Monday, June 23, 2014

Breastfeeding Tips for the New or Expectant Mom

Long before I ever got pregnant I knew that I would choose to breastfeed my baby. Like a lot of women, my journey at the beginning of motherhood was rough. Nursing my baby was rough. I came so very very close to throwing in the towel--we made it now and are on the other side. We've achieved a nursing nirvana so to speak. I love it! It's one of my favorite ways to spend time with my daughter.

Today I would like to give some advice to any new moms or expectant moms who want and plan to nurse:



Make a Commitment

I had done a lot of reading during my pregnancy and for me it seemed like six weeks was some kind of "magic number." However, any friend I spoke to who had given up on nursing because she didn't make enough milk, it wasn't working, she was unable to, etc...usually stopped before six weeks. When I was only 8 weeks pregnant I said to Zach, "Don't let me stop before six weeks. I have to at least keep going for six weeks no matter how hard it is."
Trust me, if you end up having a difficult time, it will be so tempting to throw in the towel. Like so many things in life, deciding beforehand will really help you. If after the time you've promised yourself, you decide it's not working for you and your family, that's fine, but I really advise setting a goal for a time you plan to commit. 

  Get Yourself a Supportive Team

Like I said, I asked my husband to not let me quit until six weeks. He promised and he sure held good on that promise. I would not have made it through those first few weeks without him. JaiseAnn wasn't gaining enough weight and we had to supplement using an SNS feeder. Zach had to get up with me for every feeding and fill a syringe with warmed, donated breast milk/formula and hold it in JaiseAnn's mouth as I attempted to latch her on (not easy) and sit there with me while she ate. We had a lot of hiccups. The tube wasn't in far enough, it was too far, she'd fall asleep, etc. I cried a lot during this time. I needed my husband and was so grateful for his support. 

In addition, I told my best friend that I'd probably be texting a lot with nursing questions and asking for encouragement. I am so glad that I told her ahead of time and knew that she was on board. She sent me an encouraging text during those first two weeks that lifted a major weight from my shoulders and gave me hope. She also was there to answer my questions about engorgement (I had none) and thrush. I highly encourage finding someone that you know you can ask for help/encouragement/etc...and use them! If that person needs to be me, I am totally willing. My email address is mynewlinesblog {at} gmail {dot} com.

I also highly recommend taking advantage of the lactation consultant associated with the hospital or birthing center you use, or seeking out a lactation consultant. The La Leche League is also a great resource. There's something in sitting and nursing around other women that helps you to get a feel for the whole nursing thing--plus it's a great place to educate yourself and ask real moms questions. 

Make it Your Primary Focus

You've probably heard it a million times, but I'm going to echo it...Let the house go. Let things go. If people come by to visit, allow them to help out around the house or bring a meal. Live on cereal and take out if you have to. Nursing is going to take up a lot of time at the beginning. The upside is, you will make special memories during that time. Snuggle your baby! 

I had a friend at work that said, "Someone once told me, the dishes will be there tomorrow. Spend as much time as you can holding/cuddling/rocking/etc.. your baby. I wish I had listened." As she said those words, tears came out of her eyes. Even though I'd heard it before, somehow coming from her, it impacted me. I spent my days as a a new mom napping with JaiseAnn, cuddling her, and feeding her. I didn't do much else. Some days felt like I never left the couch, but I am grateful for those moments.

Not only is it impossible to do it all,it's unwise. If you are choosing to breastfeed, it will be high priority at first. Focus on that. You may have to focus on it for a while and leave other things behind. For example, even though our nursing sessions are much faster these days and I'm able to keep up a little with the housework, I'm not losing weight. I exercise and try to eat a balanced diet most days, but the weight is not coming off. If I overwork myself, my milk supply will be affected and that's just not worth it to me. Even though my baby is six months old, I still have to make nursing my primary focus in other ways. 

 Weight Gain is the Only Indicator of Success

 I know it might seem silly, but I'm still a little angry about the what I was told by a number of people regarding this area. 

I was told that due to insufficient glandular tissue--I would never fully be able to sustain and feed my daughter on my own. Being only one week postpartum, this news devastated me. I spilled a lot of tears. Yet something in the back of my mind kept telling me that it wasn't true. So I kept on feeding and supplementing and hoping. 

