They all say that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. True as that may be, it’s certainly not easy. Many women struggle through the early days of nursing. From getting a proper latch, adequate supply, engorgement, and infections, this “magical” experience comes with a multitude of painful challenges. It’s no wonder then, that many women abandon it. After all, the first month of having a newborn is incredibly challenging as it is. Couple that with the pains of breastfeeding, and it makes for a challenging period of life.
That said, the experts are clear on the benefits to both mother and baby from nursing. From decreased risks of female cancers to lower instances of asthma and allergies, to higher IQ scores and fewer hospitalizations, the benefits are huge. The good news is there are tons of tricks and tips that can help your chances of successful nursing. These may help you get past a hurdle that otherwise could have been a blocker. After getting through the few months of nursing, many women state that it becomes much easier. Also, an added bonus is never having to worry about bottle cleaning and sterilization! With up to twelve feeds a day, and multiple pieces per bottle, mothers will save yourself cleaning and reassembling dozens of bottle equipment pieces every day.
And if the thought of giving up is floating around, just remember: like almost every other of parenting, it may not be easy, but it’s very much worth it, and will soon come to an end.
15 It's Important To Learn What Not To Do
As important as it is to learn the proper nursing style, it’s equally important to understand what not to do. As tempting as it is to simply place a baby on the breast and let them do their thing, this can lead to sore, cracked, and bleeding nips – certainly not conducive to a positive nursing experience.
Whether it’s from a prenatal class, talking with friends, or online research (or a combination of all), it’s important to understand the things that both you and baby can do to derail your breastfeeding efforts, from improper latches to irregular schedules. You don’t want to have to take a few days off in order to heal while figuring out alternate feeding plans (between formula and pumping). Learning the things that can potentially cause complications will help you get through the hardest first weeks of nursing. After that point, many women claim it gets easier.
14 No One Wants A Hangry Baby
How early is early? Ideally, within the first hour of giving birth, your baby should be latched on and filling up that tiny belly. Upon a complication-free delivery, many women are now encouraged to attempt breastfeeding immediately within the labor and delivery room.
The benefits to mom and baby are numerous, including increased bonding, establishing milk supply, and having a baby who has the perfect appetite.
As you’ll soon discover, a hangry baby is not the easiest to manage.
Of course, if you’re forced to delay breastfeeding due to the recovery process, that’s okay. Just aim to engage in nursing as soon as both you and baby are physically able. You’ll still reap a lot of the benefits. If the delay is significant (if your baby is taken to the NICU, for example), now might be a great time to try out pumping. Establishing one’s milk supply early will ensure you have an ample amount available for baby when they’re ready for you, plus reserves enough for your partner to cover some middle of the night feedings – bonus!
13 Get That Precious Skin-To-Skin Time
Immediately after birth, one of the best things a woman can do for both, herself and her baby, is to get direct skin-to-skin time. Babies are wired to want to breastfeed shortly after birth, and getting this special skin to skin connection can increase the bond between mother and baby.
While most hospitals now encourage this, don’t be shy about letting your wishes for this special bonding time be known. Include skin-to-skin time as part of your birth plan, and be sure to mention it to your nurse upon arrival. The first few moments of your child’s life are an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. While there will likely be a lot happening around you, try to zone it out and focus on this incredible being you’ve just introduced into the world. Give him or her your full attention and marvel at this being who has been created.
12 Before The Screeching, Learn The Hunger Cues
It’s not only a wailing baby that can signal they’re hungry and want to be fed NOW. In fact, waiting until that time can result in an anxious, upset eater, who may attack meal time a tad too vigorously for you and your sensitive lady parts. Instead of waiting for the tell-tale cry, there are other signals you can watch for to help signify a baby is ready for his or her next meal…even if you just fed them an hour ago.
Rooting, smacking lips, sucking on fists, and restlessness can all signal that the baby is ramping up for a snack.
Many experts recommend looking for these signs and providing them nourishment before they get to the wailing stage. By doing so, you’re likely to get a better latch than when they’ve crossed over into famished territory.
