Hey soon-to-be momma! You are getting ready to have a baby (yay!) and you have probably thought more about what that baby is going to wear home from the hospital than about feeding her/him, but like a true friend, I think you should start thinking about those boobs of yours and how your baby will have a closer relationship with them than with you. Haha! Seriously, sometimes I think, does she realized I’m attached to these things? So, I thought it would be helpful to just review some things I’ve learned about breastfeeding. I truly hope this helps and gives you a snapshot into your future. I’ve also included some “pro tips” I’ve learned from other moms. Don’t worry, you will do great!
1. It is hard work!
When I was pregnant, I’d heard about books I should read, pillows I should buy, how it’s “all about the latch” and I’d studied all the positions of how I needed to hold my baby in order for her to eat. Football (that sounded fun), cross cradle (sounded like a game) and so on. Man, I was a bit overwhelmed, but I thought “Amanda, women have been breastfeeding for hundreds of years, how hard could it be?”
Well, girl, the first few days sucked (for me at least). I remember I wasn’t exactly sure if my baby was latching correctly (she was a late pre-term baby), she was losing weight so I questioned if she was even getting anything at all and to top it off my husband questioned me constantly about if she was eating anything. He didn’t mean to and honestly was just as concerned as I was. It’s tough because you can’t physically see the milk go down their little tiny throat and when they swallow, they don’t gulp loudly. She was so sleepy that I had to wake her up every 2-3 hours and “try” to feed her. Welcome to motherhood, right? To top it off my nipples hurt.so. dang. bad.
The lovely lactation consultant had made her round at the hospital, reassured me that I was doing good and gave me a sheet of paper to track feedings, the latch quality, and to record if pain was present. On about every line, I wrote it was painful (because it was). Imagine with me your nipple getting sucked in a high-suction vacuum over and over again every 2 hours. Ouch!
On my 2nd day at the hospital, I started to pump, which was reassuring that my body was producing something. My husband and I could now breath a little easier.
Once we got home, my babe started to gain weight (that was reassuring too) and either my nips got used to the constant suction or she got better at it. Either way, it gets better. If you are serious about it, just stick it out and seek help.
Pro Tip: Instead of applying nipple cream to your sore or cracked nipples, put breastmilk on them, let it dry and it will help them out.
2. Trust your Body and your Baby.
As mentioned above, it’s easy to question your body. A good way to measure is the number of dirty and wet diapers your little one is going through daily and weight gain. For diapers, they say…
- Day one: 1 wet, 1 stool (or more!)
- Day two: 2 wet, 2 stools (or more!)
- Day three: 3 wet, 3 stools (or more!)
- Day four, when a copious milk supply begins: 6+ wet and 4+ more stools.
- Day five +, 6+ wet and stools usually at least 1x
For measuring weight, I recommend either getting a home scale (like the Hatch Baby Grow) or attend a weekly meet-up group where they weigh your baby. It helps your uncertainty.
I learned that your body makes what is used. So, when you nurse, it’s saying “hey body, keep making that milk”! Your baby’s belly grows quickly the first few days, so if she/he is crying to be fed a lot, that is normal. Babe is just reminding your body to keep it coming!
3. When it doubt, whip it out.
Those first few weeks, your milk supply is coming in and trying to figure out how much milk it needs to make. Think of your boobs as a factory keeping up with supply and demand. Our lactation consultant always says “remember, it’s your baby telling your body to make more milk”.
I remember Brooke eating, I’d pass her off to her dad and then she’d start crying within 15 minutes. I would say “there is no way she is hungry, she just ate!” In those early weeks/months, if your baby is crying, he/she is more than likely hungry. So, “when in doubt, whip it out”. Babies are little humans, so like us, they may eat when they are happy, sad, bored, scared, tired or they want to be close to you!
4. Terms used in the Breastfeeding world. Note these are not actual definitions. 🙂
- Colostrum – The first “milk” your body makes. Usually more yellow, which is why they call it “liquid gold”.
- Cluster Feeding – Very frequent to constant feeding. Basically it means just sit on the couch and binge TV Shows and let that baby eat.
- EBF – (Exclusively Breast Fed) – I was in a FB group and I was like “what in the heavens is “EBF”? Haha..You are welcome.
- Mastitis – Personally never experienced, but it sounds just awful. Basically if your milk gets clogged in the ducts, it can cause an infection. If your boobs are in pain, look red and swollen and you have a fever and/or chills. You may have mastitis. Docs can prescribe antibiotics, but I’ve heard get that baby to nurse a lot, take a hot shower and massage the ducts towards your nipple.
Pro Tip: A lactation consultant did tell me early on to ensure I massaged my breasts regularly to prevent mastitis. You can do this in the shower and make sure you massage all the way under your armpit.
5. Random things I’ve learned:
Resource: One of the best resources that I was directed to is a website called “Kelly Mom”. Click here to check out Breastfeeding your Newborn. This website has answers to every question. So at 3 AM if you are searching Google for peace of mind, check Kelly Mom out first.
Introduce a bottle: Around 4 – 6 weeks, if you are exclusively breastfeeding, have your partner or someone introduce a bottle at least once per day while you go in the other room and pump. If you want to be able to leave your baby longer than 3 hours in the first 8 months of you their life, I recommend you keep this tradition up.
Buy nursing bras: You can drop a lot of money, but honestly, these sports bra type nursing bras are my favorite. They are comfortable and not expensive. The only con is the padding inside folds in the washing machine. I ended up removing the pads altogether. Amazon ~$20
Get a Haaka: No I didn’t say hooka. Haha…This is a silicone contraption that you suction to your boob that catches milk from the opposite boob you are feeding from. So if baby is eating on your right, you put it on the left. It is AMAZING and you will be very surprised at the amount of milk that will leak out. I collected from each feeding and froze milk in 4oz increments. Woohoo! Amazon ~$20
Side position: This is my favorite and I wish instead of hunching over in the beginning, I would have tried this out. Lay on your side, relax your neck and back and feed your little one. If you are worried you will go to sleep while feeding, take your shirt off and take off covers. If you are chilly you won’t be likely to fall asleep.
Breastfeeding is a tough full-time job. As a new mom, I recommend seeking professional help if you need it and get a group of mom friends on the same journey. It is tough in the beginning, but you will get the hang of it and it will be rewarding to know your body provided the milk for that chubby little tummy, those chunky legs and rolls. Also know that if breastfeeding doesn’t work, you are not a failure. Breastfed or formula fed, at the end of the day you are feeding your baby and that is all that matters. Good luck mama! You got this!Your Friend, Amanda