It turns out, my intuition was right on. Weight gain is the only indicator of sufficient milk supply. The only indicator. It doesn't matter how much or how little your breasts change. It doesn't matter whether or not you experience engorgement when your milk comes in. It doesn't matter if you leak a lot or not at all. It doesn't matter if you "feel" let down. It doesn't matter if you pump less than the baby needs to eat. None of that indicates how much you are actually producing and baby is getting. 

JaiseAnn was slow to gain weight at first, but she's picked up and I'm feeding her solely on my own. Which is something that I had not only been told I couldn't do, but felt I had all the cards stacked against me (no let down sensation, no major changes in size, small pumping results, no leaking, and no engorgement) I thought I was the poster child for an inability to nurse.  If we're still going strong, it's very (very) likely you can, too.

There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

While those newly nursing days are sweet and full of cuddles, they aren't always easy. Things hurt, and latching might be hard, and your baby might be a sleepy eater, and you might find yourself feeling unproductive. You might be in pain and you might be struggling with getting your baby to gain weight. 

I was so glad I gave myself those six weeks to try it out, because by then, I was a little more settled. The pain didn't automatically diminish at six weeks. We didn't automatically have it figured out by six weeks. But we sure had come a long way by then. I wasn't about to throw in the towel after that. 

I promise you it gets better. It stops hurting. It goes faster. And you can nurse standing up in the middle of Target if you have to (true story). You'll get there! Just know that. 

If you have any tips/suggestions/advice to share, I'd love to have you share in the comments section! 

6 comments:

  1. I love this because I have read a lot on nursing but had doubts I could do it. My family history is full of women who just can't freaking nurse for the life of them but I'd never heard of the six week rule. I'll stick it out and try it . . . hopefully with success because it's what I'd like to be able to do!

    What cream did you use? Lanolin? or something else to help with the pain?

    You'll be on the receiving end of a lot of texts those first few weeks, trust me :)

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    1. I went into it thinking that I would be one of the women that would have a great experience with nursing as I had done so much reading and thought I did things that stacked the cards in my favor (Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, stocked up on Mother's Milk Tea and ingredients for lactation cookies (which are so yum!), and even encapsulated my placenta. Still, I had a rough start. So at least you're going in prepared for the worst...which I was not.

      I used the Lanisoh brand lanolin a bit, but honestly I really didn't find that it helped much...I heard all of these great things about it, but it just really didn't do a whole lot for me. At the end, I honestly started just using coconut oil.

      And I am HAPPY to be on the receiving ends of those texts, phone calls, etc...:)

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  2. Good info!! I'll have to remember that for the future :)

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  3. Thanks. The information about weight gain being the only factor is honestly something I wish I had known, it MIGHT have saved me a lot of unnecessary worry. I never stumbled across that information online in all of my research.

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  4. Ok Love this post too because I love nursing and I want to be able to help others with their nursing struggles/journey as well. I never want to seem like I'm pushing it on to others, but I just can't understand why someone wouldn't at least try it from the start! I'm so impressed with everything you had to do to lead to a successful breastfeeding journey and I wish more people were like you! I had a little trouble in the beginning with Natalie not latching onto my left side, but after some tears, phone calls to la Leche League, and perseverance, we got over it and now nursing is seriously a breeze! 6-10 minutes, she's done - can nurse almost anywhere - now my little mover just won't stop moving and shaking while nursing which can make for some pretty funny acrobatics at times! Superb post!! I will be sending friends here to read this! Also: agreed about the not losing weight thing. My doctor told me this week that it's actually harder for breastfeeding women to lose weight, but assured me that once I stopped, it would be very easy to lose it the . It made me feel a little bit better...

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  5. I have so many things to say in response to this:) :
    1. When we first started out things were so bad and I was so emotional about everything that I developed a real compassion for people who chose to formula feed and are given a hard time about it. Now that we're at the place we are, though, I really have such a respect for nursing and all that it offers baby/mom and the relationship that I, too, want to encourage it without seeming too pushy.
    2. Thanks for sending others this way, I appreciate it! :)
    3. Your doctor said that?! That's actually a relief to hear. I'm having a SUPER hard time. I even brought up the weight loss troubles at the last La Leche League meeting I was at, but I didn't really get any definitive answers. When I have my next doctor's appointment, I will definitely be discussing this. I'm struggling with weight loss and it's making it really hard for me to even feel like myself. None of my clothes fit and I just MISS feeling good in a pair of jeans.

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