30 minutes after delivering my son I started the biggest and ,in my opinion, most important undertaking of my life – breastfeeding. 17 weeks later, and it’s also the most rewarding undertaking of my life. I think of myself and my body more positively as well as the obvious – getting to nourish my boy. I am absolutely not an expert, but with the help of my friend Sandy, my mom, our pediatrician, and our lactation consultant Linda it is going incredibly well for us. We’ve had some downs, but no major problems. I by no means think that moms who can’t or choose not to breastfeed are worse than those who do. We all have to work with what we have and what we’re able. But with my research and experience I do think breast is best – if you can. So I want all moms to be as ready as possible.
There are 3 things I’ve focused on that I think are the key (along with the grace of God), and I wanted to share with new moms who are struggling or moms to be who want to be prepared.
- Latch – Everybody told me that if it’s working it doesn’t hurt. That’s true, but just because it hurts doesn’t mean it’s not working. You’re having someone suck on your nipples several times a day with a mighty force that will rub them raw. It’s not going to feel great. Eventually the hurt will go away. If it hurts so bad that you’re crying or your nipples are bleeding – then first check your latch and I’d recommend finding a lactation consultant to help fix it. Here’s the tips that worked for Jack and I to get a good latch . . .
Try the Breast Sandwich – pinch your breast behind the areola to form a longer version of your nipple, match the shape of your breast to baby’s mouth. Make your hand like a ‘c’ around your breast.
Focus on a wider mouth opening – push your nipple on the top of your babies mouth, and he’ll open wider. You want your full nipple in there so they’ll need a wide opening.
Pull out those lips: While latched, if your baby’s lips are not flared out, you will get sore. It is okay to pull the lips out while baby nurses, this little difference will make you more comfortable and will provide baby with more milk.
- Sore Nipples – Your nipples will get sore even if you have a good latch. But it won’t hurt so bad you’ll cry. If it’s hurting or you’re bleeding, and you’re sure that the latch is correct then you need to take some steps to fix up your sore nipples. Here’s what worked for me . . .
Rub a terry cloth washcloth on them twice a day for two weeks BEFORE delivery. This will get them started on the raw feeling so you’ll be used to it and they’ll start healing before the baby is even here. This is an old school tip, and some of you I’m sure are like ‘whaaaaa’. But in the ’80’s a doctor told my mom to do this when she had me, and she swore by it. I did it, and it helped. Your nipples are already super sensitive with pregnancy so might as well take advantage, right?!
Nipple cream and gel pads – I started putting nipple cream on after every terry cloth rub. Then when Jack was here every meal for the first 8 weeks I would put nipple cream all over my nipples. ALL OVER! The pain went away for a day or two when he was about 6 weeks old. But it started to hurt every time he would latch, and then I started to bleed. So I started back up with the nipple cream, and got some gel pads. the gel pads cooled me off after every feeding and took the hurt away quickly. The nipple cream got me back on track so the pain went away eventually for good.
Breast Milk – Now that he’s 4 months old (16 weeks) I rarely use nipple cream anymore. I don’t use gel pads anymore, and I’m not in pain at all. My nipples are still sensitive, and at the first latch there is sometimes a bit of uncomfort. I rub some breast milk over the entire nipple to soothe the area and we’re good. No more nipple cream! No more pain!
Vary positions – check out different positions and different accessories to help position the baby. If you do the same position every time, you’ll start to bruise in that area. It’s obvious when it happens. So just change up positions – use the boppy once, then do football next time, then repeat – it’s that simple.
- Mindset – I know this one sounds a little silly, but your mind is a pretty crazy place after you give birth. So for me there were a few key things I kept reminding myself of to get me through when breastfeeding was starting to seem like too much.
Just get through the first 6 weeks. My friend Sandy told me this, and I repeated it to myself many times. I really wanted breast feeding to work and I knew my husband felt the same. So when Sandy told me it gets a lot better after 6 weeks that’s what I promised to do. There were many times my nipples were so sensitive a t shirt was too much or there was once that my nipples were bleeding. There were even times when I said ‘once I get to 6 weeks I’ll have kept my promise and then i’ll stop’ But Sandy was right. Once 6 weeks rolled around it didn’t hurt anymore. Even better I found what worked for us. We have our routine now. Like to have water and a snack ready, and how to comfortably feed him in public.
Feed him on demand for less stress. This was highly recommended by my pediatrician, and by my lactation consultant. From day one Jack has 4 main problems, he’s hungry, he’s sleepy, he wants attention, or he has a dirty diaper. So if I knew he was clean, not sleepy, was getting attention and was still fussy – we fed him.That resulted in him eating every 2ish hours, and me getting comfortable feeding him in public very quickly so we weren’t stuck at home. Now he eats every 3 to 4 hours. What does this have to do with mindset? In the end it was less stress because he was never colicky. I never worried about if he was eating enough or if i was producing enough. Sometimes it feels like we were always breastfeeding, but I was never worried about if he was hungry or healthy.
It’s a full time job. I don’t look at raising my child as a job. But breastfeeding takes as much time as a job. This is the part that got to me more than the uncomfort. No matter how much I kept repeating ‘just get through the first 6 weeks’; 6 weeks wasn’t going to change how much time it took. Like I said above, I often felt stuck at home since he wanted to eat every 2 hours. My mom mentioned this is a full time job, and it stuck with me. When I started to think of it that way – I’m a SAHM/blogger, and my 2nd job is to breastfeed. I even started to put it on my to do lists. It feels great to mark that off. It helps me visualize the progress and good we’re doing.