Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Breastfeeding Learning Experience {Dear Best Friend...}



I've been nursing babies for almost five years, with one eight month break. There is a lot I've learned over the years and sticking to breastfeeding has been worth it without a doubt. It hasn't always been easy and during the newborn days there were times I felt desperate, but I've learned to trust my motherly instincts and not stress or panic if I'm having a hard time. 

With the first baby we've overcome an uncomfortable, painful latch, a milk protein intolerance (not same as lactose intolerance) and thrush. Those first three months were really hard, but then I nursed her until two years old and I'm so glad to have had this miracle gold milk to nourish and strengthen her immune system, to get her through illness without dehydration, and to make us really close. 

Latch is Everything

With a newborn, perhaps the hardest aspect of breastfeeding is getting a good latch where the baby isn't just sucking on the nipple but part of the areola is actually in her mouth. This is simple in theory, but tough in practice because the mouth of a newborn is tiny! My first baby was 6 lbs 12 oz and second was 7 lbs 7 oz and this was challenging. 

I also wish some one told me and showed me from the very start that the easiest way to get a good latch is to point the nipple toward the roof of the baby's mouth, not straight in. It makes a huge difference! This is actually something I forgot when I had my second baby and a couple of days home from the birth center I Googled 'correct latch' and saw a graphic illustration at Kelly Mom that demonstrated what I've forgotten since feeding my first newborn. Immediately it helped Baby T get a good latch and nursing became so much more comfortable and not painful.

Forget the Clock

My poor mother, when she had my sister and then me six years later, she was told to put a newborn on a schedule and instead of feeding on demand she nursed every three hours. Feeding by the clock is one of the worst things for establishing your milk supply (and for a having a content baby). Feed when the baby wants it. Simple as that. I've actually adhered to that rule no matter how old the baby is, even with my toddlers. If the baby wants to feed, there is a reason for it because breast milk isn't just food, it's drink, it's an analgesic, it's immune system support, it's physical touch that they need, and so much more.

Seek Help

Even though not all lactation consultants are particularly helpful, many are. Sometimes a mom who has breastfed before can be a great help to. It's great to see a consultant right after birth, they may offer some insight beyond anything you may know and they can help troubleshoot any breastfeeding issues.

Beyond technical breastfeeding help, surround yourself with other nursing moms and older mother's whose children have grown. The former will support you emotionally and the latter can help physically with simple meal prep, errands, or simply holding or playing with the baby for a few minutes while you take a shower. Most people are glad to help out a new mom and for many, those newborn days are still fresh in their mind.

Don't forget that your spouse can help too, though don't raise your expectations too high. Most likely his feelings of being a new dad will kick in and he will have no trouble helping you out. Sometimes though fathers can have the 'baby blues' just as much as a mom can. Take it easy on him and remember that you are one team, even the often stressful newborn days can be a great source of joy for a man thrown off the deep end of fatherhood!

Relax

There is nothing worse for establishing milk supply than stress. It can literally stop you from producing milk. You can be stressed out from lack of support, lack of sleep, lack of nourishment. You need those three, especially during the first crucial three months as a mom to a newborn. What helps you relax? Nursing itself is meant to be a moment when you can relax, stop rushing, and enjoy the moment. Make it a point to consciously savor your baby's presence and that addictive newborn smell. 

If you are stressed out, go right to the source and figure out what you can do about it. If it's housework, really, you can let it go a little. Feeding your baby and yourself is far more important. If you have too many commitments outside of the house, consider letting some go, if only for a while. Financial issues stressing you out? Just remember that the most important things in life cannot be bought with money. If it is something beyond your control, consider meditation and prayer to help cope with the issue. 

A Little Convenience Helps

With my first baby I didn't even know nursing clothing existed, I only knew about nursing bras. That was five years ago and there weren't many good choices in stores at all. I got one cheap, ill-fitting nursing bra that deteriorated quick with daily use. I later realized that having at least two, quality nursing bras is absolutely essential (I has success with Hot Milk). Then when I finally got the taste of what nursing in a breastfeeding top is like, I realized I was missing out. It makes it so much easier and not just when you are out of the house. In the fall and winter I loved not having to lift my shirt and feel the cold draft on my back. It made nursing in public so much more effortless and inconspicuous. I really like nursing tops from Milk Nursingwear, Expressiva, and the huge selection from many brands at A Mother's Boutique

Another item that I wish I enjoyed the convenience of with my first baby? A wrap carrier (I used this one, but there are a ton of options). With my second baby it made nursing while doing housework possible and I so regretted not trying it with my first baby. I actually had the wrap with Baby E, but I tried it once and was put off by how inconvenient it was to put it on, big mistake! With the arrival of Baby T I didn't have as much of a choice, I had a toddler to take care of. So after several trial runs I became pretty good at getting the wrap on and Baby T enjoyed this closeness immensely - so did I! It was easy on my back and I could be nursing baby while getting dinner on the table. You'll quickly learn that this is priceless! Coincidentally, it was great for helping Baby T keep the milk down after feedings and there was a lot less spit up to clean up when he wasn't immediately put down. 

Mamas, please share your breastfeeding tips and stories with new moms! 
Feel free to link up to any blog posts you may have written. 








Photo: Nursing Baby T back in 2012 in our kitchen at home.

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6 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. My baby is due October 8th and I am planning to breastfeed. I'm bookmarking this so I can go back to it!! Thank you for the links to the nursing bras and tops too; I didn't know where to start with that!

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    1. You're welcome Colleen! I'm so glad you found it helpful! Best to you and baby :)

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  2. Thank you so much for this post! I am due with my 2nd baby in a couple short weeks and I am preparing to breast feed him. I breastfed my first baby until she was 9 months when my milk dried up- I was devasted! But, looking back I am able to see some huge mistakes I made and will definitely do some things differently this time :
    I will not start solids at 4 months
    I will not use bottles of pumped milk to feed in public because I was embarrassed to nurse in public
    I will not stress about a schedule
    And other things

    Hopefully we can at least make it 1 year this time :)

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    1. Great, so glad it is helpful! I had to use a pump when my daughter was two weeks old and diagnosed with the milk protein allergy and I hated it, it's HARD, so much easier to just breastfeed.

      We started solids around 6-7 months with both, and it wasn't mashed food. Actually, you've reminded me I should write a post about of experience with baby-led solids. They started with avocados (raw) and sweet potatoes (cooked), they are great first foods that are easy to chew without teeth.

      You can do it mama, just go with what feels right and forget all the 'expert' advice! :)

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  3. Great tips and advice on breastfeeding. I will definitely keep these in mind when I breastfeeding baby #2.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the comment and wishing you the best with your baby! :)

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