Breastfeeding can turn out to be the most wonderful experience for both mother and baby.
However, those that have gone through the first time know well that in the beginning it can be a bit…tricky and awkward.
Between the lack of sleep, the enormous recovery that your body os doing after birth AND trying to figure out the cues and timing of a newborn creature attached to you at every hour of the day, it’s really no wonder new mothers need a little help and guidance.
It’s important to remember that even though right now your universe is eat-sleep-poop-repeat, you WILL get through this.
You just did an awesome job birthing your baby – however you did it – and you deserve some love and comfort right now.
Okay, I’ll WIP the year in my eye and move on to some coping mechanisms that can help you during this testing time.
1. HAVE/CREATE A SUPPORT CIRCLE
I’m putting this as number one on the list as to me it is the basic foundation of a breastfeeding relationship that starts off well.
Those first few days and weeks can seem like a lifetime, but with the right support you will be able to remember that period of your life with a fond, tired, smile.
Breastfeeding, if you don’t already know, takes up a lot of energy (500 calories a day, forget weight watchers!) so you need to make sure you’re eating a lot to recuperate – and of the right foods.
We’ll dive into the ins and outs of a balanced breastfeeding diet here.
If you’re lucky to have family nearby – now’s the time to call on them to bring frozen lasagnes and quiches round to stock up your freezer with.
You may want to consider doing this before giving birth if possible, as some women prefer to spend those first few days nesting, also important for a great head start in breastfeeding.
If you don’t have family, call on any friends to come round and visit with a basket of your favourite goodies or things you might need from the supermarket – don’t feel selfish about asking for help, you need your strength for your newborn wiggly worm!
Maybe you might just ask for someone to take the baby quarter of an hour while you have a shower in peace – it’s also important to revitalise and refresh.
One thing that really helped me was to join a breastfeeding group near me where there’s a meeting once a month.
There I met up with other mums, we talked about any issues we were having, gave advice and shares funny relatable stories we’ve encountered along our nursing journeys.
You should out the number of a lactation consultant in your phone book too – you never know when you’re going to need it.
Sometimes things are going honky dory until you’re met face to face with something you’ve never heard of before and you don’t know how to deal with it.
2. CREATE YOUR BREASTFEEDING STATION
Ok – here’s the big secret:
For breastfeeding to start well, you gotta be comfortable mummy!
Read that again.
In the beginning, you’re given this little creature that is too small to find a decent position in your arms. You can try, but if you want to avoid various trips to the osteopath in the long term – buy yourself a breastfeeding cushion. You deserve it.
The great thing about some of the choices out there is that they double up as a normal cushion you can put baby down in when you need to give your arms a rest, or prop her up to help with tummy time.
Next, choose the place in the house where you’re most likely to breastfeed the most – on the sofa, in bed, in a recliner and set up a basket of snacks and water next to this place. You’ll thank me when you don’t have to get up for the millionth time you’ve forgotten something before sitting down.
Some items in the basket that you might want to include could be: crackers, apples, chocolate, water bottle…
You might also find it handy to have some nappies and a portable changing mat to hand cause what goes in must come out!
Remember it will probably take a few tries until you find the right cushion, right position and right comfort that works for you but it’s definetly worth taking the time to do because when you need to relax the most and produce the right hormones, you don’t have a nagging tense shoulder.
3. ENSURE GOOD LATCH-ON
After reading countless stories of mothers giving up on breastfeeding, it occurred to me that maybe a lot of women are experiencing the same problems for one reason:
What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re not familiar with the word, latch on just means baby taking the breast into his mouth and sucking without letting go.
As you can see from the photo, when this is done well, baby will take the whole nipple in it’s mouth as well as a chunk of breast with it – providing you have relatively average size nipples.
How can I get baby to latch on well?
There are several ways to see if baby is feeding well, here are a few suggestions:
- Make sure you and baby are comfortable. This means you having your back supported and baby’s tummy against yours
- Make sure baby is calm before trying to feed – too much excitement/noise/movement can distract baby when she’s getting used to you
- Feed baby upon first signs of hunger when possible and not when she’s already run out of her patience – this will make it easier for him/her to concentrate
- Try skin to skin contact at first as this will encourage baby’s want to feed and mummy’s milk-producing hormones
- Give baby your nipple to smell and then lower it to his mouth – this will make baby open his mouth fully so your nipple goes right to the back
Once you’ve tried these, learn to observe if baby is responding well to feeding – if your nipples aren’t sore and she’s putting on weight, you’re going the right way.
Some questions you can ask yourself if you’re not sure could include:
- Is baby’s chin the first to touch the breast?
- Do baby’s cheeks look full of breast like a lil’ hamster?!
- Is baby swallowing well? (You should see the ears move and heard the sound)
- Do my breasts feel empty after a feeding?
Any other questions you might have, or if you need extra help with something specific I recommend LLL’s site (La Leche League International Breastfeeding support)
Look in your area if there are any breastfeeding support groups – sometimes it’s easier to locate any arising problems having someone else watching and guiding us.
4. LIMIT VISITORS/VISITING TIMES
Sometimes we feel rude saying no to friends wanting to drop in. The first few feeds of your baby may be daunting and difficult – my baby for example didn’t fully have the knack of the ‘latch-on’ technique until she was about a month old.
She could do it, as long as we were in a peaceful place together. I was nervous, like most mums, to breastfeed in front of people – even if they were good friends.
Get used to each other
Suddenly it felt like I was sticking a pin in our precious, private bubble I had created. Breastfeeding was a time for us, I had to get used to sharing this experience with others.
So don’t rush it! Don’t be afraid to say it’s not the right moment or if they do pop over, tell them baby is feeding and you need quiet, soft voices.
Once baby has got the hang of things, he will be able to feed just about anywhere (except when tired and cranky) so don’t sweat it and remember to get your rest mummy!
Just as when giving birth, the more relaxed and at ease is mum, the more likely the body is to produce the milk-producing hormone prolactin and thus the milk to flow.
In other words: Feet up!