The Wonderful World of Breastfeeding
When I was pregnant with my first baby I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Being the scholar that I am, I researched and read everything I could get my hands on about it, but just like anything in life, reading about something is not the same as actually doing it.
So now that I have breastfed three children, including twins, I am going to share my knowledge with you. If you are pregnant and hoping to breastfeed, or have already had a baby but went the formula route and now want to try nursing your next, this is the post for you.
Since there are so many other resources out there, I am going as assume you have checked out some of them (if not, please do) and stick to my experience and knowledge. and tell it in the way only I can (read, I am going to tell it like it is).
Some great websites:
12. Let’s start with an analogy. Breastfeeding is like riding a bike. It is a LEARNED skill. It takes practice and hard work to master. Like falling off a bike, you will probably feel some pain in the beginning (feel free to wear a helmet lol) and you may need some help to figure things out. Then, once you think you have got it all under control you may hit a pothole or speed bump that knocks you off balance and down you go. But don’t give up. After a while you will look back and not be able to remember what it was like when you didn’t know how to ride a bike. Even though pedaling up hills is hard, you can still enjoy going for a bike ride, and the same is true for breastfeeding. You may not enjoy every minute of it, but odds are you will look back and remember fondly the days of staring down at your baby (or being able to get them to shut up by just throwing a boob in their face). Think about it like this, if breastfeeding was really easy to learn then it wouldn’t be so rewarding when you master it.
11. Breastfeeding is a learned skill. Yes, I already said that, but it was part of another point, so it bears repeating. Here’s how it goes. You will give birth to a baby. Your boobs will produce colostrum and then milk, with no effort from you. You baby will be born knowing how to suckle, with no effort from you. But that is where it ends. (In actuality, it is kind of a recipe for disaster since improper latching and suckling leads to engorgement, blisters and pain.) You will not be able to just hold your baby up to your chest and call it happily every after (although you will probably wish you could).
In the beginning breastfeeding will be like two virgins having sex (since you are having a baby I am going to assume you are not a virgin, if you are get out and have some fun). While you have an idea of what to do, nether you or the baby will have the knowledge or experience to do it right the first time. It will be awkward and a lot of work for little reward…but it will get better.
I didn’t realize you have to actually grab your breast and squeeze the nipple down and shove it in your baby’s mouth until they learn how to latch themselves. Especially if you are engorged in the beginning, you will have to get a baby mouth sized spout on those melons for the baby to latch on to.
10. Breastfeeding HURTS. A. LOT. I am one tough cookie when it comes to pain. I have vaginally delivered a 9.5lb baby and twins. I walked around on a broken foot for a week before seeking medical help. I have several tattoos. I went for over two and a half months with a rotted tooth in my mouth so I wouldn’t impact my breastfeeding before having oral surgery. And yes, it HURTS.
When I was first breastfeeding my son, when he would cry, I would cry too because I knew that meant I had to nurse him. But wait, it gets worse. There can be more pain. Blisters from improper latching, engorgement, peeling skin, clogged ducts and more can all be yours once you start nursing.
Now that you are scared (and if you aren’t scared then you should be) the pain gets better. After 1-2 weeks it won’t hurt at all. I found Medela lanolin cream to be a lifesaver in the beginning. You can also express a little milk and rub it on your nipple after feeding (breast milk has natural antibiotic properties and will help keep your nipples clean and moisturized). Also, remember to alternate breasts so they get a break. I couldn’t do this with the twins so I just had to grin and bear it.
9. You will be nursing ALL THE TIME. When I read that newborns eat every two hours I thought “oh, that’s not so bad”. I was equating it to when I bottle feed baby kittens in the nursery (there are kittens that need to be fed every two hours and four hours depending on their size). It takes about 10-15 minutes or so to feed one and then you are done for two hours. It’s not like that with babies. It can take a newborn 45 minutes or more to complete a nursing session. That means you only have one hour and fifteen minutes to the next feeding (if that). Basically expect to be sitting down with your boobs out and your baby in your lap for the majority of the time.
For a go-go-go person like me this was absolute torture. I would think: If I could just get up to do the dishes, or maybe just sweep the floor, okay, well at least get up to the washroom! Get used to it! Watch your favourite tv shows on Netflix, read a book, play on your smartphone. Make sure before you start a session you pee, grab a drink and a snack. You don’t always want to put the baby down after nursing either because even when your baby isn’t eating it is beneficial for them to suck because that will help increase your milk production (more about that later).
In time you will move from beginner to more advanced levels. By the time I was nursing the twins I could nurse and blog, nurse and do puzzles with my son, nurse and brush my teeth, nurse and eat dinner etc. etc.
