It wasn't until I was weeks away from delivering that I received a shock. Nursing, as it turns out, is NOT an easy thing to do. In fact, once I stumbled onto this tidbit, it became a train wreck topic (you know, can't look away...). First time moms were terrified, experienced ones assured us that it was hard, but it could be done. With lots of help. The La Leche League website became one of my most visited sites, until I finally added it to my bookmark bar.
There is a lot of information in this post, so bookmark and "read as you need" or take it in a few times so you are not overwhelmed.
1. The hospital where I delivered G made it a priority for mothers to nurse their newborns as soon as possible after birth. Not only does this start the bonding process, but it gives you a snapshot of what nursing will be about for the first few months.
2. My son had a hard time latching, so my room nurse had the lactation consultant visit our room. She helped by correctly positioning my son in my arms & also provided a nipple shield. This helps the baby latch on and stay on. It also protects the nipple a bit more.
3. It hurts. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, because if you're prepared for a bit of pain, then it is easier to deal with. You may experience chapped, raw, bleeding or cracked nipples. It's not pretty, but it is for a relatively short period of time. Then they toughen up and you can't feel a thing. It's a bit odd.
4. I made sure to make another appt with the lactation consultant before we left hospital. There is so much to deal with at the hospital, and all the information comes fast and furious. It is ALWAYS a good idea to get the information again. Make sure to leave with a pamphlet that details local nursing groups and hotline numbers for urgent questions.
1. I drank ALOT of water from the huge bottle given to me at hospital. I relaxed on the couch and my man refilled it (what a sweetie!). This jug holds up to 30 ounces, which I downed every few hours. It helps with milk production, and keeps you from becoming dehydrated.
2. I became constantly hungry, which was not a problem as nursing can burn an 500 extra calories a day. I just tried to snack on healthier options like crackers & cheese, fruit, veggies & dip, etc. Some days I had chips and candy. Balance is key.
3. There are several different ways to hold your baby as you nurse. I liked and stuck with the traditional cradle hold, which is probably what you think of first. It was easiest for me to prop little man on the Boppy pillow (a U-Shaped pillow that fits around your waist and supports your arm while nursing). Different holds include the cradle, crossover, reclining, and football, to name a few. This article outlines them all, and provides helpful tips.
4. When your milk comes in, you may become engorged which is extremely uncomfortable. Your breast tissue will swell and become inflamed and your supply will not be regulated. The baby can't drink enough at one time to relieve you, so you may need to pump. Word of caution: only pump until your breasts are soft again. Any more and you will encourage the production of even more milk! Don't let the milk go to waste, bag and freeze it for when you introduce the bottle.
5. Burping, spit up, and gassiness...oh, my! For the first three months feeding, sleeping, and pooping are going to be top priority in your life. Anything that disturbs those will be the bane of your existence. Enter burping that elicits spit up, and a hold that allows air to get into your baby's tummy which brings on gassiness. There are a few things you can do to help your baby get through these disruptions, but they are inevitable. There are Mylicon drops, which basically binds gas bubbles, making them easier to exit the body (either way). These can be found at drugstores and are harmless enough that you can give them multiple times a day. I always gave a bit before and a bit after feeding. This seemed to help the most.
Schedule/After 3-4 months:
1. When you're out and about, be sure to wear an accessible shirt or dress. There's nothing worse than realizing you have to get completely undressed to nurse. I purchased a few nursing bras, but after awhile I realized wireless bras can just be pulled up, AND they cost LESS!
2. Breast feeding in public is tricky. I do not like to do it, although I did get a nursing shawl. I tried it once and it was just too much for me. People were staring, I was trying not to show the goods, and my son just wriggled around and pulled everything out of place. I usually try to find a restroom with a chair or countertop to sit on. Some places actually have nursing rooms, which is a huge bonus!
3. Take a lunch box with ice pack for a bottle of pre-mixed formula or breast milk during longer car rides or outings. If there is not a place to nurse or you are unable, it helps to have a pre-made bottle.
4. I DO supplement with formula for the above reason. Also, if someone is watching my son and they run out of frozen breast milk, it is nice if your child can accept formula from a bottle as well. That has worked well for our family.
1. Teething prompts the return of sore/bleeding nipples. Reacquaint yourself with Lanolin cream, gel pads, bottles, and soft bras. Nurse from the "healthier" nipple until the other has healed a bit.
2. When your little one starts solids you will be nursing less. Your supply may decrease or even dwindle, or your kiddo may not be interested in nursing anymore. This decrease in supply may herald the return of your period, so be prepared! I wasn't and my husband had to make a midnight run while on vacation.
3. If you missed those lovely little adult beverages, now is the time to fit them back in your life. Make sure you pump or have formula available. One drink is metabolized in one hour, which means it is not stored in your breast milk. Better safe than sorry, mamas. Go with your gut on this one. And be prepared to be tipsy after less than one drink!
The Hot Mama