Most of us are already familiar with the many benefits of breastfeeding. Those of you who’ve nursed before will likely remember some of the early frustrations you experienced as you established a nursing routine with your baby, but what many first-timers don’t realize is that breastfeeding doesn’t always come as naturally as we’d like.
Your body is designed to nurse your baby, and while there may be a few lucky women who dive right in without issue, there can sometimes be a hiccup or two along the way to breastfeeding bliss. We believe that knowledge is power, and with that in mind we’ve listed some of the things we think every new Mom should know before she starts nursing.
We don’t want to frighten you because the pain isn’t a permanent thing but this is a fact and it’s better to be prepared for some discomfort rather than to have it catch you completely off-guard. The pain that comes with breastfeeding is temporary so stick with it and don’t become discouraged. Newborns nurse every two to three hours, and until your nipples grow accustomed to this new routine, it is only natural that they will be tender. Lanolin cream is completely safe for baby and can help if your nipples become sore and cracked. You can also coat them with some of your breast milk and allow them to air dry as this will speed healing. As a general rule, you can expect to experience some discomfort for at least four weeks. Believe us when we say that it does get easier so if you can make past this point, it will be smooth sailing.
A poor latch will only cause you unnecessary discomfort and serve to frustrate both you and your baby so it’s important to ensure they have latched on to more than just your nipple. Your baby must also take in part of the areola as well and the best way to make sure this happens is to wait until his / her mouth is open nice and wide. You will know a good latch when you have one as the tip of your baby’s nose and their chin will both be touching your breast. Your nipple should be over your baby’s tongue, and their lips should be out as opposed to being sucked inwards. If you don’t get it right the first time, gently insert your finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the latch and try again. Attempting to feed with a poor latch will leave your baby hungry and you with sore nipples. With a little practice, you’ll become a pro in no time.
Prepare To Be On-Call
Rather than trying to establish a schedule right away, allow your newborn to set the pace for his / her feedings. Rooting, little suckling noises, lip movements and of course crying are all ways your baby lets you know they are hungry. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you will produce so you should always nurse on-demand at first. Most newborns eat every two to three hours which may seem a little daunting at first, but the two of you will soon settle in to your routine. You should be prepared to breastfeed 8 – 12 times per day in the beginning. In order to keep up with your baby’s demanding feeding schedule, you should plan to rest when your baby does.
Try to Run on Empty
While you would never want to try it with your car, allowing your breast to run until its empty is a good thing. Your milk is constantly changing to meet the needs of your baby. The milk at the start of each feeding is foremilk. It is thinner and contains less protein, calories and fat than your hind milk which comes towards the end of the feeding. The hind milk is more nutritious and helps your baby gain weight. It keeps your baby full for longer periods and failing to allow him or her to drain the breast, will have them looking for food again that much sooner.
Variety Is the Spice of Life
Ok, maybe you really can’t offer your baby a variety of options in the beginning, but you should switch it up. Breastfeeding should always begin with the opposite breast from the last feeding. This ensures they are receiving both the foremilk and the hind milk every time. You may find yourself scratching your head as you struggle to remember which breast your baby fed from at your last session so it’s a good idea to use a tool of some kind to help you remember. A safety pin can be attached to your bra on the side your baby last fed from, or you can use a bracelet or even a rubber band that you switch from wrist to wrist at each feeding to help you remember.
Nutrition Is Still a Priority
Just as you were keenly aware of what you put in to your body while you were pregnant, breastfeeding is no different. Because your breast milk is the only source of nutrition for your baby, it is recommended that you continue to take a good prenatal vitamin for lactation throughout breastfeeding. This ensures that your baby receives the right vitamins and nutrients for their early development and also helps support your post-birth recovery.
According to the Institute of Medicine, breastfeeding mothers should take in 13 cups of water per day. That does seems like a lot of fluid but it is necessary as this helps with milk production. A good way to ensure that you are getting enough water is to drink as your baby is nursing. Keeping a cup of water close at hand as you breastfeed allows you to meet your fluid needs as your baby gets theirs.
Go Easy on Yourself
Our last piece of breastfeeding advice for new Mom’s is to go easy on yourself. As women, we tend to develop the Superwoman complex, and are most often our own worst critics when something isn’t going as planned. If you are stressed, your milk may not let down as easily creating additional frustration. It’s important to know that even something that seems as natural as breastfeeding can still be a challenge. If you are struggling, seek out the assistance of a lactation consultant, or speak to other nursing women for advice and guidance. If for some reason you cannot breastfeed your baby, don’t beat yourself up. The fact that you have even taken the time to read this is evidence that your baby has been blessed with a loving parent and in the end, love is the very best thing we can give to our children.