Prior to delivery, all I ever heard from people was breast is best, breast is best, breast is best, and as cheesy as it is, it makes sense. I am a major advocate for breastfeeding, and if you can get past all the challenges that come with, you should do it. The benefits to using breastmilk over formula; antiviral properties to fight off viruses, newborn growth, fewer infections, allergies & asthma, and mommy-baby bonding.
All that being said, I recognize that breastfeeding is extremely hard, it was for me, and I understand why it's not for everyone and not everyone can do it. If you are breastfeeding or about to start, I'm sharing a few things that I wish knew before I was in the hospital holding my newborn for the first time.
Here are my top 14 tips for first-time breastfeeding moms.
Do not rely on breastfeeding to lose the baby weight! You may lose weight breastfeeding, or you may not, so don’t count on it. My birth Doula told me that I would need to eat 4000 plus calories per day because of all the energy you exert breastfeeding. This is not a one-size-fits-all fact. Apparently, only 40% of women actually lose weight breastfeeding. I should have known better than to listen to my Doula, who has never had an ounce of fat in her life (yes, I am a hater, but I still love you Melanie). And, yes, this may seem vain, but I was hoping that breastfeeding was going to help me shed the pounds, and if I had known this I probably would not have eaten so much Costco pizza.
Don't give up too soon, it takes time to get into a breastfeeding groove. It took me a few weeks to feel confident feeding Adeline, and I was having an “easy” time compared to others. Emotions are heightened; the baby is wiggly, tiny, and cries while you are trying to latch. Your body is in recovery mode, and there is a lot of pressure to feed your baby; overall, there are so many variables that make it difficult. An amazing friend of mine described breastfeeding perfectly, she told me, breastfeeding is the most natural, unnatural experience. Meaning, it should be instinctive, but it isn’t always.
Do not feel pressured to feed your baby formula if you don’t want to. I have heard so many stories about women getting pressured to bottle feed their babies formula in the first 24 hours after giving birth. Introducing formula can sabotage your ability to breastfeed. Your baby has a higher likelihood of rejecting your breast because of the risk nipple from a bottle and the addition of sugar in formula. Unless there is a significant health risk to your baby, I encourage all women to push back on any pressures they may feel from nurses or doctors to formula feed their baby and continue to try and breastfeed.
Don’t introduce a bottle too soon, and at the same time, don’t wait too long (if you do want to bottle feed at some point). I was terrified to give Adeline a bottle (nipple confusion), so I didn’t. I think we waited about 6-8 weeks before introducing a bottle, and by then, she would not take it. We tried all different types of bottles and nipples, we tried in the car, in her chair. My husband tried while I left the house for hours on end, and no-go. Ultimately, we gave up because I’m a wuss and couldn’t let her cry for that long, and my husband (also a wuss) couldn’t take 3-4 hours out of his workday to keep trying. If I had to work, or we had to take her to daycare, it probably would have been a different scenario. At ten months, she still won't take a bottle, and we are working on getting her to use a sippy cup instead. I am not sure what the sweet spot is for when to give your baby a bottle to avoid nipple confusion, but generally, if you have a good latch and have waited a few weeks, you should be good.
Find a lactation consultant. Don’t give up on breastfeeding until you have exhausted all your resources, as in asked for help from a few different people. Your hospital should have a lactation specialist on hand, or one of your nurses may be skilled in breastfeeding. Ask for help, and then ask again and again until you feel comfortable with breastfeeding. Alternatively, reach out to a Lactation Consultant with good reviews or hear about through a friend. You don’t have to pay for a lactation consultant, but if you can, do (within moderation). I ended up finding one that was even covered by my insurance.
