If you’ve stumbled upon this article, you are probably one of those who don’t flip their shiitake mushrooms when they see a mama nursing her baby. If you ARE one of those and you found yourself on this article, then sit your nosy butt back and be prepared to be educated about nursing a baby. (And maybe learn a thing or two about not being so dang judgmental.)
Now I’m not going to sit here and act like I know everything about breastfeeding, but I *did* nurse my son for 2 years and 7 months. Yep, 31 whole months. So, I guess you can say I’m pretty seasoned.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my children. Its what seemed most natural to me. I was prepared to jump many hurdles (which you’ll find below, that I did!) to be successful in nursing. I only knew a handful of people who had actually tried and were successful at nursing, so that meant I was going to have to arm myself for this battle.
Here are a few tips to new mamas, or those mamas struggling in the beginning stages:
1. Educate yourself before your baby even arrives.
I read I don’t know how many articles pertaining to breastfeeding, and I started reading them the month I found out I was pregnant! You cannot prepare enough for a child to be born! A few of my friends gave birth to micro-preemies and after seeing that, I knew I had to be well-prepared, and early! Find other nursing mamas you can confide in and trust. They will be your backbone! Having a strong support system at home is also very important! Google has great resources, and Facebook has some unbelievable support groups. REACH OUT TO THOSE GROUPS!!! If you’re a hands-on, got-to-have-the-book-in-your-hand, I suggest the book, Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding.
Best tip: Don’t wait until you’re 10 centimeters dilated to read up on this information!
2. Make sure to do skin-to-skin immediately after birth, tell the nurses NO BOTTLES/FORMULA/PACI, and limit the number of visitors so you all can rest.
My birth plan did not go as planned. I was so upset that I had to have an emergency c-section (we’ll save that explanation for another post!) and I felt that because I did not get to give birth naturally, I HAD to be successful at breastfeeding! As soon as I was stitched up, I told the nurses I wanted to do skin-to-skin immediately and I was strictly breastfeeding. My nurses were awesome and respected my wishes. Your milk may not come in for a few days, but until then, colostrum is enough! Doctors seem to act like if you haven’t produced milk by day 3, then you’re not going to. Colostrum is exactly what baby needs right now!
The only thing I wish I had done differently was limit the number of visitors at the hospital. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing everyone ooh and ahh over Brody, but stuffing 20 bodies into a 10×10 room was not fun.
Plus, who wants to play host to lots of people when you’re bleeding profusely from your bottom?! 😉
3. Get in touch with a lactation consultant ASAP.
Most hospitals have a contracted lactation consultant that you can contact. My hospital’s LC was a freaking God-send. She gives everyone her personal cell phone number and tells you to call her no matter what time! I don’t know how many times she talked me off the ledge of quitting! She reassured me that as long as things were good with baby (good amount of wet and dirty diapers, gaining weight, etc.), then everything was normal!
4. It will hurt in the beginning, but not for long.
Of course your boobs aren’t used to a baby sucking on them, so your body is going to hurt for a little while. Get some lanolin to help with that. Also, have your LC make sure baby’s latch is correct. If after a week or so you’re still in pain, look for lip/tongue ties. If your baby has these, your pediatrician can clip them and the pain relief should be immediate. Also, BREATHE and nurse on, Mama!!!
5. Babies nurse often, and that is normal!
Babies need to nurse often to help establish your supply. In the first few weeks, your babe will be attached to you every second of every day. Don’t fret, this is totally normal. Growth spurts also happen every few weeks, so don’t be surprised if one day baby is okay with the amount, then acting like a ravenous beast the next. Follow baby’s ques.
6. Stay hydrated.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but is one of the most common reasons why mamas have trouble producing enough milk. Your nursing baby is drawing all the milk and liquid from you, so you must replace it. Your body is so amazing. Your milk may become more “liquid-y” in the summer to help your baby stay hydrated, and more “fatty” in the winter to help your baby stay fuller and warm.
7. Things you eat can affect your baby.
I thought Brody had colic, but thankfully after researching I realized he had a milk allergy. All the cereal with regular milk, the milkshakes, the ice cream…that was hurting his little tummy. I quit eating and drinking those and within about a week or so, Mama had her sweet happy baby back! Eat fatty foods like avocado and nuts to “fatten” your milk. You don’t necessarily have to stop having that glass of wine (in fact, it is mandatory for keeping your sanity!). You do, however, need to quit smoking and make sure any prescribed medications have your doctor’s okay, as some may affect your milk supply.