8. “Nipple Confusion” is a stupid term. There is no such thing. When my son was born we did not offer him a bottle until he was four weeks old because I read that you should wait six weeks to establish a nursing routine before introducing bottles. But, I had been pumping and desperately wanted to be able to go out to walk the dogs or get groceries so we started with bottles of breast milk. Guess what? he wouldn’t take them! After jumping on the net I read posts by several mothers about how if you wait too long babies won’t want to take a bottle. So basically you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Luckily after trying about ten different kinds of bottles we were able to find one he would accept (hallelujah).
So with the girls we started with bottles right away and offered them pacifiers (my son never took one). And sure enough there was no confusion at all. You see, babies are not “confused”, just the opposite they are smart. What they can realize is that milk comes out of a bottle with less work than it takes to get it out of your breast. One of the twins realized this by about 4 1/2 months. So by six months she was no longer nursing at all. I also think this was due in part to the fact that she is the only one of three who liked a pacifier (I have read studies that show babies who use soothers are less likely to still be breastfeeding at six months). But, with two babies to nurse, the pacifier was handy because it would soothe her while I nursed her sister. Anyways, the point is no one was confused.
7. Get a breast pump. If you plan to have a life at all you will need to get a breast pump so you can pump milk and have someone else feed the baby. Even if “life” just means having a shower or a nap. I wouldn’t recommend buying one until after you have been nursing a few weeks and are committed. I know a few people who bought them and ended up going the formula route. Yes, you can resell, but they lose value and they are expensive. I prefer a single over a double (I bought the double for the twins because everyone told me I would need it and ended up using it like a single!) I also tried one of those PumpEase hands free pumping bras and well, if you want to buy it email cause it was only used once.
I always found the best time to pump was first thing in the morning because baby was in a good mood and I would try to only nurse from one breast at night to let the other one fill up. Pumping can be tough. I never liked it. It is very time consuming and not exactly comfortable. With the twins I only pumped when necessary because I generally didn’t have any extra milk and who was watching all the kids while I was pumping?
6.Nursing tops are a waste of money.
Yes, while they are a good idea, the average nursing top is about $40 plus per shirt. If you are like me and don’t want to wear the same thing every day go to Old Navy and get yourself some snazzy V necks or tank tops. I got a bunch of really trendy ruffle henleys I just pop my boob out the top and voila. Or I will wear a tank top with a nice cardigan and do the same. Even if the necks get a little stretched out who cares, they were $5!
If you are having twins, then I will admit, a few nursing tops are needed. No regular shirt will allow you to pop out both breasts at once without ruining it and who wants to be that exposed? I bought a couple of sale nursing tops and used them when tandem nursing. They were also great for when company was over (which was a lot) or nursing in public. If you are worried about nursing in public, don’t be. Really, after showing off everything in labour, when you are out with a crying baby, your boobs are full and sore and you know what you have to do, it doesn’t seem like a big deal at all. Go for a discreet nursing top if you are worried, but skip those cape things, you just look ridiculous and attract attention to yourself.
6. Get yourself a Jolly Jumper Boomerang Nursing Pillow.This pillow is the most amazing nursing pillow. We got one before my son was born and I have used it ever since (three years and counting). At first, I used it to nurse him. help prop him up, and then as a pillow. Once I was pregnant with the twins it was great for placing under my belly or between my legs to sleep.
I tried other nursing pillows but this one is the best. I even liked it more than the special double nursing pillow I bought for the twins (I felt too confined and it was big and awkward). I actually sold it and bought a second boomerang pillow! Yes, you can always use regular pillows, but at $65 (I got my second on sale for $40) it is totally worth it. You can also get extra covers, but I just take mine off wash it and put it right back on again.
5. Night nursing is important. I know this is controversial so it is up to you but I recommend co sleeping (even if by cosleeping it means a bassinett beside the bed). Co sleeping will allow your baby to nurse as much as they need and you can get some much needed rest.
Nursing at night is important especially in the first three months because it helps to build up the milk pathways that you will use the entire time you are nursing. If you don’t nurse as much at night it will result in a lower milk supply. In the past, it was thought that breastmilk production was caused solely by the hormone Prolactin which is released after you give birth and while nursing. However, recent studies have discovered that it is actually the nipple stimulation that causes an increase in supply. So if baby is not suckling (instead using a soother or in another room) your supply will go down.
While breastfeeding is important, you need sleep. Being over-tired is worse than being drunk. When my son was born I got no sleep for four months and I did all kinds of stupid things like boil water in the microwave to the point where it exploded all over me causing severe burns. I would nurse him and try to put him down so I could sleep and he would wake up and cry, and so we would start all over again.
