Breastfeeding Tips & Suggestions for Your First Month With Baby
Hello and welcome back to my new series called “Motherhood! Who the Heck Knew?” Just kidding. But not really. The first two months of breastfeeding for me were an absolute rollercoaster. I had this book out and open on the kitchen table, page after page dog-eared and stained in milk drops that would drip down in the middle of the night, just when I needed information most.
I shared a little bit about the struggle in the beginning here, but for those of you looking for a more in-depth tale, you've come to the right place.
Let’s start at the beginning, in the hospital. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: newborn babes are very sleepy. This can make it challenging for them to learn how to breastfeed, if they are not naturals. Reva was born very determined to make it work, but it certainly wasn’t easy. It felt like my nipples and her mouth were two puzzle pieces that just didn’t want to fit. Nevertheless, we (the nurses and I) would put her on the boob every few hours, or as often as she wanted, around the clock. No matter how much it felt like nothing was happening, this was crucial for establishing my milk supply. And by the way, a newborn baby has a stomach the size of a walnut. They may suck for 30 minutes just to get a teaspoon or two of colostrum. This is totally normal. Completely exhausting- but normal.
So Tip #!: Don’t judge your breastfeeding future by the first few days (or weeks, or month). I truly thought I would rip my hair out after a week of nursing. It was excruciatingly painful for me, everything was sore, and it happened around the clock. I dreaded every single latch because of how unpleasant it was. However, it does get better, easier, faster, and more rewarding. Just remember that in the middle of the night when your eyes are drooping shut and all you want is two more hours of sleep. It won’t be like this for long.
Speaking of the nights, they were brutal at first. It didn’t really make any sense to me to wake up Brandon, but after a few days, he offered and I sheepishly accepted. I felt so much guilt waking him up, but it was helpful for a variety of reasons. 1) He was able to bring me a glass of water or a snack or a sweater or whatever I needed because during the early days you are immobile while feeding. 2) Moral support is much needed when you’re up at 3AM after an hour and a half of sleep. Having Brandon there to burp and change the baby in between sides, or just to hold my hand and make laugh was amazing. And if you feel guilt like I did, don’t. Just don’t. The first weeks are survival mode, so ask for whatever help you need to push through. Tip #2: Have your partner wake up with you for at least one of the night feedings
Another thing: be properly outfitted. Good nursing bras and shirts with easy access are literally all you will wear for the first month, so buy a few before the baby arrives. I did not do this, and then spent the first month in random (and shitty) nursing bras I speed ordered on amazon. The best brands I’ve found are Lively and Bravado. As for clothing, you can check out this post for more details. Tip#3: Buy good nursing bras/tops before the baby arrives
Tip #4: Not all types of pain are normal. I highly recommend you plan for a lactation counselor before the baby arrives. Know who you are going to call for a consultation if you need one- and trust me- you probably will. Questions you’ve never thought about- like how wide your baby’s latch is, or how to hold different positions to prevent clogged ducts and back pain- will come up, and you’ll want an expert. If you feel pain beyond soreness, I would speak with your OB and the lactation consultant about it. There are so many things you can do to fix pain, including working on the latch, changing positioning, and even minor procedures to remove tongue, lip and cheek ties. I know this all sounds like gibberish right now, but just find a consultant and save their number for the future.
Tip #5: Understand that breastfeeding is a huge time commitment, and that your schedule is no longer your own. There is no schedule for a newborn baby. Yes, they should eat every 2-3 hours, but it’s not clockwork. Sometimes they will fall asleep for 4 hours and then cluster feed all night long. Sometimes they will eat for 5 minutes, and then be hungry again in 30, and then again in 60. There is no rhythm and the sooner you accept that, the easier it will be. I have been fortunate enough to be home with my baby the last 3 months and I can confidently say that breastfeeding on demand is just that. After a few weeks, I stopped tracking the hours or feedings because if she is content, and gaining weight, then what does it matter? This gave me more peace of mind than anything else, because it free’d me from the endless analysis. It’s still different every single day, but because I allow that, it creates for a fluid and calm rhythm. Find comfort in the chaos… so to speak.
Tip #6: It will get better, and when it does, it is the best thing ever. Hello from week 15, where breastfeeding is my favorite thing in the world. I did NOT think that I would ever get here. I did not think the pain would go away, and I did not believe the feedings would get faster. I did not accept that I could ever like having her stuck to my body for so long. I did not imagine a world where the leaking would settle and my supply would level out. However, I made it, and I’m so so so so happy that I did not give up. There is nothing that I love more these days than having my daughter’s little body wrapped around me. I love being able to literally give her strength and comfort. It is super convenient (really) and I never have to worry about bringing anything, anywhere. I know that if we are together, she is cared for and safe. With that being said, I truly believe that everyone needs to do what is best for themselves and their baby, and if that means formula, then so be it. Fed is best, and a mother’s sanity and mental/physical health are just as important as a baby’s. Do what works for you, but if breastfeeding is your goal, then commit to at least a few weeks (or ideally 2 months) before you make final decisions.
I hope that these tips help all of you new mamas, and please feel free to reach out with any questions. I am here for you!