Breastfeeding is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things you will ever do. It is trying, painful, exhausting, and difficult. That’s not all it is though, it is also joyful, a wonderful time of bonding, so beneficial for your baby, and honestly not that hard at all once you get the hang of it. If you are interested in breastfeeding, then I have some tips to get you through breastfeeding a newborn. Those few weeks are the hardest part of the breastfeeding experience, and once you get past them you will be so glad you stuck it out.
In the first few weeks of breastfeeding there is a lot of pain, not just mild achy pain, but intense pain because your nipples are not used to being suckled on constantly. It takes about two to three weeks for your nipples to become accustomed to the constant feeding and at that point everything else just goes so much more smoothly. Honestly, I think the hardest thing about breast feeding isn’t the painful part, it is pushing yourself to keep doing it. You are basically forcing yourself to endure pain and never sleep, so it is very hard to continue when there are so many obstacles you encounter in the beginning. Just like everything else in life though, practice makes perfect.
They say your baby comes out with the innate ability to nurse, but I disagree. Not only does your baby need to learn how to latch properly, but you need to learn how to hold baby or attach baby onto your breast in a way that is easiest for you both. It is all a learning experience and no one person will be able to tell you exactly how to do it right because every baby and mother are different. I can give you some tips I have learned over the years, I was only able to exclusively nurse one out of four children and have learned SO many things that I wish I would’ve known with my first child, so I could’ve breastfed them all.
Top Ten Tips For Breastfeeding
- The Breast Sandwich – squeeze your breast between your thumb and other fingers as if you’re holding a sandwich and insert the nipple into baby’s mouth. I could’ve breastfed my first two if someone would’ve taught me this. With baby number three we had an awesome lactation consultant at the hospital who showed me this the first time I attempted to latch baby on and it worked perfectly after that. Using this technique as a first-time breastfeeding mom will help you quickly get baby to latch, just inserting the breast in baby’s mouth like the videos on latching show you will work easier on an older baby, not a newborn. The videos fail to mention that.
- Pumping During the First Six Weeks – if you are planning on breastfeeding for most feedings and just pumping occasionally, then I strongly suggest NOT pumping in the first six weeks while you and baby are getting the hang of breastfeeding and your supply is getting established according to baby’s needs. With baby number three I got mastitis in my left breast when he was three weeks old. It hurt so incredibly bad to try to get him to nurse to empty the duct, so I figured I would just pump and get through it in one sitting. It worked, my breast felt a thousand times better and after some antibiotics I was good as new. Unfortunately, the flow in my left breast was so fast because of the pumping session that I was choking my baby every time he ate. This lasted for about two days before I was worried I would end up with mastitis again because I couldn’t get him to latch and stay on the left breast. I pumped exclusively for the remainder of his first year. If you get mastitis or just a clogged duct, put baby on that breast as soon as you realize and just fight through the pain. By the end of that nursing session the pain will be gone, and your flow and supply amount will not have been disturbed.
- Pumping After the First Six Weeks – do not stop enjoying yourself completely. What I mean by this is, if you enjoy having a glass of wine or a beer occasionally then pump occasionally so you can do that. Do not stop dating your husband or hanging out with your girls because you feel you need to be home to breastfeed. It is okay after the first six weeks to pump occasionally so that you can still enjoy yourself. Baby four is fourteen weeks old and I just bought a manual pump because I will only be pumping a few times a month, for the nursery at church or when my husband and I go on a date. You have to make sure that you are still spending time doing stuff you love, or you will likely give up on breastfeeding. Do not let breastfeeding hinder you, work with it.
- Hospital Help – get as much help in the hospital as you can regarding breastfeeding. Any questions you have or concerns that come up, the lactation consultants are there to help you through it. If you get as much advice and assistance as possible while you’re there then you will feel more confident going home with baby.
- Babywise – I did not use Babywise with my first two children, I started with my third when he was about 16 weeks old, and I have used it with baby four the entire time. It has been a lifesaver. If you find that you are nursing around the clock or way too often during periods in which a growth spurt is not occurring, then you really should consider Babywise or another routine. If baby has some sort of routine, then you take the guesswork out of their lives. You will know exactly what baby needs before baby even realizes he needs it. So, instead of offering the breast every time baby cries, you will know he is just tired or needs a diaper change. It will save you a lot of time struggling to figure out your baby’s needs, and you will get a lot more sleep.
