Hello Happy Readers! For part three of my Newborn Survival Series I want to share some advice about breastfeeding. Now, I know that “to breastfeed or not to breastfeed” has become some big thing. I’m not here to add to that debate. For me the most important thing is to feed your baby, full stop. Not how you feed them, or what you feed them (I don’t suggest chili), but the simple act of cuddling up with your amazing, tiny new person and providing nourishment, love, and warmth.
So with the assumption that if you are still reading this it is because you want or need information on breastfeeding I will start with a truth – breastfeeding is hard. There are a lot of really good reasons to do it, many more true for some than others. But it’s still hard. I’m hoping some of these tips might help make it a little less hard. Let’s start with some “must have” essentials:
- Lanolin – If your nipples are not used to heavy-duty, around the clock use, don’t worry, they soon will be! To bridge that gap though, you’ll need this little miracle substance. Think of it as chap stick (the nice soothing kind, not the painful toe curling kind) for your nipples. Apply after feeds, and before those elusive showers to help the skin heal up. This time around I was able to try a couple different kinds, and the Medela brand was my favorite texture, but the Lansinoh worked well too.
- Nursing bras – absolutely crucial for being able to nurse on the go. Ignore the “buy one cup size bigger” advice that you’ll get when you’re pregnant. I went up at least 2 sizes with Geekling. Buy a couple stretchy sleep or sports bras when you’re pregnant, and then at 7-10 days when your milk supply is established get thee to a maternity store for a fitting. Try on several types, and make sure you check the fit with the cup flap down too! All breasts are shaped differently, and there is no one bra to rule them all here. I’ve tried on bras where my nipple was completely covered even with the cup folded all the way down. That’s not going to be much help.
- Nursing cover – ok, I get that this one is controversial, and I don’t think anyone should be forced to cover up while nursing. However, brand new babies are about as good at nursing as brand new moms are at feeding them, which is to say not at all. Even as an experienced nurser it took about four weeks until I could get Happy Baby latched and settled without feeling like I was putting on a floor show. We rarely use a cover now, but I find it gives a little extra confidence those first weeks, and confidence is a great indicator in long-term breastfeeding success. Covers can also help when you have a baby that’s too nosy to eat if there are things to be looked at.
Bonus Tip – Need some cover, but forgot yours? Tuck the corner of a receiving blanket, beach towel, or fancy pants cloth napkin in your bra strap.
- A large water bottle or jug. Staying hydrated is a must! You can’t make liquid without using liquid, so drink up mama! Get something fun and spill proof (trust me about the spill proof) and make it your shiny new BFF.
- A breast pump. Your plan may be that a bottle will never touch your child’s lips, but plans can change unexpectedly. A hand pump will run you about $25-$30 and will work in a pinch. Find out if your insurance will cover the cost of a pump, although be prepared to request a prescription from your OBGYN. I fancy the Medela pumps myself. I used the hand pump with Geekling before returning to work, then we got a cheap double pump that didn’t work well for me at all (unfortunately I can’t remember the brand). This time around I’m using the Medela Pump in Style and the experience has been so much better.
- The Lactation Consultant’s phone number. Hopefully this angel of mercy will stop by your hospital room and introduce herself during those hazy first few days. If not, get in touch with your delivery hospital, local La Leche League, or pediatrician to get the number of someone. This is your go-to gal for all questions breast related, and she will be an amazing resource should you have any problems or questions.
So, just a few tips to help out:
- Experiment with different holds, but don’t get too caught up in names and technicalities. Find the positions that are comfy for you and your baby with your uniquely shaped bodies and preferences. I particularly like one I call the monkey hold (because it reminds me of the monkeys in National Geographic) where I sit pretzel legs, and the baby sits in my lap, leaning on my belly to nurse. We also use the side nursing position at bed time, and when the boys were tiny I used a modified version of the football hold.
- it is entirely possible (probable even) that your breast will be larger than your baby’s head. The baby will need your help staying positioned and keeping their nose clear for breathing. You can do this by using your other hand to gently press back the breast from baby’s nose, which will also lift the nipple slightly. If you need the breast supported from underneath, roll up a onesie or newborn size diaper and tuck it under the breast.
- At some point during your breastfeeding experience, you will become engorged, and the baby will have trouble latching on. You can help by hand expressing some milk, or placing warm wash cloths over your breasts and allowing them to drain slightly before attempting to latch the baby. This can also be done in the shower.
And some truth for the road:
Ok, so I know that breastfeeding is the highly idealized, epic of mother-ness. It’s beautiful, it’s nourishment at its purest, it’s the most natural/loving/healthy/empowering thing you can possibly do as a new mom. Except, when it’s not. And sometimes it’s just not. It’s hard. Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes it’s just not happening, no matter what you do or how badly you want it to. if that’s your situation, be ok with it. And don’t give anyone else permission to not be ok with it, because it’s your body, it’s your baby, and it’s your decision. Just feed the baby, love the baby, cuddle the baby, and be you, however those things happen.
I hope you found some of this information helpful on your journey, and I wish you every success as you travel this road with your little one!