Lately I have asked many of my friends who are new moms what they wish someone would have told them about having a baby. The answer I kept hearing was breastfeeding. They all said something along the lines of breastfeeding needs to be talked about more, and no one told me it would be difficult and sometimes it is. Some would argue that it’s a natural thing so it’s easy. Hurray if it is. If however you find it a bit of a struggle, know that you are not alone. Here are some tips that really helped me out when I got started.
The first thing you should remember is to stay calm. If you are getting emotional and frustrated, baby will sense that, and get worked up too. Take a moment to relax. Get comfortable. Pillows are often the best tools you can have to get baby situated so you are both comfortable.
Secondly realize that it might take some time to get to the point where you both don’t have to think about it, and that’s okay. Baby is new at this, as are you. Its okay to give it some time to move smoothly. It is also a good idea to ask for help and reassurance from people who support breastfeeding - it could be your mother, friend, sister, peer counselors, postpartum doulas, mother groups like La Lache League, lactation educators, childbirth educator, doctor or lactation consultants.
Thirdly it doesn’t have to hurt. It might be a little painful at first but if it keeps on hurting, look at what could be changed. Could you and baby try a different position? Is baby latched on correctly, with as much of your breast tissue in his mouth as possible? (Remember its not called nipple feeding) Sometimes you could be doing really well as far as positioning and latch but another medical reason is to blame. Is baby tongue-tied? Has thrush developed? Is mom engorged or developed mastitis? These things are all fixable and with a little help and time. You don’t have to give up.
Forth mom, take care of you. This is the time in your life when asking for help should not be embarrassing. You need to heal, you need to wake up in the night to feed baby, and if you are tired and not eating and drinking well, it only makes it a bit harder. Take a nap during the day if you can. Have lots of healthy snacks in the cupboard that you can just grab and go. And do what you can to remember to drink lots of water, whether it is lining up your cups on the counter, having a water bottle that you know you have to drink by a certain time and then refill. There are lots of strategies so find one that works for you.
And fifth do what you can to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Get baby to the breast as soon as possible after birth, within the first two hours. If at all possible, room in with your baby. Do some skin on skin time. Before baby is born, do your research, read books, attend either childbirth classes where they cover breastfeeding or a breastfeeding class. Make sure your spouse is on board, and decide how determined you are to do this.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful thing; I know I love snuggling my sweet warm baby while she nurses. Just because it can be wonderful doesn’t mean that it will have zero challenges. But don’t let the challenges get you down usually in a few weeks; both you and your baby will be pros.