Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey for mothers and it is unique for each mom (and different for every child). It is one of my favorite parts if motherhood so far. I know, for some, that is not how the story goes. It is important going into breastfeeding that you are educated. This is not something you should jump in blind to. I am sure there are many moms who do, but to help you get through your journey with minimal bumps, it is important to know what to expect and how to handle the unexpected.
Disclaimer: I am not providing health or medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about your health, please refer to your healthcare provider.
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It Isn’t Always Natural
One if the coolest things (in my opinion) in pregnancy, is how your nipples get dark. They do this so your newborn can find your nipple to feed. Babies are born with not so great eyesight and nature takes it course so mom and baby can work as a team! Breastfeeding does not always come naturally. You have to learn to read each other, find a rhythm, and work together. We have natural instincts that assist but it’s okay to not get it right away.
After I had B, she literally crawled up my belly and latched with minimal assistance. It was a great start but I am so thankful that I had my nurse there to assist. She actually was more helpful than the Hospital’s Lactation Consultant. The second time latching was not as natural – she showed me that I could brush my nipple on B’s lip to get her to open and latch.
You Are Going To Nurse A LOT
While in the hospital, I learned that I would be nursing a lot, 24 hours a day. Even though your milk doesn’t come in until closer to a week after birth, your body is producing colostrum for the baby. Their stomachs are tiny and they don’t truly consume a ton while nursing, but they are learning how to nurse and effectively remove the milk.
Our nursing sessions lasted 30 – 45 minutes and she nursed about every two to three hours. It seems like a lot but it is great bonding time and it helps you to heal. You can expect for breastfeeding to cause some slight contractions after birth too. REMEMBER – you cannot over feed a breastfed baby but you CAN under feed them. I just told myself that the more she was on the boob, the better. B could have all the time she needed to nurse – be sure to watch signs to help you know when to switch breasts. When B would quit actively nursing on one side, I’d switch and offer her the other.
How To Read Hunger Signs
Even with a newborn, it is pretty easy to tell if they are hungry. I always fed B at the earliest signs and she to this day is an unbelievably content baby. I attribute that to her feel secure and knowing her needs will be met. To reiterate, I never waited until she was to the point of crying to feed her. Easy signs to look for are storing, rooting, and hands in the mouth. By a week, I could tell which stirring was from hunger or her just moving.
How To Feed A Sleepy Newborn
B was a sleepy newborn, so sometimes I would have to wake her up for feedings or wake her up during. To do this, I found taking her sleep sick and sometimes her onesie would do the trick. I love skin to skin feedings, so I would take her down to a diaper and cover us up with a warm blanket once she latched. If she fell asleep nursing, I would unlatch her and take the blanket off for a minute.
How To Know If Your Baby Is Eating Enough
You can never over feed a baby by breastfeeding but you can not feed them enough. It is totally normal for your baby to lose a little weight after birth but it should bounce back quickly. You can have them weighed at your Pediatricians office or with your Lactation Consultant to watch this. Make sure you or Pediatrician is educated on breastfeeding as well, you’d be surprised at how many are not.
You will want to watch their wet and dirty diapers. For dirty diapers, you’ll expect one dirty for each day of life (up to 3 or 4) and then you’ll want them to have 3-4 stools daily that are yellowish and curly. For wet diapers, at least one wet per day of life until your milk comes in. Then you should expect at least 5 wets a day. If your baby is not meeting these milestones, contact your healthcare provider.
You can expect a growth spurt around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 weeks. With growth spurts, not only are frequent and long nursing sessions still normal but you can also expect cluster feeding. Cluster Feeding is very frequent to constant nursing sessions which help the body to produce more milk so baby can have enough nutrients to grow!
Proper Nutrition and Hydration
You will want to make sure that you are eating enough and drinking enough to feed your baby. Limit your caffeine and sugary drinks. A good rule of thumb is to drink your weight in ounces (i.e. 125lbs = 125 ounces of water). Check any tea labels, as certain herbs will dry up your supply. Eat nutrient dense food and add in some extra calories. You wont know hungry until your start breastfeeding. I keep a box of snacks with granola, fruit, and nuts by my nursing areas.
Day and Night Training
Frequent nursing helps to quickly teach your baby days from nights. During the day nurse every two hours or on demand once your Pediatrician and Lactation Consultant have said it is okay. At night, you can slowly extend those two hour stretches to 3-4 hours (do not go past 4 hours though). Newborn babies should not sleep through the night and those night feeds can help reduce the risk of SIDS. I know it can be hard at night but cherish the fact that you are nourishing your baby and helping them thrive.
Your #1 Breastfeeding Essential
You will want to use a good nipple butter from day 1. I use Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter and always have. This is because it is all organic and so safe you don’t have to wash it off before baby eats. If you apply it after every nursing session, you will prevent dry and cracked nipples and even ease some nipple pain when your milk comes in.
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When To Expect Your Milk
Your milk will come in closer to a week after birth. You will find that your breasts are more firm (and even uncomfortable). Unless your Lactation Consultant or Doctor has advised you to do so, do not pump now. It is important to let your supply regulate to your baby. Your body learns that when your breasts are not emptied, that there is too much milk being produced. Your supply won’t regulate until closer to 6 weeks.
If you are going back to work and need a stash, consult an LC and have them guide you in the best way to go about this. This will help to prevent under/over-supply and even mastitis. If you need to release pressure from engorgement, take a hot shower as you will trigger expression, put warm rags on your breasts, nurse your baby, or even hand express just enough to take the edge off.
Essentials For When Your Milk Comes In
When your milk comes in you will want a comfortable bra and some great reusable nursing pads. I recommend the Kindred Bravely bra and the Bamboobie Nursing Pads. They keep you comfortable and expand with your breast size as well and help in keeping your shirts and bed sheets from having gigantic wet spots.
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Find a Lactation Consultant
Throughout the first few weeks of breastfeeding, be sure to find a Lactation Consultant. Many Hospitals and Pediatrician office have free lactation services. You can also check the Le Leche League for local resources. With and LC, you will get to weigh your baby and make sure they are gaining appropriately, answer and concerns or questions you may have, and have support and community in this new part of your life. Having a Lactation Consultant is crucial in the success if your breastfeeding journey.
There is a lot to know about breastfeeding, especially in the beginning when we are not only adjusting to a major life change but to reading our body and our baby’s. By having the proper education, support, and community, breastfeeding will be a little more natural and hopefully an empowering experience.
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