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10 First Time Breastfeeding Life Hacks

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. The best way to increase your milk supply is still through direct latching. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 hungry. If baby is peeing and pooping like clockwork – just keep nursing and soldier on. When in doubt, check your latch.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 giving your baby the bottle if you would like to breastfeed. This is how I reduced formula milk dependence within the first few weeks of giving birth.
  9. 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 🙂
  10. 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!

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Posted in parenting

What We Don’t Talk About (But Should) When We Talk About Breastfeeding

In time for Breastfeeding month, I’m going to talk about the things we don’t talk about breastfeeding, and why we should talk some more.

em aglipay on breastfeeding
My law school blockmate, Rep. Em Aglipay on her experiences breastfeeding in public. She also talks about the widespread prejudice against breastmilk in a separate graphic.

I come from both sides of the fence, so to speak. I am an exclusively breastfeeding mom but I also gave my baby formula several times while I was building my supply during the first two weeks post-partum.  Before giving birth, I naively thought breastfeeding was going to be an easy, natural thing to do and I went as far as post articles I read online about breastfed kids being smarter, happier and healthier than formula fed kids… not a very sensitive thing to do, I realized later on, which brings me to my first point.

Breastfeeding is framed as a public health issue, a food security matter, and so much more. However, talking about breastfeeding or formula as a matter of choice by a parent is such a sensitive and highly contentious topic even though it has public health dimensions. How you feed your child touches a raw nerve 99% of the time. It divides mothers, grandmothers, friends, workmates, one judging the other, when it should not be the case.

First of all, nobody talks about the private pain a mother goes through when people around her – family included, judge her choice to breastfeed.  Breastfeeding moms endure a lot of well-intentioned but hurtful comments and suggestions, ranging from their milk not being good enough to their babies not being fat enough – or that their babies look sickly compared to fatter formula fed babies. Moms who want to breastfeed but are not able to also endure hurtful comments about their ability to provide for their babies, sadly even from other moms, too.

Nobody really talks about how friggin’ hard it is, especially in the first few weeks, hence setting up a clueless mom for heartache and disappointment. The first thing I tell my friends who want to breastfeed is this – be prepared for a difficult and arduous rollercoaster ride. It’s better to be brutally honest about how hard it is at first rather than paint a rosy picture that is far from reality.

Continue reading “What We Don’t Talk About (But Should) When We Talk About Breastfeeding”