Get Support from other Moms. Join a La Leche League Group or a Mom Group. Breastfeeding is hard, and you will benefit from having a mom tribe to help you out! Even with initial advice from lactation consultants, other issues can happen; mastitis, blocked ducts, tongue-ties, over/ under production, you name it. So, it helps to have ongoing support to get you through it. FYI. The LaLeche League (try saying that five times fast) is the holy grail of all things breastfeeding. They have been around forever and have incredible resources. My Aunt bought me their book, and I referenced it whenever an issue came up. They really do know everything. Check out their site here https://www.llli.org/
Try different breastfeeding positions. Try side-lying, the football hold, back-lying, or any other creative position and find one that works for you. It’s like sex; numerous positions are going to work, and you just have to keep trying until you find your fave. I was a big fan of the football hold and also had Adeline lie across my stomach so that we were belly to belly. Now that she is older, I use the side-lying position more because, at ten months, I can sleep beside her without being so paranoid about rolling over and smushing her.
Check out the Natural Breastfeeding methodology, which encourages you to use a back lying/leaning position where you place your baby on your stomach area and allow them to “root” or find your breast on their own (with a little guidance from you). A lactation consultant introduced me to NB, and it was a game-changer. It considers that not all breasts and bodies are the same and helped me feel less awkward. Check out this site and especially their Youtube videos (they are a bit dated, but still useful). http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/articles/2015/3/23/introducing-natural-breastfeeding.html
Use a pillow. Use a breastfeeding pillow, use a regular pillow, or use 5. I had a ton of pillows to prop me up and tucked around the baby and me, especially helpful if you had a c-section. I really like the Boppy pillow and the Breast Friend, alternating between the two (a friend gave me the Boppy, you really don't need both).
Don’t be afraid to breastfeed in public. Until I had Adeline, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about breastfeeding in public, but at some point, if you want to live your life, you’re going to have to whip it out. When your baby is a newborn, it is hard to do, juggling a cover-up and a squirmy little baby who isn’t a pro at feeding either. During COVID times, this is not so much a problem, but you still have to decide what to do around family and friends. Work your way up to it if you need to, or use a light muslin cloth cover.
Drink plenty of water. The more water you drink, the better your milk will flow. Breastfeeding also makes you incredibly thirsty, especially at the beginning. After I breastfed Adeline, my throat would feel so dry that I felt like I had just crawled through the desert, and I was a new vampire from Twilight thirsting for blood. It was intense.
Burp the baby after nursing; then position the baby upright for approx. 15-20 minutes. This seems intuitive, but at 3:00 am, and when your baby is nursing every 3 hours, it’s incredibly difficult. As a first-time mom with a baby who had reflux and gas, I knew about the burping bit, but I didn’t have Adeline upright for long enough after, but once I did, it helped with her gas, even if it meant even no sleep.
Babies get distracted, so a quiet place or a breastfeeding cover works wonders. At some point, your baby will start looking everywhere else but your breast. When your little one gets past six months, they will get easily distracted; it helps to breastfeed in a quiet place away from noise like the TV or toys.
Use an app to track feedings. I love the Hatch App and the Huckleberry App. I was religious about tracking Adeline’s feedings; I liked knowing how much she was feeding and how long, and understanding her patterns, even though they were so chaotic at times. Both apps track feedings, sleep, diapers, and other metrics.
Find a good breast pump! Your breast pump will be like a little purse that you carry around with you to keep your milk (aka. liquid gold) flowing and safe. To keep your milk production up, most of the time you need to pump. Some are lucky and don't have to all the time, but your milk production will go up and down depending on your babies age, what you eat, how much they are eating, and then sometimes for unknown reasons. For example, when Adeline first slept through the night, I needed to pump asap. Now, I need to pump to keep my milk production up because she is eating solids and feeding less. My breast pump has been a constant necessity. I have the Spectra and I really like it, you can check out my review here.
This post is part of a three post series dedicated to National Breastfeeding Month (August), World Breastfeeding Week (August 1st - 7th), and Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25th - 31st is Black Breastfeeding Week). I know I am late (#momlife), but I still want to show my support, and advocate for breastfeeding awareness, especially in black and minority communities where breastfeeding rates are lower due to lack of support, resources and encouragement.
Take a look at my follow up posts:
Here is another great post from a fellow mom blogger referencing some really helpful tips and information https://momsmartnothard.com/complete-breastfeeding-guide/
Happy to share and I hope that these tips help you on your breastfeeding journey.