When I found out I am pregnant, I rushed out to buy my own copy of “What to expect when you are expecting?” After reading the entire book I was still left with many questions & doubts regarding pregnancy, labor and motherhood. The only topic I took for granted was breastfeeding.
“Isn’t breastfeeding natural, why should I worry about it?” I thought my body would just figure it out. It is quite common for pregnant women to take breastfeeding lightly. We assume it is what all women do without any trouble. This is because we as women don’t talk about breastfeeding with other new moms. We push this very important topic to the side and let shopping for baby and building a nursery, preparations for labor etc. take precedence in our conversations with new mothers.
I started out with a goal to breastfeed my baby for 6 months, but here I am at 14 months and still going strong. A lot has changed since day 1 of Little A’s life, there is a lot I wish I knew when I started my breastfeeding journey. But that is the intention of this blog post. As new moms, we all want to know what exactly we can do to have that successful breastfeeding journey. And hopefully my top tips will help on your breastfeeding journey with your baby.
Build your success team
You need your husband, mother, and mother-in-law whoever is in it with you in terms of the baby care to be on board the breastfeeding train. Breast milk takes time to establish so keep feeding the baby as many times as he/she demands. Then there are growth spurts too with dips in milk supply. During these crucial times you want your support system to be on board and not pressure you to give in and give the formula bottle. Sit everyone down and make your breastfeeding goals clear. Ask them to help out with home chores, baby care and cooking so that you can focus on feeding baby with no other stressors.
Make sure to have a proper latch established. If it hurt’s every time you feed most probably the latch isn’t correct. Most hospitals have a nurse come in and help latch the baby on the first time. My hospital also sent in a lactation consultant and she guided me through different positions, how a good latch looks etc.
A good latch is when you start with baby’s nose to your nipple so that they can open their mouth wide and your nipple can touch the roof of the baby’s mouth. The lower part of breast and areola should be covered by baby’s mouth this ensures proper sucking action. I have linked below a series of videos that cover the topic of proper latch and positions for breastfeeding. These are great resources for new moms like you.
As I mentioned in the point above if there are any nagging doubts in your mind or pain during feeds or just to ensure you are doing it all correctly, get in touch with a Lactation Consultant. Not only will they guide you on getting the latch right but also demonstrate different positions to hold the baby in while feeding, how to burp the baby etc. I found my session with the LC in the hospital very informative and comforting that I am on the right track.
Another way to learn all about breastfeeding is through an online self-paced breastfeeding class. Sometimes we have limited time with our LC’s or find that breastfeeding brings with it unannounced challenges at odd hours of the day. Investing in an online lactation class helps you with all the correct information you need at your fingertips.
Rest and relax [create a nursing corner]
The initial weeks go by in such a daze. You are still exhausted from the labor and now you are feeding your baby round the clock every 2-3 hours. Just use these initial weeks to relax and bond with your baby. Don’t stress too much about cleaning up the house, or baby care. Buy all baby items before the delivery or if you are still lacking key essentials get your husband to run errands.
Create a small Nursing Corner next to your bed or baby’s crib where you can sit comfortably, add a lot of pillows, a water bottle, nipple cream, snacks (e.g. dry fruits and dates), a table clock and a notebook (or app) to track the feed duration and time, a good book to read. I started enjoying my nursing sessions once this little area was created for me. I didn’t have to worry about anything as everything was already by my side.
Breastmilk is more than 80% water and nursing frequently makes one thirsty. Drink lots of water. Incorporate soups, smoothies, juices in your diet, the more nutrient packed the better. These are a great addition to a nursing mother’s diet.
Eat nourishing foods
Eating nourishing and healthy foods helps you recuperate faster and build your depleted resources once again. Have your mom, family and friends send you fresh home cooked meals those initial weeks. In time when you gain your strength back, invest a few hours on weekends and make weekly preparations or batch cook meals for your family. Look for one pot meal ideas. Learn to snack healthy. There are many healthy snack ideas you can choose from.
Also, I know a lot of us slack on taking our vitamins but as long as you are nursing take all your supplements daily. Focus on your health and body as you need to not only nourish your body but your baby too.
In case you develop cracked nipples, it is best to apply natural nipple butter between feeds and wipe with a warm washcloth before feeding. I would highly recommend Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter or Motherlove Nipple Cream.
The first problem I encountered as a new nursing mom was exhaustion and arm pain with all the nursing round the clock. Then on a friend’s recommendation, my husband went to a local store and bought me a nursing pillow. I was skeptical at first and thought “How can this help me, I am doing the same thing here with regular pillows”. But it did! My breastfeeding pillow was my best friend for the first three months of baby’s life. I used it at every feed. It gave good arm and back support. It is so much more comfortable to feed using the breastfeeding pillow. I would highly recommend getting a nursing pillow or boppy pillow, whichever you like. You need it, trust me if you want to breastfeed comfortably get one.
Don’t start pumping immediately
I avoided pumping until 6 weeks because I didn’t want Little A to have nipple confusion. Also in the initial days milk comes in mere drops, which could end up scaring you about quantity. Remember infants have tiny stomachs and as long as your baby is sleeping well after feeds and producing at least 6 wet diapers a day along with steady weight gain, don’t stress about quantity of milk. It’s best you first establish your breastfeeding relationship with your baby and get comfortable with breastfeeding before introducing the pump. That said once you have an established milk supply it’s a wonderful break for tired moms to keep some milk aside for baby and let another family member feed the baby.
It gets better
No matter what difficulty you are going through right now with breastfeeding it will get better. Keep persisting. You will develop your own relationship with your child and soon both will be pro’s at it. Even if you manage to breastfeed your infant for just one day and for whatever reason you were not successful still pat yourself on the back. There is no need for guilt.
Further reading: Breastfeeding Essentials For New Moms
Great videos that helped me:
You can also find support online on Facebook through a group called “Breastfeeding Support For Indian Mothers”.
“Mothers and babies form an inseparable biological and social unit; the health and nutrition of one group cannot be divorced from the health and nutrition of the other.” – World Health Organization
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