See that adorable fat baby there? Allow me a moment to take some credit for fattening her up so much. Now, let me share with you some of my secrets for creating such a cute, mini-Jabba the Hutt.
Nursing is a skill. With my first baby, I had a really hard time for the first few days. Sometimes it hurt so bad I would cry. I came really close to giving up entirely. But I stuck through it, with the help of some fantastic advice from the hospital lactation consultant, a whole lot of nipple cream, and some other things I learned. The following three weeks were tough, but not too bad. After that, I had smooth sailing!
Some things I learned about breastfeeding
- Try to learn as much as you can in the hospital, because this only gets harder when you get home. Definitely ask for a lactation consultant to visit you in your room while you’re there.
- Also, while in the hospital, don’t feel guilty about sending your baby to the nursery for the night. This will most likely be the last time you will sleep well for months. They can also bring the baby to you when it’s hungry, and you can feed him/her then, or have the nurses feed them formula in the nursery. Don’t feel guilty about giving your baby the occasional bottle of formula. You gotta do what you gotta do in order to stay sane. If momma’s not happy, baby’s not going to be happy.
- A word on “nipple confusion:” If you’ve read about this already, you may be worried that if you introduce a bottle or pacifier to your baby too soon, then your baby won’t do well at breasfeeding. Stop worrying. It may happen now and then, but it really doesn’t happen very often. Both my babies took a pacifier the day they were born, and a bottle or two that night in the hospital nursery, and never had any problems breastfeeding. In fact, it’s preferable for your baby to be used to both nursing as well as bottle feeding, so that Dad or someone else can help out with feedings.
- A word on “tongue-tie:” If you’ve read about this, you may be worried that if your baby has a short tongue tie (lingual frenulum), they may have a hard time breastfeeding. Do NOT worry about this unless your doctor tells you to worry. My baby girl has a very short frenulum and has always nursed like a champ.
- If things don’t work out, you are not a bad mom! Sometimes, even though you do everything right, it is just not going to work. Let yourself have a little cry, and then let it go and do not feel the least bit guilty.
- I have heard it suggested that daddy handle about one feeding a day, so Daddy has regular bonding time with the baby.
- If your little one isn’t interested in eating even though it’s feeding time, try skin-on-skin contact. Remove all your clothes and baby’s clothes, snuggle a few minutes, and then try nursing. This usually does the trick.
- Sometimes babies will arch their back while nursing. This can be an indicator of gas.
- During the early weeks, Emrys had a hard time latching on if my breast was too engorged. So I learned that I could express a little just using my hands, until it was a more manageable size, and then he could latch on better.
- During the early days and weeks of breastfeeding my fist baby, my nipples would get incredibly sore and tender, and no amount of nipple cream would help. Breastfeeding while your nipples feel like that can be extremely painful. Then I learned about nipple shields: they are made of silicone and completely cover your nipple. Your baby sucks on it, and your milk goes through a hole and into baby’s mouth. If you cant get a nipple shield, try this trick: get your biggest bottle nipple and place it over your breast. Push it on and squeeze out excess air so it makes an airtight seal around your skin, and so that as much as your breast is inside it as is comfortably possible. Then manually squeeze out a little milk into the bottle nipple so that when your baby puts his mouth on it, he will taste the milk and want to keep sucking. For your baby, it’s almost just like sucking on a bottle. For you, your skin doesn’t actually make contact with baby’s mouth, but the action of your baby’s sucking keeps your milk flowing from your breast to the bottle nipple, then to baby’s mouth. Since this method obviously doesn’t transfer as much milk to the baby as normal breastfeeding would, using a bottle nipple or nipple shield shouldn’t be a long-term solution. It should only be used to help with temporary nipple pain. If you feel like it makes the problem worse, then stop right away. Trust your mother’s instinct.
Occasionally, Emrys would repeatedly suck, then turn away, then suck, then turn away, then suck, etc. Or he would suck, but simultaneously push me away with one hand. When he does this, it means one of three things:
- There is no more milk in my breast, or it’s starting to run low and it’s getting harder to get anything out of it. If this is the case, it’s time to move on to the next breast, or offer a bottle if both breasts are already empty.
- He is full. He wants to keep sucking (infants have a strong sucking reflex—it soothes them and helps them digest their food) but doesn’t want any more milk. If this is the case, it’s time to give him his pacifier. Some people refuse to give their infants a pacifier, but for me (and Emrys) it was a gift from Heaven.
- He needs to burp. He wants to keep eating, but he’s too uncomfortable.
Products I Love
- Nursing Pads: I’ve tried disposables (Johnson & Johnson, and Lansinoh), as well as cloth ones. J&J had the best shape, with cloth ones coming in a close second (and cloth ones are best at keeping their shape throughout the day). Of the disposables, Lansinoh has better adhesives. All three are very absorbent. I don’t think you can go wrong with whatever you choose. You’ll want to change your pads at least once a day, or more often depending on how much you leak. If you don’t change your nursing pads every time they get wet, you are at risk for mastitis (not fun!). Try to make sure you keep some of these in the diaper bag as well. Plan on using these regularly for the first 1-2 months, sometimes longer. During the first couple days/weeks when you are leaking like CRAZY, you may like to try a cloth pad in front of a disposable. That way, you have tons of absorbency available, and the plastic of the disposable really keeps it from leaking onto your shirt/bra.
- Nipple cream: Nursing can be really hard on your nipples, so keep them moisturized so they are elastic. Plan on using nipple cream for the first couple of weeks. You will probably NOT need it for a long time, nor very much of it, so do NOT buy a huge tube of it before your baby is born. Wait and see how much you need it. Ask for a sample at the hospital–my sample was just the amount I needed. I used it for several days, and then didn’t need it anymore. When I had my second baby, I didn’t use any at all.
- Nursing bras: For the first days and weeks following delivery, your cup size will be all over the place. Mostly, your breasts will be enormous in the morning, then vary in size throughout the day. During that time, I’ve found that the bras that are best are ones with no “cup” (i.e. no padding) in them at all. They are stretchy, and can fit you when your breasts are huge and engorged with milk, and also when they are not. Don’t worry about your nipples showing through because you’ll probably be wearing nursing pads anyway. If you have the money, this one is well-loved by nursing mothers everywhere, especially moms who need a lot of support for their big, dangling orbs: the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Bra. I like mine, but it does get a bit hot, so I prefer another bra I have that doesn’t have so much fabric up tight against my skin. You can also look for nursing bras that are designed to be used while you sleep–they are super comfy and I wear my “sleeping” bras all the time, day or night.
- Nursing covers: If you choose to cover up, you’ll probably be carrying blankets with you wherever you go, so some people find it’s more convenient to cover up with a blanket. For me, blankets get stifling hot and I prefer covers with plastic or boning in the top that allow me to see inside and make sure my baby is getting a good latch. I love my Udder Cover. You can almost always find a coupon code online to score a free one; all you pay is shipping & handling.
- Nursing garments: Before you do any shopping, find out what nursing method you prefer–do you like to pull up your shirt from the bottom? Or do you, like me, prefer to nurse by pulling the top of your shirt down so there is no clothing between you and baby’s face? I like doing it this way because I can see and make sure my baby is getting a good latch. For my method, I don’t need any special nursing under-garments. But if you like to pull your shirt up from the bottom, you might prefer nursing under-garments.
- Breast pumps: I’ve tried two kinds: the Playtex Embrace double electric pump, and the Lansinoh Affinity double electric pump. The Lansinoh one is a lot less expensive, but it is super loud, not as comfortable, and not nearly as effective. My Playtex one pumps faster and more efficiently.