When I was pregnant with my first, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I did a little prep work before he was born and thought I was ready. I pictured that he would latch right after delivery and we would blissfully make our way into a beautiful breastfeeding journey together. Our reality was much different. He struggled with latch, but we got through it. I was so severely engorged, I could hardly move. As a new mom, I was easily talked into supplementing with some formula, but I didn’t realize the importance of pumping if I wanted to keep up my supply when offering something other than the breast. I made it through seven months with him somehow, but I’m honestly shocked I made it through the first few months.
Moving onto baby number two. During pregnancy, I imagined how he would latch and I would avoid all the mistakes I had made the first time. I was right!!! He was placed on my chest, found my nipple, and began feeding minutes after birth. But, oh how wrong I still was about what came after. I thought I was going to lose a nipple at one point early on. I still dealt with engorgement and pain. He had a dairy and soy intolerance that created a need for a very strict diet on my part. But with determination we made it through.
I am now freshly through the rough phase with baby number four, and I’m here to tell you that the beginning of my breastfeeding journey was rough each time, but so worth fighting through. I’ve dealt with latch issues, dairy and soy intolerance, engorgement, cracked and bleeding nipples, clogged ducts, low supply, oversupply, over-active letdown, mastitis, you name it, I feel like I’ve been there.
Breastfeeding does not always come as naturally as people assume. There is a lot to learn and get used to for you and baby. It is a great idea to have a lactation consultant to go to anytime you need help and advice, but I’m going to share some things that I have been taught over the years and that have helped me get through the early stages of breastfeeding in the hopes that I share something that is helpful to you. And I think it is important to note that I am not a lactation consultant, just a momma of four that has had to navigate my way through breastfeeding.
- Tips I’ve Learned Over the Years:
- Your nipple cream is your best friend! Use it before you need it, meaning don’t wait until you are cracked and bleeding before you start using it. Prevent rather than treat.
- Avoid tight bras. They will be uncomfortable, and it can actually decrease your milk supply or cause clogs. I love my Super Bra by Carey Bradshaw for nursing and pumping!
- Avoid bras with underwires. The underwire can cause clogged ducts.
- Do not use soap on your nipples. Soap can actually dry out your nipples and cause irritation. Also, think about the fact that baby’s mouth will be on your nipple. You do not want soap or lotions getting in baby’s mouth.
- Keep water close by all the time. You will be thirsty! I always felt like I’d been stranded in the dessert for days with no water after each feeding. Plus, you need water for your body to produce milk.
- Keep healthy snacks around. You need about 500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding. Your body is burning calories while you breastfeed. I love Miracle Milkookies, and they even have a dairy, soy, and gluten free, vegan option called the Klean Kookie!
- Use different positions to empty the breast best. It takes practice, but there are a number of positions you can get used to with time. When your baby latches from different angles it helps empty more.
- Keep taking your pre-natal vitamin. Your body is providing your baby with important nutrients. This is a good way to keep your body healthy, and it will supply good milk for baby.
- Use a ring to switch back and forth to know which side you fed on. You will be feeding a lot! It is easy to forget which side you gave baby last, so a ring or bracelet might help you remember.
- Use an app to keep track of when and how long you feed. I love the MyMedela App because you can track breastfeeding, pumping, bottles, diapers, and more. If you have the Sonata, it links to your phone to help you keep track of pump sessions. If you prefer pen and paper, designate a notebook just for keeping track of baby.
- Tips for a Breastfeeding Plan:
- Decide before going to the hospital how you want to start off your breastfeeding journey.
- You can incorporate breastfeeding into your birth plan.
- Talk to your doctor to make sure they know what you want so they can help you accomplish it.
- Make sure your partner, family, and close friends know your goals, and ask for their support. (If they aren’t supporting your wants, please ignore any bad advice they give you!)
- Take a breastfeeding class or make sure it is covered well in your birthing class.
- Tips for Engorgement:
- Use a heating pad to relieve some of the pressure before feeding.
- You can also take a hot shower and let the water hit your breasts.
- After baby eats, use a cold compress to help with swelling.
- Massage your breasts to help empty them better. I was most recently told to rub from the nipple back towards your chest using your fingertips in a stroke like motion.
- Sometimes baby has trouble latching when you are too engorged. Get your lactation consultant involved so they can help you figure out the best plan for you.
- I love the Booby Tubes from Earth Mama for heat and cold. Click Here to Shop Booby Tubes
- Tips for Leaking:
- Use breast pads, and change them often to avoid issues with bacteria and thrush.
- Use a silicone breast pump to catch milk on the opposite side that you are feeding on. This is a great way to store up extra milk. Haaka Silicone Pump
- Tips for Cracked/ Sore/ Bleeding Nipples:
- I repeat from earlier; nipple cream is your best friend.
- Let your nipples get some air.
- Warm tea bags and place them on your nipples for 3-5 minutes. This is a natural way to soothe and help heal.
- Your breast milk can actually help heal your nipples. Just gently rub extra milk into your nipple using clean hands.
- Tips for a Poor Latch:
- Your best bet is to get your lactation consultant involved. This is a tough issue when you are new to breastfeeding.
- Speak to the pediatrician to see if baby has a tongue tie or lip tie that could be causing issues.
- Flat or inverted nipples can be hard to latch to. Pumping prior to feeding can help the nipples stand up better.
- Also for flat or inverted nipples, a nipple shield can be worn to create something for baby to latch to.
- Tips for Mastitis:
- Call your doctor immediately if you suspect mastitis. Hold on, let me yell this at you! CALL YOUR DOCTOR!
- Signs of mastitis include:
- Fever, Chills, Fatigue, Aches (Basically feeling like you have the flu)
- Hard, Sore Lumps
- Don’t try to be tough. You need medication to get through this.
- Tips for Overactive Letdown:
- Let gravity help. Use a more reclined position with baby on top of the breast rather than underneath.
- You can also try laying on your side to breastfeed. This is my favorite position and it helped a lot when my letdown was the heaviest.
- Have baby more vertical than horizontal.
- Use a nipple shield to slow the milk for baby.
Believe in yourself! You can do this. It gets easier as you both get used to it and get more comfortable. I’m here if you need love and encouragement, and I will answer any questions I can or get you to someone who can help. Hugs Momma! You are doing an amazing job!
Here are a few blog posts you might like.
- Breastfeeding Resources & Support
- 5 Things I Wish I Had Been Told Before Breastfeeding
- How to Increase Your Milk Supply
- What to Take to the Hospital for Breastfeeding
- How to Choose a Breast Pump
- Dairy and Soy Intolerance and Breastfeeding
*Image by iwantbdphotography. Love her!!
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