Now let me start off with – this post is in no way a mom shaming post. If you had a baby and breastfeeding lasted one try, one week, one year or you had a wonderful steamy romance with your electric pump…breastfeeding is only one little thing that some moms do. I always say that if you tried (and only you know the answer to that) then you did it. YOU FREAKING DID IT. Even if nothing happened. Even if milk didn’t flow like honey…or…um…milk. You don’t have to skydive every three hours to say you did it. Your parachute doesn’t need to open to say that you jumped out of a plane. Same applies to nursing. Sometimes the ‘girls’ just don’t work, the milk is rejected or you choose a different path. The point is…I do hope that all mama’s out there try. I really do. Because breastfeeding does have benefits.
Here are some of those benefits as per the American Academy of Pediatrics…
- stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen
- children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren’t breastfed
- your breast milk is specifically tailored to your baby
- studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of developing certain childhood cancers
- breastfeeding may also help children avoid a host of diseases that strike later in life, such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease
- various researchers have found a connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development
- breastfeeding helps reduce your child’s risk of becoming overweight or obese
et cetera. et cetera. et cetera.
So all that info is well and good. But I am sure you didn’t come here to read all about that. Today I wanted to share my experience. I have nursed all three of my boys and here is what I have learned and hopefully it will help any new mommy’s out there that are planning on attempting to breastfeed their own little ones. That being said – if words like nipple, areola, clogged milk duct or the like freak you the heck out…you should have checked outta this post about fifteen seconds ago. Here’s your second warning. Time to go read Marthastewart.com.
First let’s talk the basics. First up….PAIN info….the first one hurts the most and the longest. Will nursed for a year and it hurt all the time. I blame his tongue. But with all my nursing girlfriends, that pain at the very beginning – the super sore nipples and that bloodcurdling pain when they latch – it will last about a month on average. The ‘transitional discomfort’ for the second one lasts half that. I still had soreness with Weston – even though his tongue was not tied. By the time I got over engorgement…it was another week till my girls weren’t barkin at me. With LJ, nothing. Engorgement happened and then nothing. No soreness. No desire to throw him through the window when he latched. It was pretty awesome.
When you are first learning, master one hold. When I was in the hospital, the lactation consultant and nurses constantly wanted me to try different holds. Cradle on this side. Now try football. Do it laying down. Hang upside down with your legs crossed. I say no. Find your most comfortable position…the one that you want to do in public and in private. The one that seems most applicable to your life. Now do that one…every.single.time. Get it down pat. Or up squeeze…whatever your position, do it till you nailed it. In another few weeks when that one is completely mastered…try another. Also…I gripped that head like it could fall off his body…not so hard that it would hurt him but firm enough that I had more control.
Roll one in. For me, I did the two hand hold with all my boys. One hand squeezing the boob and one behind the baby’s head…controlling it. I would hold the head in position and when he opened his mouth, I would drag the nip over the top lip and it would rest on the bottom gum forcing the jaw open. I was simultaneously moving my control hand to have the head in the right position…pulling his mouth as close to me as possible. I was using the weight of the breast to open the mouth a little more – this method allowed for the max amount of nipple to get in (more nipple = less pain). Remember to fix those lips if they aren’t flanged out…in other words, if the kid’s upper lip isn’t pushed up and the lower isn’t bent down, you might end up with soreness later.
Study up. After they latch, after the first sting of pain is a smidge less and it feels ok…look down and study where your hands are. Look how far the baby is latched on. Look at their lip position. Look at your posture. This method is great for people like me that are super analytical. I remember mentally marking on my boob exactly where my fingers should go so that next time, it would be easier. If you are comfortable…look at the angle of the head…look at the body…look at how supported you are….tweak little things ever so slightly till you are the most comfortable. Then take a mental note of that. This is now your new favorite position….try to achieve it a little faster next time. Eventually you will get there and there will be no pain (HOORAY!)
