Breastfeeding my daughter was one of the things I looked forward to most when I was pregnant. Of course, I was a little nervous it wouldn’t be a smooth transition or it would hurt, but I envisioned my daughter and I nursing and snuggling and bonding and hoped and prayed we’d have success. I’m so pleased that we’ve had a great experience breastfeeding so far (Lucy is almost 7 weeks old!) so I wanted to share a few tips & tricks that I’ve found helpful.
Here are a few things I learned from experienced mama friends, lactation consultants and good ol’ Google over the first few weeks.
Try Different Positions: This was maybe the most important piece of advice our Lactation Consultants gave me in the hospital. Lucy didn’t latch well on the left side, so they suggested trying a different position, the football hold, on the left. It was great. The first month I always did cross-cradle hold on the right and football on the left. After a few weeks, Lucy was doing much better so we tried the cross-cradle hold on the left and it worked. Around one month, I discovered how awesome the regular cradle hold is (duh!) and suddenly had a much more comfortable position and a free hand. Hooray! Then at 5 weeks, I needed to nurse Lucy at the doctors office and I didn’t have my trusty Boppy… the terror! To my surprise, we did great. I positioned Lucy in a sitting up position, propped on my leg, in a cradle hold. It worked so well, I was free from the Boppy as a necessity. We haven’t looked back since!
Call the Lactation Center: This is most important tip #2. These knowledgeable ladies will be your best friends. We were really lucky that our hospital has a fabulous Lactation Center that you can call anytime for support. Let’s just say I called a lot. Have no shame ladies, breastfeeding is hard. Take all the support you can get and ask all the questions you have. Don’t feel silly, this is their job and they want nothing more than to help you be successful breastfeeding your baby. Put down your pride and pick up the phone. You and your baby will be better for it! I also read page after page of these great breastfeeding resources: La Leche League & Kelly Mom.
Growth Spurts: They’re hard! Lucy went through growth spurts around 3 weeks for 2 to 3 days and around 6 weeks for 4 to 5 days. #1. Let baby lead. Just give up whatever plans you thought you had for that day. Ha! Your baby needs you! Savor in the sleepy moments and power through some marathon nursing sessions with your favorite Netflix binge and yummy snacks. I treated myself to fig newtons & chocolate milk. :) #2. It will feel like you’re empty and you don’t have any milk left to give. You do! The more baby nurses, the more milk your body will make. When baby does finally sleep (and she will!) make some Mother’s Milk tea to keep yourself confident in your supply, stay hydrated and rest. And get back to that Netflix binge.
Wake Up: I eventually realized that Lucy was falling asleep before she was really satisfied and her post-nursing crying spurts weren’t gas or a tummy ache, she was trying to tell me she was still hungry. Silly, mommy! I keep Lucy awake by tickling her back, blowing on her face, laying her down beside me (that one wakes her up quickly!) and changing her diaper. The first few weeks when nursing sessions require so much gear and so much situating, there was no way I was getting up to change a diaper and then getting all situated again, but now it works like a charm.
Huge Boobs: I was really surprised at how large & engorged my breasts were when my milk came in. I didn’t know to expect such a surge in size – they were hard as a rock! For me it lasted 2 or 3 days, about 5 – 7 days after Lucy was born. It took a few days to figure it out, sometimes Lucy nursed on both sides, sometimes she nursed on one side, sometimes I’d be really engorged (like, huge!) on the opposite side and sometimes I would leak uncontrollably from one side while Lucy nursed on the other. Who knew… This is all normal! Our bodies have to figure out how much milk to make for our babies and I didn’t realize this is how they do it. Now, we’re pretty well regulated and I no longer get super, uncomfortably engorged or leak uncontrollably. Huzzah!
I’m thankful that we’ve had a great start to our breastfeeding journey. I know it won’t always be easy and I’m sure we’ll struggle along the way, especially when I go back to work. Breastfeeding is hard. I know there are plenty of sensitivities around this topic and it doesn’t work for everyone. Whatever your breastfeeding journey, more power to ya, Mama.
Photos by Katie Oblinger Photography