One of the biggest accomplishments I’ve ever had was successfully breastfeeding my third child. Breastfeeding was always made out to be this beautiful, natural experience that all women should do when they have a baby. Doctors, bloggers, TV personalities all tout the importance of breastfeeding, especially for those first six months.
So when I had my first child, I just knew I had to breastfeed. What I didn’t know was how difficult of journey breastfeeding was going to be for me personally.
Breastfeeding is an art form
Yup, I called it an art form. It’s something that not everyone can or will be willing to do and it takes practice and skill in order to master it if you choose to try it. It’s hard. Trust me, after two failed attempts I wasn’t sure I was going to try it a third time around, but after having my third child (and actually doing some research before trying it out) I’m so happy I did.
Everyone has heard the statement “Breast is Best”. It’s a chant used by most healthcare workers today, but what everyone fails to tell you is how hard that “best” thing can be to give your child. It really does take a lot of hard work and dedication to make it past the first few weeks.
Between the nerves of holding your new baby for the first time, cluster feeding, incorrect latch issues, chapped nipples, rawness, swelling, engorgement, milk supply concerns, and pain it’s hard to believe anyone made it past the first generation of humans.
I mean, breastfeeding is supposed to be this beautiful natural experience but it’s hard…REALLY HARD! With the theory of evolution, I don’t understand why something that is meant to be so natural and so good for our children hasn’t become something easy and more natural to do.
I’ve got a few tips to hopefully help you through those first few weeks.
Research, Research, Research
Before the baby gets here go ahead and sit down in front of your computer and google breastfeeding. It really does pay to do some research. Watch the how to videos on YouTube, read up on information from the le leche league and other reliable sources like kellymom, and speak with friends and family to get support and advise. Also look into helpful sites like babycenter.com where you can join different breastfeeding support groups. I made the mistake of not doing any of this before my first child… don’t be like me… do some research.
Once the baby gets here, before your first attempt at breastfeeding, try to relax. Trust me, if your nervous and uptight your baby will be too. If your relaxed you have a greater chance of getting the baby latched that very first time.
As weird as it sound, squish your breast down with one hand so it’s kind of flat…think of it like squishing a sandwich before you take a bite. Aim you nipple up a little and try to insert into the baby’s mouth. If the baby does not have his mouth open enough or tries to clamp down or start sucking before you get in there good, start over…quickly. Don’t allow the baby to latch wrong. Once it starts it’s a very hard habit to break.
It’s okay if the baby cries
The baby may get frustrated and start crying. That’s okay. Sometimes it’s easier to get your nipple further back in the baby’s mouth if they cry.
breast massage is good
Try pressing or massaging the breast while the baby nurses. This will help the flow of milk as well as help with any discomfort that you may feel.
Comfort is key
Make sure that you are in a comfortable position. If you are not comfortable you’ll be miserable the whole time you’re nursing. I suggest either a chair with a pillow behind you back and a Boppy to help support the baby’s weight or a comfy sofa.
I cannot stress the importance of a Boppy or some other kind of support for you and the baby. You will be nursing often which can lead to back and arm discomfort. Even though the baby feels light at first once you’ve been up for 2 days in a row with very little sleep holding on to the baby for several hours due to cluster feeding you’ll really appreciate the extra support.
Cluster Feeding is a real thing… and it sucks.
Your baby will go through spurts of cluster feeding. This is normal. Either your baby will unlatch after a couple of minutes and then want back on a second later, this lasting for hours, or they just won’t let go for a very long time. Be prepared to sit for a while. This is very common those first few days and weeks and actually is great for establishing your supply but it’s not fun. Have a bottle of water and a snack close by. I also suggest having some form of entertainment.
Become best friends with the nipple cream
Keep that tube of nipple cream handy. I highly suggest using it after each feeding. It will help to keep down the pain and soreness by keeping the surface of the nipple moist.
Mild discomfort is normal
No matter what anyone says, it’s normal to have some mild discomfort when the baby first latches but this should go away with a minute or so. If the discomfort does not go away or you notice it is a sharp or shooting pain, unlatch the baby and try again. You may not be latched right. If the pain continues, or is excruciating contact a lactation consultant to help you figure out what may be happening.
Ask for help when you need it
Do not be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people that are more than willing to help you during your breastfeeding journey. Support groups, lactation consultants, healthcare providers, friends… people are there to help support you and to hopefully make things a little easier for you. If you need help or have questions, reach out to someone.
The dreaded “M” word
Infections and clogged ducts happen. There is one word that can make even the strongest, most experienced, breastfeeding mom drop to her knees in pain… Mastitis. Mastitis is a common breast infection that women can experience while breastfeeding. It’s so common, that many OB/GYNs won’t even make you come in for a check, they will just phone in a prescription and wish you the best. It hurts! You’ll pretty much feel like you want to die for a few days. But it will go away when treated properly with antibiotics.
Another condition you may experience, especially if you have an over supply or become engorged, is clogged ducts. Now this is less serious than mastitis but it can still be pretty damn uncomfortable. It’s treatable at home and normally will not require any kind of medication. Although, ibuprofen may be a good option to help with pain. And no, you do not have to stop breastfeeding with either of these conditions. It’s actually encouraged to continue to breastfeed on the side that you are having an issue with to help with the healing process.
It may take time
For some women, it can take a few weeks to get comfortable with breastfeeding. It’s been my experience that the first 3-6 weeks can be pretty miserable. By week 8 though, it’s like I’ve been doing it my whole life.
Being touched out by the end of the day is normal. Breastfeeding takes a lot of time and energy and can leave you feeling very touched out by the end of the day. This is pretty normal.
You’re protected by law
Feed your child how you are comfortable. In the United States, breastfeeding is a federally protected act and you have a right to breastfeed, even uncovered openly without fear of being harassed. Check the breastfeeding laws in your state, but most say something along the lines of a woman having the right to breastfeed a child in any public or private establishment that the mother has a right to be in. Your nipple can be exposed in the process of breastfeeding (either before, during, or after) without fear of indecency laws being violated and you cannot be asked to cover or leave an establishment just because someone is not comfortable with it. So feel free to breastfeed either with a cover or completely uncovered… it’s legal.
The 2019 Florida Statutes
Don’t give up
Finally, don’t give up. It’s hard work and yes you may want to give up at times due to fatigue or pain. But try to keep with it. After a few weeks it really will get easier. If you have to, ask for help. There are all kinds of local organizations out there that would be more than happy to help you have a successful and happy breastfeeding experience.
Please use some of the links below for more information.