I’ve been breastfeeding for the past 6.5 months and we’re still going strong. This is not to say that there weren’t difficulties in the beginning and along the way; there definitely were. I wish I had attended a breastfeeding class while I was pregnant and knew more about it in the beginning stages. All I knew was that I was planning to do it as long as possible and that it was natural, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Little did I know, it is hard in the beginning. It takes a lot of work, coordination, support and cooperation between you and your baby to get the hang of it. Once you do, it’s the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had and I couldn’t be more grateful that I stuck with it.
With all that said, here are some tips for breastfeeding!
1. Attend a breastfeeding class when you’re pregnant. I didn’t do this, but really wished I had. It would have been nice to know the basics and have encouragement from the start that things to get easier.
2. Make sure your baby’s latch is over the entire areola. In the hospital, I had no idea what a correct latch looked like nor did it hurt the first few times I breastfed. It felt a little strange, but not painful. I was delirious and running on adrenaline, so I thought everything was fine until I got home and thought an aardvark was shredding my nipples. Once the latch is correct, all fares well!
3. See a lactation consultant and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lactation consultants are a God send especially in the early days. There are so many questions about the proper way to keep this little being alive and they are there to soothe your worries. Mine helped me with everything from proper latch to reassuring me that he was gaining enough weight and getting enough each feeding. They can help every stage of the way (i.e., starting solids, nighttime weaning, nursing multiples, etc).
4. Change up the position. There isn’t a one-way-fits-all position for nursing your baby. Some babies do well with the traditional cross-cradle hold while sometimes a football hold helps the baby to latch on better! Make sure that the baby’s head is elevated above the rest of the body and that his or her head, neck and shoulders are in alignment because it’s much harder to swallow with your neck turned (try it!)
5. When you are offering the nipple, brush it against the top lip to get them to open their mouth as big as possible. The baby needs to open his or her mouth as big as possible to get the proper latch around the areola. Don’t let them “slurp” you on because that will kill you in the end! Trust me, I’ve been there.
6. Relax. I was always so nervous about waking him up to eat and was worried when he would fall asleep on the breast for the first few weeks of life. With newborns liking to sleep so much, they constantly fall asleep on the boob. While it is a reason of concern when they aren’t getting enough food, it’s usually not the end of the world if they fall asleep mid-feed because they’ll make it up. Healthy babies are smart – they’ll get what they need. I do think it’s necessary to wake your newborn up for the first 2 weeks of life (or until they’ve returned to birth weight) to eat.
7. Nurse on demand. Like I said, babies are smart and get what they need if their cries are listened to. Babies also aren’t on a schedule. If you nurse on demand, it will set your milk supply, create trust with your baby and help them to grow properly.
8. Break the suction when it’s time to switch sides or stop eating. Don’t just pull the baby off of you with their suction still in tact. This will also create very painful nipples. Take your pinkie finger and gently break their suction first.
9. If you get a blocked duct, the best thing to do is nurse. The baby is able to get this out for you. They know exactly how to suck to give you relief. Point the baby’s chin toward the blockage. This might require a really awkward position, but it works. Also a “dangle” feed might help. Apply moist heat and drink tons of water too!
10. If you suspect low milk supply, pump and nurse more frequently. Milk is produced by demand, so if you aren’t producing enough, go on a “nursing” vacation and nurse your baby as frequently as possible. The breast pump will also get things going, but not as effectively as a baby will.
11. Get comfortable. This goes along with the positioning of the baby, but also use props such as a boppy pillow, my breast friend or just regular pillows. Also NEVER go to the baby – bring the baby to you. If you hunch over to get to the baby’s mouth, your back will HURT.
12. Be proud of yourself. Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby and has hundreds of benefits, so be proud that you chose to set your baby up with the best nutrition. You are creating a lasting bond with your baby also. Sit back and enjoy this time snuggling with your baby!
These are the tips I’ve learned the hard way, so I hope you learn them before they happen to you!
Here is the sign of a full and happy baby!