Women used to have more support breastfeeding, saw it all the time, and learned how to do it from other women around them, but we just don’t have that as much anymore. As a rookie mom of an almost-two-month-old, here are my tips for success. I’ve found that breastfeeding is simultaneously easy and hard, and always a bonding experience. You CAN do it! The amount of women who literally can’t is a small percentage, but reach out and get help if and when you need it (most women do — I did.) And no matter how long you decide to breastfeed, just know that you are doing a wonderful thing for your baby.
-Point your nipple toward the roof of his mouth/his nose, so he takes it up into his mouth, and get him to take it in down to your areola, not just the end of your nipple. So before pulling him toward your nipple, make sure his mouth is nice and gaping wide. You can show him and newborns can imitate that big wide mouth. Make sure his tummy is against your tummy like a velcro strip is attaching you guys. His lips should look splayed out around your nipple. If it hurts, it could just be a little discomfort that’s associated with early breastfeeding, but in general it should not hurt. If it does, call a lactation consultant or the LLL leader in your area and they can help you readjust your latch.
-Don’t let anyone tell you the baby isn’t getting enough food/needs formula supplementation. Just make sure to nurse 8-12 times a day while in the hospital. The baby’s stomach is the size of a marble at the beginning, and all they need is your colostrum. Even if nursing feels really awkward at first, it’ll get better. If you feel like you can’t get a good latch, talk to the hospital’s lactation consultant. Unfortunately some of them aren’t nationally certified, so you may also want to call your local La Leche League leader (then or anytime you have problems or questions). Your milk probably won’t come in for several days or so and that’s normal. In my breastfeeding class we learned that you can’t starve a baby in the first week.
-The baby will instinctually want to latch on right after birth. Try to get some time skin to skin with him right after he’s born, and it’ll be amazing to see how with your nipple right there he will go for it with a little guidance from you. It may feel frustrating at first — arms flailing, IV in the way if you had one, etc…it’ll get better! I considered swaddling her to keep her arms from flailing but the nurse told me not to do that while feeding because it helps them (and your milk production) for them to be able to use their sense of touch.
-Other than lactation consultants and LLL leaders, which are a huge and free resource, here are some other ideas. When I got home I had my mom look at my latch to make sure she thought it looked right, since I was nervous and she breastfed my brothers and me. That helped ease my worries. If you have someone like that I would consider asking their help.
-If you don’t already have a book on breastfeeding that you like, I would highly suggest The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. It’s organized by age with common questions for each age, and it helped me SO much in the beginning, when I was like “is this normal???” about everything. I still reference it all the time. It is amazing to see that what I am experiencing is almost always common. Another good website for questions when you feel confused/panicky/like you aren’t sure if you’re doing things right/etc is Kellymom (http://www.kellymom.com/)
HOW MUCH TO FEED/HOW TO KNOW HE’S GETTING ENOUGH
-In the early days you will spend a lot of time breastfeeding. I had a hard time telling when she wanted to eat so we just spent a lot of time skin to skin and I would follow her hunger cues (open mouth, hand to mouth…crying is actually a late hunger cue.) I am not feeding on a schedule because all babies’ stomachs and feeding styles are different — with formula, where it’s digested on a regular timetable that you can count on, it’s easier to go by a schedule. Some babies may be ready to eat again in a couple hours, or sometimes they may want a snack an hour later. My baby is a bit of a grazer. This is the part that can be really frustrating. You may feel like you are feeding constantly. The good thing to know is you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, regardless of what some people may say. When babies give you the cues that they want to eat and you feed them, your body is being told how much milk it needs to provide for your baby, so in a way your baby is helping to regulate your body’s milk supply so it’s just enough for him. The more baby nurses the more your body knows to produce.
