I remember a nurse handing my newborn son to me. I asked if I could breastfeed. She said sure. That was that. I nuzzled my son toward me and he started to suckle. I was amazed. How did a newborn learn how to do that? It seemed like the most natural thing in the world….until reality hit. My nipples were sore within the first few hours and it seemed that my newborn’s thirst was insatiable. I kept breastfeeding, but it seemed as though I was producing no milk at all.
I was a novice mom learning how to breastfeed for the first time. My baby was a novice too. Just like any new skill, it takes time to get into a groove, so allow the natural learning curve to occur and don’t expect everything to go perfectly. With some luck and perseverance, it will be one of the most rewarding bonding experiences a mother can have with her baby.
Here are some tips I have learned from my own experience as well as from consulting with lactation consultants, nurses, etc.
- start using lanolin cream on your nipples from day one. Use after every breastfeeding session. In fact, it may be good to start using it a week or so before your due date. I used this one.
- Start breastfeeding as soon as you deliver and try to do so every two hours, even if no milk is coming out. You will produce a tiny bit of a thick yellowish milk called colostrum. You can breastfeed, even if you had a C-section. I delivered both my boys via C-section and I asked to breastfeed my babies as soon as I was in the recovery room.
- If you breastfeed frequently, your milk should come in within 36-48 hours after delivery
- Even though you are nursing frequently, try to keep the sessions short. I would advise no more than 5-10 minutes on each breast. This will keep your nipples from getting sore and cracked. Once you develop a cracked nipple, it will be very painful to nurse.
- If your nipples are too sore to nurse, consider alternating nursing with pumping. Bring your pumps to the hospital. Read about pumping here.
- It is okay to give your baby about 2 oz of formula if your baby seems very hungry, you need to get some rest, or if he has jaundice. Just make sure to do so AFTER you breastfeed. I was very weary of feeding my infant formula but both my pediatrician and nurse said that it was okay to do so.
- Use a boppy pillow or any other nursing pillow to help prevent arm fatigue. I know that a 7-8 pound baby doesn’t seem like much, but babies can take a long time to nurse. Save yourself. Pack a nursing pillow in your hospital bag.
- Make sure you are comfortable when nursing because you will feel more relaxed. Breathe.
- Ensure that your baby’s latch is not shallow. If it hurts immediately, unlatch your baby and try again. You may have to do this a few times before you get a good latch.
- You will know when your milk “comes in” because your breasts will all of a sudden become hard. Keep monitoring and don’t let your breasts get too hard before you start breastfeeding.
- Always finish nursing fully on one side before going to the other side. This is very important. The milk at the beginning of your flow is fore milk. It looks clearer with a bluish tint. This fore milk is thirst quenching for the baby.
- The hind milk comes later and is whiter and more opaque looking. This milk is more satiating for the baby because it contains more fats. If you switch too early from one breast to the other, your baby will not get enough hind milk. He will get hungry faster and can become very gassy.
- In your hazy state of sleep deprivation, you will not remember which side to start nursing on first. Use a hair tie around your wrist to tell you which side you need to start with first.
- There are tons of apps you can download to track nursing sessions and quantity and quality of pees and poops. I used the Baby Connect app with my first son. I diligently tracked every pee and poo, and timed each nursing session. At the end, I thought that it was more work than it was worth. As long as your baby is gaining weight and peeing/pooping the right amount, you can be assured that they are physically on the right track. I didn’t use the app with my second baby, but I still recommend the app because it helps you to track your baby’s weight, height, etc.
- If you have twins or multiples, it would be a very helpful app to keep track of each baby.
- Going back to the foremilk/hindmilk discussion, one easy way to tell whether he is getting too much fore milk is to check his diapers. If his poop is avocado greenish in color, he may not be getting enough hind milk. If your baby is getting enough hindmilk, his poop should be mustard yellow in color.
- If your baby starts to fall asleep on your breast, unswaddle him and use a cold wash cloth to wipe his face and head to help wake him up. The nurses at the hospital instructed me to do this and it really helped my newborn to get adequate nutrition and helped me to increase my milk supply.
- Most newborns need to nurse every 2-3 hours. I was told that if my baby slept more than 3 hours, I should wake him up to nurse him. Be aware that some newborns go through cluster feedings, where they need to nurse more frequently during certain times of the day.
Breastfeeding can be extremely hard and is not for everyone. I remember that there were so many moments when I wanted to give up on breastfeeding. There were many tears, frustrations, sore nipples, plugged ducts, and other challenges that happened along the way. Your baby may dive bomb at your boobs but when you try to feed him, he may act like you are feeding him poison, and start wrenching his body away. When this happens, put him down, take a deep breath, and start again. Breastfeeding should be the most natural thing to do, but for many, it is far from natural. You have to give yourself and your baby the time and the chance to learn a new skill.
- Enlist the help of breastfeeding consultants, friends, relatives, etc.
- Don’t be shy about breastfeeding in front of consultants and nurses. Have them evaluate your technique and give you pointers.
- When you are home from the hospital, you can even call the La Leche league helpline. I did, and I spoke to some very nice volunteers who gave me advice.
- Know that breastfeeding will get easier after 4 weeks. If you can get to the 4 weeks mark, you are on your way to a smoother, greener pasture.
- It will even get enjoyable after a while! There is no way to describe the increadible bond you will have with your baby.
- Some moms get a euphoric feeling while breastfeeding because it is so relaxing and soothing.
- On the down side, some nursing mothers go through the blues after they ween their babies.
Don’t feel bad if despite your best efforts, you cannot continue to breastfeed. Pumping and feeding your baby your breast milk provides the same nutrients. It has the added benefit of giving the dad a chance to bond with the baby. There is also nothing wrong with feeding your baby formula.
I wish you many blissful and peaceful moments with your baby. If you have found this to be helpful, please feel free to share with other moms. Please click the “follow” button to receive email notification of future blog posts or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Happy Chic Mom, a blog for moms
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