I have several young friends who are entering motherhood or have just recently entered motherhood, and whenever I’ve been asked for advice I always tell them two things (that I learned the hard way):
1. Do not leave the hospital without a personal visit from the lactation consultant.
2. Do not leave the hospital without a breast pump.
When I was expecting my first baby, I committed to myself that I would breastfeed but I honestly didn’t know what to expect. In my mind, it was a very natural thing that should, well, come naturally. I didn’t have a lot of time to do much reading, though I did attend a childbirth class at my local hospital which included a segment on breastfeeding. Ok, so we talked about how to get a proper latch, but when you hear this weeks before you’ve ever tried to attach a child to your breast, it really doesn’t stick.
When my little girl arrived, the nurse assisted me with my first feeding, and it seemed easy enough…until the next day, when I noticed that I was quite sore and by the end of the day my nipples were cracked and beginning to bleed. When the nurses checked on me, I told them as much and they informed me that it was perfectly normal.
Fast forward 2 days later, and my milk comes in…not 3 hours after I left the pediatrician’s office saying everything was great, my breasts are suddenly the size of grapefruits and hard as a rock; my newborn can’t latch; and I don’t have a breast pump. I’m searching frantically on the internet trying to figure out what to do, and best I can find are some instructions on how to manually express. No luck. By late that evening, I’m in pain, in tears, and feeling like a failure because I’ve resorted to giving my baby formula. (Aside: This does not imply that I judge anyone who cannot or chooses not to breastfeed. I just really had my heart set on breastfeeding, and by this hour I felt like breastfeeding just wasn’t going to happen for me).
Thank goodness for the ladies at Northern Virginia Lactation Center. After numerous calls to La Leche League volunteers and other lactation consultants, I found these ladies who, although booked, called in one of their consultants on her day off to help me out. By the end of my two hour visit, I’d pumped nearly 15 ounces; we had my baby weaned back off the bottle (she had to be offered breastmilk via syringe for instant gratification to coax her back to the breast); we’d learned the proper latch; my baby had a full tummy; and I left with a breast pump and a treatment plan designed to help with continued engorgement and normalization of my milk supply. Thank you, Nancy!
Now, I don’t share this to frighten anyone…in the end, I was able to breastfeed my daughter up to her first birthday and then some. I share my experience in hopes that others will benefit from it.
In addition to the two pieces of advice I mentioned above, here are the remainder of what I would consider my top 10 breastfeeding tips for a successful start:
3. A proper latch is critical. Don’t let anyone tell you that soreness and cracked nipples are normal. It is a likely indicator that your baby is not positioned or latching properly. Back to #1 – before you leave the hospital, have a lactation consultant check your latch and correct it, if necessary. There are also a wealth of great videos online you can refer to when you get home as a reminder. (P.S. We’ll plan a separate post in the future geared specifically to proper latching techniques)
4. Use a breastfeeding pillow. A breastfeeding pillow will elevate your baby and make it easier to get a proper latch. I’ve tried both the Boppy and the My Brest Friend, and my personal preference is the Boppy. The My Brest Friend has to wrap around your lower back, and I found that it caused me back pain unless I put an extra pillow for support behind my upper back. It’s also not as easy to put on when you’ve got the baby in one hand and are trying to bring the strap around and buckle it with the other. Plus, the Boppy can serve other purposes as your baby gets older – it can be used for tummy time or a prop to assist your baby with sitting up.
5. Lanolin is good, but breastmilk is better. Lanolin is most often recommended as a remedy for sore, cracked nipples because it is safe for baby. However, I found that breastmilk worked even better. After your baby finishes nursing, rub a little breastmilk on your nipples and let them air dry for a little bit. Within days, I was on the mend.
6. Relax, and rest when baby rests. Stress and lack of sleep can negatively impact your milk production. It’s the age old adage, but it is a necessity. To reduce stress, accept help and ask for it if needed. Take a hot shower or warm bath.
7. Follow your baby’s cues, and not the clock. Don’t stress over how long your baby feeds. Instead, let your baby suck at one breast until they fall asleep or pull away; then offer the other but don’t fret if they don’t accept it. Just offer that side the next time. I used to try to ensure that my baby fed from both breasts at each feeding, but I learned that doing so doesn’t allow the baby to get as much of the more nutrient-rich hindmilk that comes as the feeding progresses. When it comes to frequency, it’s advised that you wake your newborn every 4 hours to feed if they’re not waking on their own to feed, but once a pattern of weight gain is established, it’s ok to let them sleep and feed on demand.
8. Stay hydrated and fed. Your body needs fluids to make fluids. Drink a glass of water at each feeding. Your body also needs calories. Keep lots of easy to eat fruit and healthy snacks handy. Unless someone was making me a meal, I found it difficult to get good nutrition in the early weeks. It was much easier when I kept things around that I could pick at throughout the day or eat easily while feeding or tending to my baby.
9. Wait to introduce the bottle. It is recommended that you wait at least 3-4 weeks before introducing a bottle or pacifier. Introducing either too early can cause issues either because bottle nipples require different mouth and tongue motions or because baby gets used to a different flow as seemed to be the case with mine. I’m not entirely convinced about the same issue with pacifiers – I introduced the pacifier in the first week with my second baby because she was using me as one ‘round the clock, and we had no issues. We used the Soothie pacifiers that are offered at the hospital.
10. Approach breastfeeding in stages. While I hoped from the beginning to nurse my baby until she could transition to cow’s milk, I found it helpful to set milestones for myself along the way. Start by taking it a day at a time, then aim to get through the first few weeks, and then months. The milestones I set for myself were (1) the first week, (2) two weeks, (3) 1 month, (4) 3 months, (5) 6 months, (6) teeth, (7) 9 months, and finally (8) 1 year. From there, we weaned slowly as my baby was ready.
Since breastfeeding can be a different experience for everyone, I’d love to hear any tips you have to share as well. Just leave a comment above!
To subscribe to Purebebe, click on “Sign me up!” under “Email Subscription” on the right rail of the screen.
You Might Also Like: