What I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding
It’s Natural, So It Should Be Simple, Right?
The short answer is, we wish! The truth is, breastfeeding complications are VERY common. There are, of course, instances where newborns will take to the breast with ease and mom has very little discomfort as her milk supply adapts to her baby’s needs. In many cases however, it is not so simple. We highly recommend reading I Can Breastfeed before your baby is born.
Tired As A Mother!
The first few days through the first couple of weeks after baby is born are usually the most challenging. After giving birth, most new moms are pretty exhausted and just want a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, they are not likely to get many hours at a time because this is when a newborn wakes up and wants to nurse very frequently. When you are exhausted and not able to get the sleep your body needs, it is very easy to get discouraged, overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, or short tempered. Having a family member, friend, or care giver stay with you for a little while can be a huge help. If you have someone else bring the baby to you to nurse, and then take the baby while you sleep, you should be able to catch up on sleep and feel a lot better.
My Body Is Not My Own, Still..
All mothers who have carried a child know that being pregnant puts your body through many changes. As your baby gets bigger and bigger inside your belly, it can start to feel that your body is no longer your’s, but instead is devoted solely to your baby. This feeling may be stronger than ever the first few months after your baby is born. Many women will experience nipple soreness and painful engorgement in the beginning which can both be exacerbated if the baby is having trouble latching or is not draining the breast successfully. Using a hot compress before you nurse will help soften your breasts if they are engorged and using an ice pack afterward will help with the pain and slow milk production. If you do not have a hot compress, try putting hot water into a diaper and putting it in your bra with the absorbent side facing your breast for five minutes. This will keep your bra dry while encouraging your milk to let down. If your letdown is too fast for your baby, using this trick should help prevent your milk from gushing and overwhelming your baby when you begin nursing.
What If The Milk Isn’t Flowing?
Some women experience too little milk production. If you want to breastfeed your baby but are not producing enough milk, do not get discouraged. There are dietary adjustments that can be made to help milk production along with herbal teas and supplements to help milk production. It is very important to drink enough water and make sure you are eating enough healthy food! Making breast milk requires a lot of calories. If your milk supply is low it is also advisable to avoid caffeine. Although it can be difficult, getting as much sleep as possible and properly managing stress can help your milk supply.
Sometimes It’s More Than Learning How.
If you are having trouble breastfeeding your baby, there are lactation specialists available in and out of the hospital. Having a little guidance from a specialist can go a long way! A specialist will also be able to help identify any other possible sources of difficulty for you and your baby. Often times there will be a lip and/or tongue tie which is preventing your baby from latching properly. If your baby cannot latch properly it can cause gas, fussiness, fatigue, and nipple soreness for mom. If you are experiencing pain or your baby is showing signs of discomfort, don’t wait to talk to your doctor or a lactation specialist.
Don’t Skip The Breastfeeding Class!
Most mothers-to-be are not aware of all the technicalities and frustrations that can accompany breastfeeding. Taking a breastfeeding class along with newborn care and infant CPR class will help you prepare for parenthood and are well worth it. Classes are also a great way to get connected to other new parents and support groups! If you cannot attend classes in-person, there are also classes available online. Doulas and midwives who practice at birthing centers are almost always willing to meet with expecting parents and answer any questions about newborn care and breastfeeding.
We have additional information about breastfeeding, including product recommendations, HERE