11 Consider Purchasing Some Nip Shields For Support
For those whose nursing efforts may not get off to a great start, these small shields can be a great resource for protecting yourself from further damage. Babies naturally know how to suck, and some even do it in-utero. That doesn’t mean, however, that their sucking can’t cause chaffing and bleed through their vigorous efforts. If that happens to you, as it does to many women, consider investing in shields.
These soft, flexible plastic covers can be just the protection needed to allow you to recover, while still giving babies the ability to nurse freely. While some may choose to take a few days off and switch to bottles during this time (which is totally okay, mamas), this at least gives you options.
10 Just Add A Touch Breastfeeding Cream To Fix The Cracks
If the aforementioned chaffing has become an issue for you, there are products on the market that can help encourage recovery so that your nursing efforts don’t become derailed. You can’t just throw anything on there, however. Anything that you place on your breasts has a high chance of being consumed by your baby. A regular old lotion with its chemical-ridden ingredients list is certainly not up to the task. Would you take a lick of your day-to-day body lotion?
Luckily, there are a few products, such as Lanolin cream, that are considered safe for baby. If you’re struggling, this product may give you the double benefit of helping you to recover, while ensuring you don’t worry about harmful chemicals baby could be ingesting. If purchasing, it is important that you find a brand that is 100% natural and preservative-free.
9 Cozy Up With A Breastfeeding Pillow
While not a must-have item for baby registries, it’s certainly a helpful tool to have around. As babies grow bigger, the weight of holding them in the correct position to ensure a proper latch and feeding can become tiresome as the session progresses.
Investing in a breastfeeding pillow can be helpful for positioning the baby perfectly to ensure they get the best latch possible. And for those few of you who may be expecting more than one bundle of joy? This pillow will be a necessity. There are multiple versions on the market with various configurations and perks, such as a pocket to hold your phone and accessories, so be sure to try some out in person to find the one that suits you. And don’t be afraid to pack it in your hospital bag. That’s where breastfeeding is likely to start (and in some cases is abandoned), so why not set yourself up for success?
8 Having A Handy Pump On Stand-By
Having a breastfeeding pump on hand can be helpful for numerous reasons. First, it allows you another way to provide breast milk to your baby, if you’re dealing with any uncomfortable latching issues. Second, it allows someone other than you to feed the baby, giving you the option of oh-so-precious sleep. Third, it can help to establish or maintain your milk supply if baby if you’re ever away from the baby.
Like breastfeeding pillows, finding a pump that will fit your specific needs can be a bit of a process, so take the time to do your research. From a manual pump to a double electric, to a cordless, there are multiple options on the market, with more being added every day. Ask around, read reviews, and find one that will fit your lifestyle and budget. Speaking of – also ensure you ask your insurance company if pumps are a reimbursable expense. If so, you may be able to get a higher end one than you think!
7 Channeling The Inner Fashionista With Nursing Covers
Gone are the days when women had to hide their babies under a not-so-discreet blanket to feed them. Nowadays, there are tons of cute, fashionable and functional nursing covers available for you to choose from. From patterned fabric that covers only the front of your body to scarves that double as both car seat covers and breastfeeding covers, there are have never been more options available to the fashionista mama.
This is one item on the baby registry that you can actually enjoy shopping for. Feel free to pick something that works for your personal style. Prints are usually good at hiding potential spills, and neutrals are good to match with multiple outfits. No one said that moms have to be frumpy, and with the options available you can be the most stylish mom on the block!
6 Give Your Girls Some Love
Never will moms notice their bras more than when they’re removing them twelve times a day to breastfeed! The important thing here is to find a mix of style and function. Nobody wants to be stuck with a bland functional bra, but you also don’t want something cute that’s so uncomfortable you’ll never wear it.
Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable enough as it is, treat this as a chance to show your girls some love.
Luckily, retailers are catching up with our desire to feel pretty at this stage of life, and are making some excellent functional nursing bras that actually look cute on. While it’s tempting to order online, be sure to try these on, and remember that breast size can fluctuate up or down from their size during pregnancy. When trying on, fold down the area you would to feed, and check for things like if it’s rubbing anywhere uncomfortable, or if it stays in the right spot. Remember, you may even be wearing these to bed some days, so comfort is key.
