so, the whole "nursing" topic has come up again... mostly because i have a couple of really good friends that are about to have their first babes so the breastfeeding questions have come up a little bit. i am by no means an expert on breastfeeding but i definitely had a "journey" and learned a few things along the way. this is going to be bit of TMI again, but part of me just wants to get this out there so i don't forget my own advice the second time around.
tip #1 - it hurts. but it gets better.
the first couple of days it feels like all you are doing is forcing your baby's head against your boob. the most important thing my doula taught me was to relax and to make sure you get the right latch the first time. your baby should be sucking on your nip, but should actually be sucking on your areola. you want the whole areola to be in your baby's mouth. it actually worked best to latch wyatt when he was screaming because his mouth was wide open. also - if it's hurting for longer than 30 seconds, it's probably because you have a bad latch. if your nip looks like lipstick when your baby is done, that means he/she wasn't latched right. and you'll probably get a blister on your nip - like i did. and then you still have to nurse out of that boob because you don't want your milk supply to go down in that one so you just have to get through it. and you will.
tip #2 - drink a brooskie.
after about 2.5 days of constantly nursing your baby, but all you desperately want is for them to get full, you're ready for your milk to come in. i think i already mentioned this but ty got me a beer at about 4am that second, almost third day. by noon my milk was in. coincidence or not, i was thrilled. and that first milk feeding was absolutely the best. seeing your baby "milk drunk" for the first time is almost as rewarding as holding him or her for the first time.
tip #3 - use nipple cups.
the thing that helped me the most was these medela nipple shields. they could air out after each feeding and they wouldn't stick to anything and rip at the tender as shit skin. they saved my life. buy them. enough said.
tip #4 - be patient.
so, the second day my milk was in, i was a wreck. my boobs were huge and producing a shit ton of milk but my sweet little guy wasn't eating nearly as much as i was producing. it's all part of it sister. your body is learning to self regulate so you just have to be patient. but the one thing you risk this early on is mastitis if you get too engorged. if you feel like you are going to burst like i did - the best advice i got was again, from my doula. she told me to get into the tub and "self express". it sounds awkward but let me be really honest -- it's in this moment you are desperate. self expressing will relieve some of the pressure but still allow your body to regulate itself. if you whip out your pump this early on you might confuse your body into thinking you need to continue producing that much. unless you pump just a little bit to relieve the pressure... it really only lasted a day or two and things got a lot more comfortable in the production department.
tip #5 - take the pressure off.
it can be really hard to "get into a groove" that first couple of weeks. the pressure you feel as a new mom when your baby is screaming and all you need to do is get your baby onto the boob is hard to explain. the one thing you need to do when you are preparing to nurse is relax so your milk "comes down" -- such an odd concept really, but you have to be calm so you can "let down" and it really only takes a couple of seconds but your baby is learning how to nurse and you are learning how too, so together it can be a hard mix when both you and your baby are frustrated at feeding time. ty was my lifesaver. it would take a couple of rounds sometimes. i dreaded the 2 hour mark because i was so stressed about feeding time. ty would try to help me get wyatt to latch, and most of the time we would both be so worked up (wyatt and i) that i would have to hand him to ty so he could leave the room with him so i could calm my bod down enough to try again... and again and again sometimes. but when i look back on it, that shit show only really lasted two weeks. the more you do it, the better you get. the more confident you get. the more patient you are with yourself... and then you are in your groove. and you should be proud of yourself. i would recommend that until you find your groove, nurse in private. you don't need an audience this early on unless it's someone that puts you at ease and helps you feel confident and comfortable. sometimes i felt pressure to nurse in front of friends and guests because they came all that way to see me and the babe so i felt awkward going upstairs and leaving them while i fed wyatt. if i were to do it over again, i wouldn't feel bad about that. it's ok to take your time and do it in private until you "have it down". it's better for you and for your sweet babe.
tip #6 - if you need to take anti-biotics, take probiotics too.
i got strep throat when wyatt was 7 months old. i was prescribed antibiotics. i got a yeast infection. in my nips. horrific. it lasted 4 months. wyatt never got thrush, thankfully, but it was horribly uncomfortable. the worst of the worst. just trust me. if you don't get anything out of this post but one tip, please take this one with you.
tip #7 - nurse equally on both sides.
this can be a little tricky, but its easy to favor one boob over the other, especially at the beginning when you are trying to get into your groove. but be warned, if you favor one side chick, you're gonna end up with a mini-boob... or what i like to call the "side dish" boob. you'll naturally have one that is bigger than the other just a little bit but if you favor your "main entree" boob (the other one's nick name around here) then it could be really drastic. it can be really hard to remember what boob you start with each time - especially when you are bleary eyed at 2am. someone told me to put a hair band on the wrist i need to start with next time so it would be easy to track. i could usually tell by which boob felt more full, but remember that one will probably product more faster, so it might not always be the best way to go. just sayin'.
tip #8 - you might get a blocked duct.
and if you do, get in the tub and if you have a jetted tub put your boob up to it and pound the crap out of that blockage. it can feel like you have a bruise in your boob -- it will feel really tender like someone punched you in the boob. you might just need to massage it a bit in the tub and then try for a really good feeding that next go round out of that boob. you might need to massage your boob while your baby eats and that helps a lot. and if you get one after you have started pumping, you can pump it on high and massage it really hard and you'll probably work it out. it's not fun at all. but these tricks always nipped it in the bud. pun intended.
tip #9 - drink a lot of water.
the one thing i could have done more of was drink water. your body is working really hard and you are giving up a lot of liquids to your sweet bambino. drinking a lot of water will help ensure your milk supply stays up. a lot of mamas i know would have water next to wherever they would be nursing and drink it while they nursed. good tip!
tip #10 - eat, eat, eat.
just like the water tip, your body is burning a lot of calories. you should definitely be snacking throughout the day even though it's hard to think about yourself in those early days where you are all consumed by your perfect little one. i read somewhere to go to the grocery store before your baby comes and buy snacks you can eat with one hand since you'll most likely be with child when your future hunger pangs! this was another hard one. remembering to eat when you're going off 2 hours of sleep, if that, really isn't a priority. i can remember when ty went back to work and forgetting to eat. not good for mamas.
ok, that's all for now. if you have other tips to share, please comment!
good luck mama's. you got this. trust me!