It was not until I got desperate and started bringing him in bed with me that things got better. He would sleep beside me and when he cried I would just roll over, throw my boob at him and go back to sleep. Worked great with the twins too! I was getting at least six hours sleep when they were only a week old (which I needed since I now had three under three to take care of).
4. You will make enough milk. New moms are always worried about if their baby is getting enough to eat. It’s understandable since you cannot see exactly how much they are taking in, and you don’t know how to distinguish their hunger cries from their tired cries from their dirty diaper cries. As long as your baby has the right amount coming out, then the right amount is going in.
Don’t get me wrong, at first it is tough. Since my son was born so big I didn’t have enough milk to satiate him, and since with the twins I was feeding two babies I had the same problem. But once my milk came in fully things were fine so just hang in there. Remember, milk production works on a supply and demand feedback loop. So the more your baby suckles the more milk you will eventually produce.
Also, if you want to make lots of milk don’t forget about yourself. After having my first baby I was in such a rush to lose the baby weight. I drastically reduced my calorie intake and that led to a problem with production (you can’t make something from nothing). It takes about 300-400 calories (or more) to make milk so make sure you eat right and drink a lot of fluids. Ditto for exercise, don’t go overboard. Don’t worry about the weight, it will come off on its own (it did for me the second time just as fast as with the first without dieting at all).
3. Set realistic goals. You are only setting yourself up for anxiety and depression if your goal is to breastfeed and you have to go to formula. I believe every mother should try breastfeeding if they can, and then if it doesn’t work out, switch to formula. that doesn’t make them failures, but at the same time, you will never know you can do something unless you try. I started out by saying my goal with the twins was six weeks. When I accomplished that it was three months. Then six. I didn’t make it to six with both twins, but I am still a good mother and I am still nursing her sister. With my son, I nursed him until I went back to work (I didn’t want to pump at work) and so we switched to formula at nine months and I am very happy with that. If you would like to go longer, more power to you. Shorter, hey, there’s nothing wrong with that either.
2. Get help. I made this mistake with my son. After he was born he latched and started nursing right away. I nursed him a few times and it didn’t hurt and everything seemed to be going great. So when the nurse at the hospital advised me to get dressed go down the hall to the lactation seminar and have to nurse in front of other moms I declined. I didn’t need it. Well, turns out I did. By the next day I was in agony because it turns out he wasn’t latching properly and I had developed milk blisters on my boobs that made it even more painful to nurse. I ended up having to go back to the hospital to get help, and I almost quit (except the frugal woman in me would never pay for formula when I could make it for free…and other reasons like healthier for baby, weight loss etc.)
So, even if you think things are going well, if you are in the hospital anyway, get help. if you are at home, call someone, see a lactation specialist, go to a doctor or hospital. And don’t wait until the baby comes to find out where to go, research your contacts ahead of time. Breastfeeding used to be something girls witnessed as children and were taught it as they grew up. Now we do it behind closed doors and if you are like me, I had never even seen someone breastfeed up close in real life. There are all kinds of great resources from the LLL and more to help you before it’s too late.
1. IT HURTS! Yes, I said this, but I will say it again (in a slightly different context). You will hurt. You see, when I was reading all those books about breastfeeding and envisioning in my head what it would be like, I forgot an important piece of the picture. I was thinking about what it would be like while I was well rested, nourished and glowing with pregnancy. However, you have to remember that you will have just given birth, you will be exhausted, in pain, hormonal, and you will have to hold your internal organs in place just to take a pee. I don’t know about you, but this is not the time I would choose to start learning to ride a bike. In my case, with my son I had 8-9 stitches down their, and he broke my tailbone on the way out. This meant that sitting was excruciatingly painful. Even with my donut pillow, the weight of him on my lap alone would put me to tears, never mind my sore blistered boobs. Oh, and win my son I also had lots of painful contractions every time I nursed in the first week as my uterus shrunk. Luckily, I only had those on the first day with the twins.
Know that it will get better. You can do it. Remember billions of women have done it and so can you. As you will learn quickly, when it comes to having a baby everything is constantly changing. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, the situation changes and you have made it through. Just take it day by day, hour by hour. When it gets to much just try to remember why you are doing it in the first place and look down at the most precious gift you will ever receive, take a breath and go on.
Good luck to everyone and happy feeding! This post is dedicated to Lynn from Mama Needs Coffee.
- What Breastfeeding Twins Looks Like
- Introducing the Game of Diapers Weightloss and Diet Plan
- Getting Baby to Latch (mommasgotabrandnewbag.com)
- Breastfeeding requires support (beorganicbewell.com)