5 Look Good, Feel Good
Another thing that women don’t often realize about nursing, is that a good chunk of their wardrobe is likely to go unworn. Unless a top can roll down, or it has slits made for nursing, there’s a strong chance you won’t opt to wear it during the breastfeeding days. Lifting up your shirt to expose your belly, especially in public and especially a few short weeks after having a baby, is not something that appeals to most women, even with a nursing cover. And dresses? Unless you have easy access to the gals, you will not want to be reaching for zippers or hiking it up.
Take an inventory of your current tops and figure out which ones will work with your feeding plans. If you need to supplement, feel free to do so. Luckily there are some great options on the market that don’t look like nursing tops at all, some of which can even pass for regular outfits, once you’ve passed this stage. As they say, if you look good, you feel good, so feel free to invest in yourself, mama.
4 Jot Down A Feeding Schedule In A Bullet Journal
People are torn about whether they prefer on-demand feeding or setting a schedule. Either way, tracking patterns is usually a good idea, to get a sense of when and how much baby is eating. The first few months of newborn-hood, babies are unlikely to stick to a regular schedule (unless it’s placed upon them).
I’m not going to lie, that’s not the easiest time to go through, and mom should be ready to be available at all hours of the day.
After the first three months, however, you may notice that baby gets into a bit of a consistent eating and sleeping pattern, where you can come to expect naps and meals at roughly the same time of day. Until then, use a tracker and try to nudge them towards that schedule. There are plenty of sample schedules available online, so find one that works for you. And just remember – if the 24 hours a day feeding routine seems taxing, it will have a finite end. Life will not be this crazy forever, so just get through it as best you can.
3 Meal Prep A Snack Station
Did you know that breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories per day? It’s one of the reasons your body puts on extra fat to store during pregnancy, to ensure you have the resources to provide milk to your baby for a year or longer. Now those ice cream and chocolate pregnancy cravings make sense!
When nursing, it’s important to have fresh, healthy snacks available on hand to keep away hunger pangs.
Given the sleep exhaustion, you may be tempted to reach for pre-made snacks with less than ample nutrition, so prepping at the beginning of the week to ensure you have healthy, real food on hand that can give both you and your baby great nutrition is important. While this stage of life is often one when women try their best to lose the pregnancy weight as quickly as possible, remember to do it in the right way, with frequent, clean eating.
2 Fall In Love With The Giant Water Bottle
Experts agree that adequate water consumption is tied to breastmilk production. If you’re dehydrated, it can become more difficult for your body to provide the resources necessary to produce milk for your baby. Getting enough water can be easier said than done though, as you try to balance all the things to do for your little one, from laundry to feeding, to household chores.
Luckily, this is one with an easy solution. A fresh source of water is rarely more than a room away. To help ensure you’re getting the recommended glasses of water in a day, try to invest in a giant water bottle, ideally one over a liter in size. The bigger the water bottle, the fewer times you’ll be running to fill it up, and the fewer excuses you’ll have for not hitting your daily quota.
I prefer a one-liter glass or stainless steel bottle myself. With just a couple fill-ups during the day, I’m set with ensuring I’m getting the right amount of water to fuel my day.
1 It's OK To Ask For Help From A Lactation Consultant
If all else fails (and even if it doesn’t), a lactation consultant can be a valuable resource for you. Some women even choose to include a visit in their postpartum recovery plan, to ensure that things are on track. At the very least, talking with your doctor and understanding who is available as a referral should you need them is helpful.
Lactation consultants can provide a wealth of information that even Google doesn’t seem to provide, including proper latch techniques, the most effective holding positions, and what to do if you’re having pain or infections. Some even have scales in their offices, to measure baby’s weight before and after nursing, to understand how many grams of milk they’ve consumed during the visit. If you’re struggling, or even if you just want someone to ask questions to, ask your doc for a referral to a consultant.