8. Things like mastitis can happen, and it is a b*witch!
I developed mastitis and let me tell you…it wrecked my world! I have never been so sick in my life. And it was all from a clogged duct that became infected! I wore a sports bra to bed, and instead of putting it back the right way after nursing, I guess I left it and it pressed on my breast and caused the duct to clog. This can also happen if you don’t fully drain your breast after nursing. Go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. Also, keep nursing (it will “pull” the clog out). You will thank me later!
9. Pumping does not indicate how much baby is truly getting.
All you have to do is look at my child and you can tell that he got every single last drop of milk that he could possibly get. (Uh, hello…he has always been 95+ percentile for weight and height!). I had to pump at work 3+ times a day and many a’times did I sit in the room and cry because I knew this wasn’t enough for his chunky butt! My advice is to nurse right before you go to work and immediately after you get off. Pumping was not my best friend, but, Brody needed it when I wasn’t there. I kid you not, there were times (read: every day) when I would pump going down the road because I worked 2 jobs and was going to school, and I seemed to always be on the road! (I was covered, of course!) There are many different supplements like fenugreek, Mother’s Milk, and flax seed that have been known to help up your supply. What helped me the most…was taking a very deep breath and letting the pump do its work. It really did help me relax and “let go”, therefore producing more. Most importantly, RESEARCH and decide what’s best for you and baby!
10. Set a goal…then forget about it!
Initially, I set a very small goal for our nursing relationship. I got the hang of it and kept upping my goal. Soon, he was 2 1/2 and I didn’t even realize it. It truly does become natural. Don’t try to rush your nursing relationship, it ends too quickly as it is! Next thing you know, he’ll be driving and your car insurance will double. 😉
11. Don’t let others discourage you from feeding your baby.
Today’s world is so rude and cruel. Don’t let other naysayers discourage you from doing what is best for you and your baby! Some mamas aren’t comfortable enough to nurse in public without a cover, and that is okay. But, do not let someone else make you feel uncomfortable about feeding your hungry baby just because they don’t want to see a part of the female body. And those who don’t give a shiznit about being covered, YOU ROCK!!! Baby gets hot under those covers and they don’t deserve to half-way suffocate trying to honor the wishes of others who’s feelings get hurt too easily.
(I always wished Brody would pop off and me “accidentally” squirt all over someone who had been rude or looked the wrong way at me!)
12. The need to supplement does not mean your breastfeeding journey has to end!
Look, if you have tried your very best to establish a nursing relationship and it just did not happen that way, YOU DID NOT FAIL! There are many different reasons why a nursing relationship doesn’t succeed. But you should not feel defeated because of that! There are still great benefits to partially breastfeeding!
13. If you can stick with it, its worth it!
I think we may be very blessed, as Brody has only been sick a handful of times. He has been extremely healthy, and I really do think breast milk had a lot to do with it. Breastfeeding gives your child the best possible start in life. The likelihood of your child developing fatal diseases is decreased dramatically if he/she is breastfed. Nursing takes a lot of dedication. Trust your body. It was, after all, MADE and EQUIPPED for this!
…Oh, and it sure is nice not to have to hash out loads of money to pay for formula each month!
Overall, I hope this post finds you well. I hope I did not offend anyone who simply could not nurse their baby. You DID NOT fail your child. You did everything you could to give your baby the best start. The medical world has advanced so greatly and formulas today are very nutritional for those babies who would not take to the breast, and you should not feel sub-par because you really did try your best! One day of nursing is more than not ever trying! You rock, Mama!
I hope I did not come off as a Sancti-mommy. I do not think I am better than anyone else reading this post. We are all good mamas, no matter which way we feed our children. The main thing is that they are fed and thriving. My hope for this article was to inform and educate those who are pondering the idea of nursing their new baby. I hope that you are encouraged to give it a shot! If anyone can do after facing what I did (emergency c-section, working 2 jobs and going to school while having to pump, mastitis), ANYONE CAN DO IT!
Now, those who refuse to even try after being educated and are judgmental about a barely exposed boob, you cross a fine line. I’m going to hold my tongue and say I hope you at least support new mamas wanting to give their child the very best. 🙂
What other tips would you give to a new mama thinking about breastfeeding? Did you have to overcome obstacles in your nursing journey, and how did you get passed them? How long did you nurse or pump for your baby? I’m excited to hear your stories! ❤
Happy World Breastfeeding Week!