If you’re like me, and you’ve chosen to breastfeed, you may not have realized what you have gotten yourself into. I assumed that breastfeeding would just come naturally… After all, God created women’s bodies to nourish their children.
I didn’t attend any classes before T was born, and I didn’t read any books. I assumed it would be easy. Apparently, I had NO CLUE! It’s a good thing I’m stubborn, otherwise I would probably be among the 75% of American women who intend to breastfeed but give up before the 3-month mark.
Thankfully, our hospital had excellent Lactation Consultants to help me out. My postpartum nurses were also extremely supportive of breastfeeding and offered plenty of assistance/opportunities to nurse during our hospital stay. T’s pediatrician is also VERY supportive of breastfeeding. When she gave us our new baby box, she took the formula out of it!
There are a whole host of “issues” that may come up when breastfeeding, but ultimately, what drives most women to give up early is the sheer exhaustion breastfeeding moms experience. There’s no way to prepare yourself for this, just know: the fist month is exhausting, but it DOES get easier!
These are some important things to know when you first start out… Things you probably learn in a breastfeeding class. But if you were a slacker like I was, then you won’t know them. I wish I would have known these things. Anyways… here’s the list:
1. Your milk takes a few days to come in! T was born on a Thursday morning, my milk came in Sunday evening. Your baby will NOT starve between birth & milk. Colostrum is ALL the nutrients your baby needs. If you want to successfully breastfeed, do not supplement during this time if at all possible. Nurse as much as you can, it will bring your milk in faster!
2. Lanolin is your friend! Nipple soreness is common the first few weeks, but you shouldn’t experience nipple PAIN when breastfeeding. If you do, go see a Lactation Consultant… It can be a sign of a bad latch. You’ll want to sort that out as quickly as possible so breastfeeding can be an enjoyable experience and not a painful one.
3. In the first few weeks postpartum, your uterus will contract every time you nurse your baby. I promise, this goes away. It was the most painful part of breastfeeding for me! Your OB or midwife will likely prescribe Anaprox for this pain. It will definitely help take the edge off.
4. Eat as much as you can, even if you aren’t hungry. Drink at least 10 glasses of water a day. Nursing moms need lots of calories. Your baby literally sucks all the calories out of you every 2 hours! I remember not feeling hungry those first two weeks. Thankfully, my husband, mom, and mother in law made sure I was eating plenty.
5. Sleep as much as you can. Seriously. Sleep as much a you can. Breastfeeding is exhausting because you can’t just hand your boobs over to someone else to take over at night. Sleep as much as you can.
6. Remember: supply and demand. This should be number one on my list, because it’s the cardinal rule of breastfeeding. 9 times out of 10, you will produce as much milk as your baby needs as long as you nurse EVERY time your baby is hungry. If you use formula or expressed breast milk in the first few weeks, you may risk jeopardizing our supply. Keep at it. It’s extremely hard work, especially at first, but most things that require hard work are well worth it for the rewards!
7. If you ever have breastfeeding questions, call a Lactation Consultant ASAP! Most hospitals have warm lines that new moms can call to speak to an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). It’s free to call & these ladies are usually extremely helpful and supportive! I probably called five or six times when T was brand new.