Breastfeeding is a topic I’m so passionate about. I especially love talking to new moms and giving tips to help them find success with breastfeeding in those early days. I hope some of what I share here can bring you some comfort or relief.
New to breastfeeding?
Getting that first latch can be really exciting and also really stressful. Maybe you are putting too much pressure on yourself to feed your baby right away. Immediately after delivery, if it’s safe to do so, have your naked baby put directly onto your bare abdomen/chest aka “skin to skin.” Give your baby time to try and do the “boob crawl.” They may find your nipple and areola themselves within the first hour after delivery. You can also try and guide baby if they aren’t close enough. It is ideal to use a cross cradle hold in the beginning and maybe even first couple of months. The typical cradle hold that we all seem to think of (e.g. when nursing on right side, using the right arm to cradle baby) doesn’t really work so well until the baby is a few months old.
How to do the cross cradle hold:
Let’s say you’re going to nurse on the right breast, so you would take your left arm behind baby’s back and place your hand on the back of their shoulders below their neck. Take your right hand to hold your breast and squeeze it in what’s called a “C hold” – it looks as if you are about to feed your baby a giant sandwich. The idea is to get as much of your breast and areola into your baby’s mouth as possible. The best thing I always remember reading, probably from La Leche League’s book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, was that its BREAST feeding, not NIPPLE feeding. If you let them latch only the nipple you are in for a world of misery.
Side-Lying nursing is another fantastic option.
I personally used side-lying whenever I could. It was just so much more comfortable for me. The image at the top of this post is a great example of side-lying. I would take rolled up receiving blanket and prop it behind my baby so that I didn’t have to use my arm to keep her properly positioned. Also highly recommend a pillow behind your back for your own comfort, it’s so much more supportive!
Remember that baby has never nursed before.
And if this is your first baby you’ve never done it either.
It’s very possible that you will encounter some bad latches, some nipple damage, and some serious discomfort in those first days or weeks. Nursing becomes so much easier and routine once you and baby gain experience and find a rhythm. If you’re experiencing issues with latching and soreness, just keep reminding yourself that this is temporary and soon this will become just a normal part of your day. It suddenly won’t hurt anymore and it’ll be more relaxing and pleasurable for both you and baby. I held that thought in my mind when I was struggling with oversupply to keep my anxiety at bay.
This is temporary, we are both new at nursing, soon this will become routine and fit seamlessly into my day.
And you know what, it did.
If breastfeeding is not getting easier, seek help!
A good place to start is finding a breastfeeding support group. Hospitals often have lactation consultants host them for free. For one on one attention, it’s fantastic to reach out to a lactation consultant (LC) directly. Don’t hesitate if you are suffering, don’t try to power thru. I dragged my heels and avoided asking for help for weeks when I was struggling. Then when I finally reached out to an LC the solution was so simple and easy to implement. I also got my issue solved via a free short phone call. Why was I being so defiant about figuring it out myself? Be kind to yourself and reach out to an LC so that you can get to that magical place where nursing is relaxing and routine.
Nipple damage or soreness?
Express some colostrum or milk and rub it into and around your nipple and let it air-dry.
The colostrum or milk will help to heal the damage, it’s incredible how well it works. We get to use our own bodies to heal our bodies. Wow nature. If your nipples are really sore and damaged it is nice to apply some lanolin ointment once the milk is dry. After that I liked to put on Lansinoh soothies gel pads . I highly recommend putting the pads in the refrigerator and then apply once chilled. I liked to always have at least one pair in the fridge and then rotate so a chilled one was always available.
Struggling with engorgement and/or oversupply?
Try cold packs between nursing sessions.
I used Lansinoh TheraPearl hot or cold packs and always kept a few packs in the freezer. The packs can also be used warm prior to nursing to encourage let down or to soothe blocked ducts. I tried that a few times but found I preferred to jump in the shower if I needed to massage out a lump between nursing sessions. Bonus is the mama time alone and the amazing healing that water provides postpartum. I tried to get into the shower many times a day, even for just a few minutes. because it felt so good. Then I’d hear that inevitable baby cry and my husband shouting “baby needs you again!”
The first six weeks are the hardest.
Your baby is trying to adjust to life outside the womb during the first six weeks. And babies reach peak fussiness around six weeks. So expect a lot of “cluster-feeding” – this is when baby will want to feed A LOT over the course of a few hours. You will hear this referred to as the “witching hours” which occur sometime around 5-7pm, or 6-8pm, or whenever your baby decides they are struggling the most that day and need the most comfort.
My first daughter was an insane comfort nurser so it was really difficult in those first six weeks. Fortunately my second daughter wasn’t as interested in comfort nursing, so I was gifted a lot more time and far fewer issues with nursing overall. No engorgement. No oversupply. No feeling like I’m gagging my baby with my insane ejection reflex. Minimal nipple damage and only some when she was a newborn learning how to nurse for the first time. No baby and mama tears. No wondering should I quit nursing and just pump and give my baby my milk through a bottle? (I thought that with my first quite a few times).
After six weeks, it gets a lot easier.
Your hormones and supply also level out around three months and again at six months (or whenever you introduce solids).
Sometimes though, it just doesn’t work.
Sometimes you try everything…talk to the lactation consultant, go to the breastfeeding support groups, read all the books and blogs..and it still doesn’t work. If this is you, Mama, you are amazing and you are doing what is best for you and your child, regardless of what you decide. And regardless of what anyone else thinks of your decision, it’s none of their business anyway.