Dear First Time Breastfeeding Mom, meet me your cheerleader who survived her first month of breastfeeding til it became more than a year of it … and beyond 🙂 I had tons of questions myself and some of them I couldn’t find answers to, even with Google. Some of these life hacks are not new but having gone through them myself I can at least swear that they worked for me.
First things first, know this – YOU CAN DO IT! You must go into breastfeeding with a quiet, steely determination to weather the first month or so. This is the hardest part because you just went through a life changing delivery and you badly need and want to rest.
- If you gave birth via c-section, side lying position is your friend. Baby’s tummy should be facing you, with a small pillow behind him/her. Have a pillow between your legs and against your back. This totally changed everything for me when I figured it out!
- When in doubt, offer the breast FIRST when baby is crying. Crying but not hungry? Crying but diaper is fine? Crying but just nursed half an hour ago? If that does not work, then try other options –check the diaper for poop and pee, or maybe baby wants to be carried, etc.
- The best way to increase your milk supply is still through direct latch. To check if your latch is okay, listen to your baby while s/he is nursing. There should be a steady, rhythmic sound. The soreness and tenderness will go away eventually (I swear!), but not today. So keep latching and soldier on. When in doubt, however, go to a lactation consultant near you.
- It’s also super important to stay healthy by eating heartily and staying hydrated. There is some wisdom to hot soup and lots of liquids. The voodoo behind lactation cookies has not been proven yet but I will gladly eat a delicious milk boosting treat if need be.
- Maintain a tummy to tummy position when breastfeeding using side-lying position. Baby’s head (which should be supported properly at all times) should NOT be turned away from you.
- Watch out for growth spurts! It’s hard to tell but it’s usually when baby is crankier than usual and wants milk all the time! The growth spurt resolves itself after a few days. Don’t give in to fears that maybe baby is not getting enough – check if anything is indeed unusual. Fear leads to stress and stress leads to reduced milk output. If baby is peeing and pooping like clockwork – just keep nursing and soldier on. When in doubt, check your latch.
- Express and spread a little breast milk on sore or chapped nipples and air dry (go topless) to heal them. I never needed lanolin because of this all natural tip.
- If for some reason you cannot directly latch, or have decided to supplement with formula in the meantime, remember that if you want to continue breastfeeding, you need to maintain your milk supply through direct latch. So don’t give up – offer to nurse before supplementing, and try to lessen your dependence on the bottle if you would like to breastfeed. Continue nursing. Lucky for me, just as I was about to give up for good, my baby did not want formula milk – forcing me to breastfeed her continuously. This is how I reduced formula milk dependence within the first few weeks of giving birth.
- Continuously stimulate milk production through hand express especially up to the first month. Don’t be discouraged if your ‘output’ seems low or barely 1 oz – it is in no way an indication of how much milk your baby drinks from you directly 🙂
- To deal with clogged ducts, you can make a nice warm compress out of a sock filled with uncooked rice. Just warm it up in the microwave and apply to the sore areas. Also, let baby use his/her hands to press on areas that need to be unclogged – off with the mitts while breastfeeding, I was told by a lactation expert 🙂
Your baby does not magically latch knowing how. And your breasts will not magically accommodate a hungry, screaming baby with ease. Later on, in a few months, you will find that breastfeeding is indeed easy and natural after all. But that day is not today. It will take time before your breasts get used their new role in your baby’s life.
Today may not be that day yet but know and believe that you can do it with a lot of patience and perseverance. 🙂
Expert breastfeeding moms, feel free to add your own life tips!