and I am so happy that I pushed through the tough moments.
1. It hurts in the beginning- I always was told “if it hurts, you are doing something wrong.” That can be true, but sometimes it hurts even if you’re doing it all right. Ever done a new workout, and then been incredibly sore after? It’s kinda like that, except on one of the most sensitive parts of your body. Now that doesn’t mean it will hurt forever! You just need to adjust to this new experience. You will be surprised how much strength a newborn suckle has. After about two weeks I no longer felt pain when nursing. I promise your body will adjust and it will become much easier!
2. Nipple cream will become your best friend-Purchase a tube of it before you go into labor and bring it with you to the hospital. Use it after every single feeding! I’m a big fan of Bamboobies Organic Nipple Balm. I used it for months and it’s awesome! I did however deal with excessive issues on one side due to having an inverted nipple. My lactation consultant recommended a prescription of All Purpose Nipple Ointment. I highly suggest asking your OB or midwife for this if you deal with more than the normal cracking. I healed within a few feedings once I had this ointment.
3. Ask to see the Lactation Consultant (LC) as soon as possible- Have her show you multiple positions to nurse your baby in. Your partner should take notes, or even record the meeting with the LC. My husband was able to help me position my baby properly because he had paid attention to the LC and remembered things that I forgot. This also allowed him to feel helpful with the feeding process.
4. Not all Lactation Consultants are created equal- I had a great LC on day one at the hospital. I had a different LC on day two, and did not have a good experience with her. If you are not receiving the help you need from your LC then seek another support out. Most hospitals have breastfeeding support clinics that you can drop in on for help. You can also contact your local La Leche League chapter for additional support. My daughter’s pediatrician even wrote a prescription so that my insurance would cover an in home LC meeting.
5. When your milk comes in you will feel engorged- Most women have their milk come in between 3-5 days postpartum. When my milk came in my breasts swelled to cartoon like proportions and felt rock hard! It can be very difficult to latch a baby if you become this engorged. Warm showers and hand expression prior to latching baby are excellent at relieving the discomfort. A pump can also help to relieve pressure, but only pump until you no longer feel overly full (typically around 1/2 oz). Pumping too much will trigger your body to make more milk than your baby needs. Applying cold compress between feedings will also help. Continue to nurse through this period! Your baby will drain your breast and help to set your body on the right milk production schedule.
6. It’s normal for newborns to nurse all the time- I was told that babies would need to nurse every 2-3 hours, but Clara nursed way more than this at times. During growth spurts she would cluster feed often, especially in the evening hours. I had people tell me to “not let her use me as a pacifier” or “you’ll spoil that baby if you keep giving her the boob.” Do not listen to these people! It is not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby, and babies nurse for comfort in addition to nutrition. Follow your mommy instinct and feed your baby if you feel he/she is hungry.
7. You will be very thirsty- I knew that breastfeeding burned calories and would cause hunger, but I had no idea how thirsty it would make me. The second I would get Clara latched on I felt like my mouth was drier than a desert! Always keep a glass of water nearby to rehydrate. This will help keep your supply up as well
8. Speaking of supply, how much you pump is NOT an indicator of how strong your supply is- Some women can pump a lot, other women barely can pump anything. A baby will always be more effective at drawing out your milk than a pump will be. Do not stress if you are not pumping very much. As long as your baby is gaining weight appropriately, and has enough wet and dirty diapers then your supply is fine.
9. The best way to up your supply is to nurse/pump- There are a ton of supplements out there marketed to women as a quick fix to increase supply. Many do not work, and still others can have negative affects on supply. A healthy diet, adequate water intake, and continued nursing/pumping will almost always allow a mother to maintain enough supply for her child.
10. You don’t have to follow a specific diet- As long as your baby doesn’t have any specific sensitivities or allergies (such as dairy, soy etc) you can eat whatever you like in your diet. Keep in mind that a healthy diet is best for mom and baby, but it doesn’t have to be a boring way of eating. Eat the garlic, spice up your life, and don’t be nervous to have a cup of coffee.
11. Your breasts will change sizes all day long- I remember purchasing a nursing bra when I was 37 weeks pregnant and thinking it was the best fit ever and I would love wearing it. Spoiler alert: I ended up hating it! It was not adjustable enough and it had the most uncomfortable underwire. Now I always tell women to purchase a bra that is forgiving in its fit, so it will fit you well as your cup size changes throughout the day. This is one of my favorites from Kindred Bravely. I like that it has good support without an underwire. It’s flattering, and adapts to my shape all day long.
12. It’s not all or nothing-Some women exclusively nurse, some exclusively pump, some use formula, and most do some mixture of the above. Whatever works for mommy and baby is the perfect solution!
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions or additional tips!