- No Snacking – this goes along with routines, when baby is taking small feedings all day long your breast is not fully emptying. So, this “snacking” is hurting your supply because your breasts will not be producing as much since baby is not getting all the milk. Without the breast being emptied, baby is not going to get the hind milk, which is the fattier milk that helps baby to gain weight and feel full for longer stretches of time. Hind milk is like drinking whole milk, whereas the foremilk, in the beginning of a feeding, is like skim milk. Without the hind milk baby will likely be A LOT fussier, have a harder time going to sleep, and not gain weight as well as he could be.
- Nipple Shields – Let me just say that I know they say to try not to use these, but with both of my breastfed children I have had to use one on my left breast for about two weeks. I do not have flat or inverted nipples, but for some reason baby’s latch poorly on my left breast and this has always led to cracking, bleeding and almost unbearable pain during breastfeeding. After baby three I learned not to listen to everything the nurses and books say, and to listen to my instinct first. After about a week of extremely painful feeding on my left side with baby four I decided to try to use my nipple shield. I got such relief the moment I began using the nipple shield. I used it every feeding for about a week and then slowly took it away and after two weeks of using it I didn’t need it anymore. If you are having a lot of issues with painful latch, I highly recommend this. As baby gets older he will begin to latch better so you will not need to use this for long. It is better to try this and get through the hardest part than to give up because your nipples are in so much pain and baby isn’t latching well.
- Sleep – I have four children so sleeping when the baby sleeps isn’t really an option, but going to sleep as soon as baby is asleep at night is an option. You will not produce as much milk if you’re exhausted and you won’t be able to function properly. Sleeping whenever you can is absolutely necessary. Newborns sleep A LOT, but they do not sleep for long stretches of time, which means you will be up every few hours to feed your sweet baby. So, get as much sleep as you can whenever it is possible.
- Pacifiers – another thing you are told not to use on your breastfed baby, I disagree though. They say that a pacifier will confuse baby and he won’t latch well, I have not had this issue and don’t really see how that could occur. Your nipple is not shaped the same as a pacifier and does not provide milk, so the likelihood of your baby not latching anymore because of a pacifier is slim. If your baby does not have a good latch then it may confuse him, but even then I am not sure how it will keep him from latching well. Also, I have four children, so comfort nursing is not possible for my schedule. Baby’s love to suck on things, it comforts them and as I said earlier, allowing them to “snack” all day is not benefiting you or them. A pacifier can be given in place of your breast when they only want comfort and not food. I tried with my last two children to keep the pacifier out of the picture at least until week four. For baby three that lasted until week three, we both had no sleep, constant nursing, and a lot of frustration. The pacifier solved all those issues, that was also around the time I started pumping exclusively so that may have helped too. With baby four though I lasted one day without a pacifier. He was awake constantly and the only time he slept was while nursing. Obviously, I was beyond exhausted since I had just gone through labor and birth. The pacifier saved my sanity and guess what, he latched like a champ before and after.
- Follow Your Gut – do what you need to do to keep your sanity and get through. You will get a lot of advice, but remember that it is only advice, not a strict guide to follow. If you need a nipple shield or pacifier, then use one because at the end of the day what is important is that you stick to your goal of breastfeeding baby. Babies cannot talk so no one knows for sure the perfect method and guide to breastfeeding, sometimes you have to improvise. One example is the nurses at the hospital telling me to feed for ten minutes on one breast then try to get him to nurse on the second breast. That did not work for Alex, he nurses on one side for about ten to thirteen minutes and doesn’t take both sides at one feeding,
You will get to know your baby and figure out his wants and needs. Be patient with yourself and with baby. Nothing starts out perfect and this is no exception. Don’t give up, you are doing something so awesome for your baby! If you do end up not being able to continue with breastfeeding then don’t beat yourself up, even a day of breastmilk is better than none. Remember that you are an amazing mother and your baby will love you no matter what you fill his or her tiny belly with!
What are some tips you have for a new mom? Let me know in the comments below!