When it comes to breastfeeding a newborn, it's hard. Like chemistry and calculus combined with running a mile in 90 degree heat, kinda hard. And just because it's your second or third go around, doesn't mean it isn't just as hard as before. The only good news about not being a rookie when it comes to breastfeeding is that you're not as scared and you're a little more experienced. However breastfeeding each different child can truly be different for so many.
When it comes to breastfeeding your little one, there are a few great tips that can help you manage through those first few weeks. Nothing can totally prepare you, but search around on this blog and you should find some great resources!
- Feed on demand. As great as schedules are, you can't really think about that and you shouldn't because trying to schedule feeds too soon can result in decreased supply. Feed every 2-3 hours or when baby is fussy or appears hungry. In my home, a fussy newborn gets a boob.
- Feeding to sleep isn't a bad thing. Some books and people will preach that you shouldn't nurse a baby to sleep because then they will never learn to fall asleep on their own. But when you're tired and exhausting because, um newborn, sitting there rocking or trying to pat a baby to sleep is ridiculous. Nurse that baby to sleep and worry about the rest later.
- Hold off on the bottle and pacifier. I know those pacis are cute and all, but try to hold off about a week on those and about a month on a bottle. Sometimes babies become nipple confused and may prefer artificial nipples over natural ones.
- Eat, mama. Eat and drink up! I know (believe me I personally know) that when you have a baby you go through the stages of "give me all the food" and then you come home to weigh yourself and realize you lost like a pound during birth (WTH only a pound!!) so then you start planning all of the diets and you're more like, "hide all the food". Your body and your baby need for you to eat and drink. Sure you can make healthier choices, but don't skip meals. Poor nutrition leads to a poor milk supply and a grumpy mama!
- There's always milk. Don't freak out just because your baby is choosing to eat a lot or because your breasts suddenly feel like deflated balloons. There's milk in there! Babies cluster feed and hit growth spurts that rely on lots of extra nursing. Deflated boobs are a sign that your milk supply has regulated and is making just what your baby needs. While there are unfortunate cases of mothers who truly don't make enough or much milk, it is more rare to not make any milk; and low supply can often times see an increase with natural supplements and dietary changes.
- A pump isn't a great measure of what you make. Often times mamas will pumps gallons of milk in the beginning, even while nursing their baby throughout the day/night. Give it a few weeks and you're suddenly nursing all day and seeing much less during your pump sessions. This is okay because your body is likely just making what it needs to, rather than making excess milk. A pump is never a good measure of milk supply because a baby withdraws more milk in a feeding than a pump can in one session. And the science is weird, but the more your nurse during the day/night, the less you'll pump when you choose to.
- Take advice and don't take advice. There's SO much advice out there (like um eh, this blog post) and sometimes you don't know which way to go. The best thing you can ever do is listen to your instinct! I have also learned that people who didn't really nurse their babies at all or for a long period, don't often have the best advice. Grandmothers and older aunts sometimes have advice that now contradicts research. Just follow your instinct and turn to support groups on the internet, someone you know who successfully breastfed or your lactation consultants at the hospital or locally in your community. There's ALWAYS someone and there's almost always a solution!
- Remember that it does get better. For probably 90% of mamas who stick it out past those first six weeks, it does get better. It gets easier, it gets less painful and it all becomes worth it. Sometimes in the beginning when your boobs are hard as rocks and when your nipples are bloody and cracked, you begin to doubt that it is all worth it. But it is. It truly, truly is. The pain will go away, the random leaks should stop and your baby won't nurse all day long. It will become like second nature and you'll miss it the day it's gone (well maybe).
Mamas, nursing a newborn isn't easy. It's sometimes the equivalent of what you can only imagine it would feel like to hook up jumper cables to your breasts. But it's also the equivalent of every joyful, loving and happy feeling you can imagine. If it isn't for you or if it doesn't work out, then be proud of what you did accomplish and know that it may (and should) be easier next time should you wish to try again.
Nursing a newborn is a beautiful, wonderful and exhausting journey. But then again, that's really just motherhood summed up too.
Thanks for reading and sharing,