The day has finally come!
Your baby is here, and you are ready to begin your breastfeeding journey together.
With something so natural as this, one would assume it would come naturally and happen easily. This is not always the case. But with preparation and the right support, you can make your breastfeeding goals a reality.
If this is your first-time breastfeeding, you may have a lot of questions or anxieties about breastfeeding.
I did my research before my baby was born to learn the different positions to hold my baby in. I read about how often my baby should be feeding. All the basics I made sure I understood to the best of my ability.
This preparation helps settle some anxiety because at least I knew I did all I could to be ready. And then the nurse placed my baby on my chest for skin-to-skin contact and encouraged to have my baby begin to suckle. I thought I knew what to expect, but really this exact moment felt so foreign to me.
Never, had an infant nursed from my breast. As natural as the process is I still felt a little awkward at first. This is a normal response.
When you are faced with something for the first time no matter what it is, it is a normal human response to feel uncomfortable. Don’t feel discouraged at this point and wonder if there is something wrong with your maternal instincts. There’s not. You are human.
Over the next several hours and many more latches and suckles you will become accustomed to it.
This class from Milkology is full of amazing information to prepare you for breastfeeding. Visit their website to learn more about what they offer! Each class is a downloadable video and only $19!
Your baby may need help getting a good latch.
Your brand-new bundle has never done this before. As much as the sucking reflex is instinctual he or she may still need help figuring it all out. This is where you come in mama. But wait, you have never done this before either. Well aren’t you two in a pickle.
This is where it becomes necessary for you to elicit help from the nurses or lactation consultants the hospital has available. *Cue the second phase of awkward* Breasts are no longer your sacred body part, but now a tool to sustain your baby’s life.
Your breasts will be exposed and handled by many hands to help your baby secure their latch. This takes some getting used to for people who may be modest, like myself. Rest assured, this too shall pass.
So now you are well into the first day or two of your baby’s life and you are getting better at knowing how to help your baby latch.
Good work, mama! This breastfeeding thing isn’t so hard after all. Keep track of all your baby’s nursing sessions. You want to know how long and from what side he/she nurses from. It is also important to keep track of wet diapers in the first several days of life (I did it for the first month- call me crazy).
It is important to keep track of these things for two reasons: you can make sure your baby is getting enough nutrition, and second you need to ensure both breasts are getting relatively equal stimulation. This is setting the foundation for your milk supply. The first several days is only small amounts of colostrum, but from day one you are letting your breasts know it’s time to do work!
Or if you prefer to just have this breastfeeding log. A simple way to keep track of which side you last nursed from.
So, you have secured the latch and you are continuing to work on good positioning for feeding.
Look how far you have come already! Over the next couple of days your nipples are really going to start to feel the feedings. Your baby will be nursing every 2-3 hours for anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes at a time. That is a lot of wear and tear on your sensitive little nipples.
The infamous saying is that “breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt”. Let me tell you right now, the lie detector test determined- that was a lie! I think what they mean to imply is that when you have the proper latch you should not feel a pinching pain. If the baby has too shallow of a latch then you may feel this kind of discomfort, but that is a different story.
Your nipples are sensitive.
They can become irritated and painful with the constant sucking from your baby. Some women even develop cracked or bleeding nipples. Honestly this is par for the course.
I kept feeling like I was doing something wrong when I would tell the lactation consultant (LC) it was hurting so much. Looking back, I am pretty sure she must never have breastfed before. I feel like that should be a pre-requisite for a lactation consultant.
After some time of dealing with the pain and me feeling like I was wrong for feeling it, the LC finally gave me a nipple shield to try. A what?? You’re telling me all this time you had something that could have potentially helped me deal with this discomfort? Can I get a new lactation consultant please?!
That’s how I felt at that point.
Post-partum, hormonal and exhausted. Of course, I would like to try anything that could help me get through the painful nursing sessions.
She warned me against using the nipple shield as it would “interfere with letdown and stimulation”. I will take that risk because right then I didn’t know how I would be able to continue breastfeeding with the amount of irritation my nipples had.
It made a world of difference. I would continue to use this nipple shield for the next 1-2 weeks off and on until I could tolerate feeding without it. I had no adverse effects toward my letdown or milk supply using it.
Everyone will have a different experience in their breastfeeding journey.
Some of you may have an easier time and some more difficult. My story is to give you an idea of what you may expect and some insight to help you get through it.
I encourage you to inform yourself as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby is born so you will be at least somewhat familiar with what to do. There are many resources and support systems in place to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals- use them!
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You have chosen to provide your baby with the best source of nutrition possible. Congratulations on that!
You can do this, mama. Have faith in yourself and your body.