I have been meaning to write for quite a while now, but time has gotten away from me. I also started a blog about breastfeeding a while ago and somehow lost it, so alas, I must start a new one :).
First, a quick update on life as a mommy! Mommyhood is going well — I am definitely tired, but what mom isn’t?!?!?! Our little guy is a very good baby — he doesn’t cry too much (except when he gets over tired), sleeps pretty well, and is super cute. We are learning his cues, how to distinguish between his cries, and adapting to parenthood. Baby W loves being held and sung to, and is a BIG fan of eating. He doesn’t like the car (yet) and doesn’t like sleeping in his bassinet, but we’re working on it!
Now, onto breastfeeding. I am writing this to share my breastfeeding experiences — both the good and bad. Luckily, 5 weeks later, we are still going strong, but it hasn’t been easy!
While I was pregnant, one of my biggest fears was that my milk wouldn’t come in and I would be a failure at breastfeeding. Because of this fear, I signed us up for breastfeeding class, read a couple of books about the topics, and asked our doula for advice and additional instruction about what to expect when Baby W arrived. I know that breastfeeding is “natural,” but that doesn’t mean it comes easy to everyone. In fact, many of my mommy friends have told me how hard it is, and more than half have stopped breastfeeding because it was just too much. I now understand why…
Right after Baby W was born, the doctor put him on my chest and he immediately found my left breast and started to eat. He latched on perfectly and was a pro-eater. After 30-35 minutes, he switched to the right side and ate for another 30-35 minutes. The doctor, nurse, and our doula were quite impressed with his breastfeeding expertise. I was thrilled that he knew what to do, and that we had gotten off to such a strong start. Over the next two days, Baby W ate every 1-2 hours and continued to impress the nurses and lactation consultants with his ability to latch and suck. Everything checked out, and we were discharged to go home a mere 2 days after our little guy arrived in the world.
Life at home was actually really nice – no annoying nurse check-ins at 4am right after you got the baby to sleep. Plus, my hubby was the best — he literally made every meal, changed every diaper, and did anything else I needed so I could sleep whenever Baby W wasn’t eating. Since he ate so often, I was pretty exhausted, and since my milk wasn’t fully in, Baby W was a little fussy because he was very hungry. He was also losing a good amount of weight. Weight loss in newborns is perfectly normal — up to 10% of their birthweight — but our little guy had dropped to 8lbs at his first pediatrician appointment 4 days after his birth. Our pediatrician was concerned about his weight loss, and asked us to supplement his feedings with 1 ounce of formula. I was, of course, very upset about this request. I was worried that supplementing with formula would hurt my milk supply and might lead us down a slippery slope of switching to 100% formula. I was also worried about nipple confusion, so refused to use a bottle to give him the formula, but instead opted to use a syringe to feed him. To increase my supply, I also started pumping a few times a day — I didn’t get much milk, but I am convinced it helped my milk come in more quickly.
Thankfully, everything we did worked, and at the next appointment 3 days later, Baby W had gained 6.5 ounces. Our pediatrician was thrilled with his progress, and said we could reduce the supplemental feedings to 2-3 per day. We listened to the doctor and I continued feeding him on demand and we supplemented a few of his feedings. One week later, we went back to the doctor, and he had gained another 12 ounces — he was averaging almost 2 ounces a day! I was beyond happy — we could stop supplementing and continue with our regular feedings! YAY 🙂
We definitely got lucky with everything, but I also think knowing what to expect and being prepared helped us get through the rough spots. Based on our experience, here are a few ti[s — feel free to take them or leave them 🙂
1. Breastfeeding is hard!
It’s hard both emotionally and physically. Your nipples are going to hurt and you aren’t going to get much sleep. It will take a lot of willpower to get through the feedings in the middle of the night, but you can do it! Know that every woman who has stuck with breastfeeding has gone through this struggle, and if we can do it, so can you!
2. It’s gonna hurt, so be prepared.
It takes a little while to toughen up your nipples for regular feedings. It will be even harder if your little one has trouble latching on. So, make sure you are prepared with ways to reduce the pain. I strongly suggest lanolin cream — bring it with you to the hospital and start using it immediately. It will help to heal your nipples and is perfectly safe for you baby to ingest. I also suggest gel pads (my hospital gave me some to take home, but you can also find them at baby stores). Store the pads in the fridge, and after feedings put them directly on your nipples. They help to heal your skin and the cold feels great! Plus, the gel pads are reusable, so you only need a few.
3. Ask for help immediately.
When you’re in the hospital, ask to talk to a lactation consultant, and work with her to position your baby and get the correct latch. If you don’t deliver at a hospital, work with your midwife. If you start having trouble when you’re home, call a lactation consultant right away. The earlier you get help, the more likely you are to solve the problem and correct it. When we got home from our first trip to the pediatrician, my first call was to a lactation consultant to get her advice. It was great to have the support and to know that we were doing the right things for our baby.
4. Spend as much time skin-to-skin
Early on, spend as much time as you can skin-to-skin with your baby. The contact will actually increase your milk-making hormones and help your milk to come in. It also helps your baby to feel safe, improves his body temperature, and helps regulate his blood sugar.
5. If you’re in a hospital, room in with your baby
I know this sounds crazy. You are going to be tired from labor and delivery, but it’s important to learn your baby’s feeding cues. The more time you spend with her, the better you’ll become at recognizing them and at knowing when to feed her. It’s also important to feed her often — the more time she spends feeding, the more quickly your milk will come in, which will make your breastfeeding relationship better.
6. Tell the nurses at the hospital that you are breastfeeding
Make sure the nurses know that you are breastfeeding your baby, and that you don’t want any supplementation with formula. Nurses mean well, but if they begin to supplement your baby, then it can be very detrimental to your milk supply and your milk coming in. Your milk supply is all about supply and demand — the more time your baby spends with you at your breast, the more milk you will produce.
7. Ask for help
You will not be able to do everything when you get home. You are going to be exhausted and you need to focus on feeding your baby. In our breastfeeding class, the instructor told the class, that your only job as a mom was to feed your baby whenever she was hungry, and leave the rest to your partner, family, and friends. This was hard for me — I hate not getting things done, but it’s so important. You need to rest and spend as much time with your baby as possible. You are also healing from labor and delivery, so you need to get a much rest as possible.
8. Sleep when your baby sleeps
I received this advice from a million people, and you know what, it’s the best advice! You need your rest, everything else can wait. Ask your partner, friends, or family to clean and/or cook; order food; and, if you can afford it, hire someone to clean. You will be a better mom, and will stay more emotionally stable if you get sleep, so do everything you can to rest. In the beginning, I stayed in my room with Baby W and whenever he dozed off, I did the same. I felt a little guilty, but I also wanted to be the best possible mom I could be, and knew that sleep was an integral part of that.
I hope these tips help! All my best to you and your growing family 🙂