-Don’t worry about how often you’re nursing or for how long, not really. (In the early weeks make sure there’s no more than maybe one four hour stretch of no nursing, when they may sleep a little longer, but other than that it’s typically every 2 hours or even more…and remember that time starts from the beginning of the nursing session…so if he starts nursing at 12 and say he IS a baby that typically wants to eat every 2 hours, then even if he nurses for 45 minutes he’ll be ready again an hour and fifteen minutes later! So it’s a full time job! But as they get older and more proficient they’ll typically drink for less and less time and more and more regularly — so from what I hear the hardest part is the “4th trimester!”
-To tell if baby’s getting enough milk, don’t worry about nursing session length or frequency — look at diapers in the first six weeks. Poopy diapers (the size of an “okay” circle you make with your thumb and your forefinger) are what you want to count. In the first 24 hours, you want one poop. In the next 24, you expect at least 2. Then maybe 3 a day for the rest of the first week. After that you can expect 6-8 a day. You may have more earlier, and that’s okay too!
-Lots of moms say they have a baby who wants to eat constantly for hours a day, usually in the evening amidst fussiness. This is called cluster feeding and if it happens it is also normal. It can be exhausting but it’s your baby helping get your milk supply up. Mine has cluster fed every evening since she was born. Our most frustrating evening was before we realized this and we were like what’s wrong?? Her diaper is dry and she just ate! Then we read about cluster feeding again and realized she was rooting around for a nipple and that was that. It’s still a tiring time of the day. My husband holds her in between feedings so I can get a break and just refills me on water as I need it. The good thing is that after her cluster feeding time she sleeps for a good, long stretch — it started at 3-4 hours and now is usually around 5, I think. One night it was 8.
-Babies also have days where they go through “growth spurts” and want to feed all day. This is normal and doesn’t mean you aren’t making enough milk. You are doing great!!
-Find ways to be comfy and mix it up, because you will be nursing a lot and it can be very tiring. Try propping up with pillows, the Boppy if you have one, sitting in your glider sometimes, sometimes on the couch, and sometime side lying on the bed. This is a great position when you are tired.
-For us, bed sharing was a lifesaver. That’s not for everyone, but at least sharing a room in the early weeks or months can really help. You will be feeding him a lot, and this will help you get as much sleep as possible. Even if you’re not bed sharing, consider trying side lying nursing in bed (on your side, not between you and your husband) and then put him back in his basinette if you have one when you’re done. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, that’s okay too. Whatever works for you! (Safe co-sleeping tips: http://www.askdrsears.com/html/7/t071000.asp)
-Try different nursing positions. This is good for your breasts and can help you find something that works really well for you and the baby. Our main ones were the normal cradle hold although many moms use the “clutch” hold too. We also liked to do the “laid back” breastfeeding position, where you lay propped up on your back and he is lying on your tummy facing you, with his body lengthwise against yours. Another we do a lot is sidelying.
-After the first couple days I had a little cracking that went away after applying lanolin for a couple days. That can be a sign that the latch isn’t great though, so ask for hep if it continues. I think it just happened because my nipples weren’t used to being sucked on 24/7!
-Sometimes I felt like she didn’t want to breastfeed because she’ll pull off my breast and fuss, or do what we call “shark” around here (shake her head from side to side like a shark or alligator.) Now I know she does that when she wants the milk to let down faster, and that’s common (especially in the evenings when women’s milk supply is naturally lower). So don’t feel sad if he does that…it’s normal. And keep breastfeeding even though it may be tempting to use a bottle…because this is how she is telling your body she needs it to make more! I’ve learned to let go of my expectations of what breastfeeding would “look” like (calm, peaceful, baby always quietly sucking…it is like that too but not always, or at least not for me!)
-Using pacifiers and bottles is a very personal decision. If you are going to use them, I’d suggest waiting until breastfeeding is well established, about a month.
-Spitting up: Not all breastfed babies spit up a lot or need to be burped a lot. Ours does, but because she is gaining weight well and doesn’t seem to be fussy when she spits up they consider it a “laundry” issue rather than a “medical” one.
I really hope these tips help! I was definitely worried about breastfeeding not working out, and I had some bad dreams about it too actually! I truly believe you can do it.