Use the force. Jedi mind tricks are your friend in this task. You are gonna be completely exhausted…breastfeeding seems like torture in the middle of the night…so trick yourself into doing it. Put your favorite treat out (I would have five skittles sitting out and every couple minutes…I got that treat. It would surprise you what a little taste of the rainbow will do for you). Tell yourself out loud that you are a super mom. Believe it. Stomp your foot three times. Bite on your burp cloth. Have a Vitamin Water out ready for you to rehydrate. Do little things to prepare yourself to get this wonderful job done.
Practice with the cover. Ok, I know that some folks out there are free spirits and just nurse openly in public with no cover. I was not ready for that with kid numero uno. I am not ashamed of my boobs or the fact that I am breastfeeding. But I also believe that there are some teenage boys, grown men and even some women that are just not comfortable seeing people nurse. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or end up exposed in the background of a selfie (a la Tori Spelling). So I cover up. You get to choose what is best for you…so if you are a let-it-all-hang-out or a nips-under-cover kinda girl, just remember to respect your fellow mamas. My best advice is if you choose to cover the udders, practice at home with your drape so that your baby doesn’t get distracted by it later or try to rip it off while in public.
Stop freaking out. That is a big one. I know girls that freak out over the littlest breastfeeding hiccups….literally and figuratively. If the baby doesn’t burp, burps too much, spits up, doesn’t spit up, cries when latching, doesn’t latch, seems fussy, etc. etc. etc., it doesn’t mean the breastfeeding world is collapsing around you. Whatever you do as a new mom….don’t freak out. Most (not all) things aren’t as vital as staying stress free when nursing. Stress can affect your supply. Stress can affect your let down. As a nursing mama, I had to realize that the best thing to do for Will was to relax my shoulders, relax my back, and focus on enjoying the moment…even through the pain. If I had an issue, I would write it down in a nursing journal…time, date and issue. Then I would see if over the course of several days, there was a pattern. If I needed to change something like diet or hold or whatever, I would change it. But once it went into the journal…it was a no-worry item. If I wanted to research it, it had to happen immediately after a nursing session so that I didn’t think about it during my baby-time.
Don’t be afraid to try nursing products. I know gals that used shields, gallons of Lanolin, pumps exclusively, special nursing pillows….the list goes on and on. These products were created by people because they worked for someone. That someone could be you too. In my situation, all I wanted was pain relief so I used Lanolin and Soothies. I would pop the Soothies in the fridge or freezer and they were great for my soreness in between feedings.
Speak up. Have a source of encouragement available to you. And tell them that you need them to build you up. As new mamas or new-again mamas, it is difficult to tell people what we need because sometimes we don’t know exactly what we need. But I do know one thing….we all need love. Tell your partner, your parents, your friends, your La Leche group, anybody that will listen, that you are breastfeeding and it is important to you. Tell them that you need to hear that you are doing a good job. that you are a good mom. that you are making good decisions. that you are making them proud. that you need a foot rub. Speaking up is hard for some people….but it can be the littlest thing that can make your day and propel you into longterm success (however you define that!).
Be a source yourself. I remember that running on a low tank is hard…but gratitude breeds gratitude. Even in pain, it is important to be thankful that you are getting the opportunity to try to nurse. Even in frustration, it is helpful to keep perspective of your gifts. The fact is…if you are holding a healthy baby…that is a freaking miracle. If you are getting to give that baby formula/breastmilk/comfort/healthcare….WHAT A BLESSING! Pour that into others. Infuse that perspective into the people around you….that you are thankful (whether you are nursing or pumping or formula-feeding) and that you are there for them! In fact, every three hours, you can sit down and talk to them….you’ll have a baby in your arms and it might be 3 am but you are available. Let that positive spirit flow like a leaky boob.
That’s what I got this AM. Good boob talk everyone. Now let me hear your best tips, stories, etc. And everyone….I’m pulling out my mom card here….everyone let’s be encouraging to others no matter their comment….our journeys are all different…arguing never changed anyone’s mind…like ever….so let’s be like a push up bra….build up!