I’m not Le Leche certified, but I’m guessing that a collective 5.5 years of breastfeeding my own five children does put me in the “experienced” category. I’ve learned a lot about nursing, life, prayer, babies and myself the last decade. I’m hoping that these tips and life lessons will be just what the doctor ordered for you!
Please know I understand, in a very personal way, how difficult the breastfeeding route is for some women. I share these suggestions and advice, below, with that same, understanding heart. Here’s the best I’ve got:
1. If you’re a new mom or it’s been a few years since you last breastfed a baby, do yourself a favor and TAKE THE BREASTFEEDING CLASS. Yes, I know that breasts are made for nurturing babies. It just all sounds so natural. But it isn’t.
You’re new at it, the baby has to be taught to latch and you have to be taught to take a hydrocodone before those first few sessions. On a whim, I took the class. Boy am I glad I did-best $25 I ever spent!
Before you leave the hospital, call the lactation consultant and have her watch you nurse. For a modesty-freak like me that was excruciating. But, she sees boobs all day. Her job is to help you be the best breastfeeding momma possible. Listen to her. And be sure to get her cell!
(note from Dianna – My husband couldn’t understand why I was freaking out about nursing Rachel. His comments? “But breastfeeding is natural!” Natural doesn’t mean easy.)
2. Get yourself a good nursing bra. Don’t be cheap.
Actually, get yourself 2-3 good nursing bras and don’t go shopping for them until after you have the baby. I could not believe how well endowed I became after my milk came in. The bras I bought pre-baby arrival just didn’t cut it. I went to a locally owned specialty maternity store and they were so incredibly helpful. They knew what I needed better than I did. You want a bra you can unclasp with one hand – trust me on that one – and one that can be machine-washed. Trust me again.
3. Enlist support. There are days when I was ready to throw in the towel. We all need a cheerleader and God blessed me with two.
One was my husband. That man is the reason I made it to week three with baby #1. I remember crying through one feeding and just saying to him, “I can’t do this. It hurts too bad and I’m so horrible at it.” He looked at me and said, “Then quit. If you think you’re so bad at it, then quit.” To prove him wrong, I kept nursing. What can I say? He knows me well and he knew I needed a kick in the hiney.
My other supporter was a fellow mom, just a few doors down in the neighborhood. Her son was a year older than mine and she was a treasure trove of helpful information. Dawn was my life-preserver for so many things.
The lansinoh was like heaven when I was in so much pain. After the first few weeks, I no longer needed it after every feeding and by the time I hit the two-month mark I wasn’t using it anymore. With subsequent babies, it just took about three weeks of regular use and then I was off to the races.
5. Get yourself a decent nursing cover. Mine was a Hooter Hider, but there are so many on the market now. Just make sure it’s big enough to cover you and baby and that it has the wired neck so you can peek at your baby while nursing.
It allowed me to discreetly nurse at the airport, during Mass, at a friend’s house, the park and anywhere else we went. It took one nursing session in the women’s restroom to convince me that no one should have to eat in the bathroom.
To date, I only had a handful of rude comments and they were completely offset by the many positive ones I received for nursing in public.
6. At each nursing session, try to alternate the side you start on. It’s highly likely you’ll forget. Just guess.
If you start to notice you’re a size triple-C on one side and a B on the other, you’ll figure it out.
It’s also helpful to occasionally switch up your nursing hold (football, cradle, etc.) Some babies choose a preference early on, but it does help initially with avoiding plugged milk ducts.
7. Speaking of the joys of plugged ducts, if you get one, don’t get discouraged. They 100% stink, but you can work them out. Just gently massage the area that’s plugged and nurse more often.
You can even pump between feedings, aiming the pump (or the baby, if you’re nursing) toward the area that’s plugged. Hot compresses help, as well. It might take a few nursing sessions or even a day or two to work them out, but keep at it.
8. Milk supply can be super tricky! I think it’s the #1 reason I hear about a mom weaning earlier than she’d like.
Write this one down, ladies, your milk supply is replenished while you sleep which means your best milk production is between 4-9am.
That’s just cruel, isn’t it?
That means you need to be nursing your baby in the wee hours if you’re trying to boost your production. The more you nurse, they more milk your body makes.
When you supplement with formula and skip a feeding, then your body automatically begins to make less. That’s why, when your baby goes through a growth spurt at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months, they nurse more. Subsequently, your body begins to make more, but only if you’re nursing more!
Basic law of supply and demand. You can try squeezing in a pumping session between feedings before 9am.
A safe organic supplement is Fenugreek. If you’re pregnant or on other meds, check with your pediatrician and/or OB-GYN first. Drink lots of water ,working in a nap when you can. HA, right. Just do your best.
9. Don’t get so engrossed with your technology (iPhones, computers, iPads, et al) that you forget to watch your baby eat. The milk drunk look is priceless. Those fat rolls? You. Those chubby cheeks? You. You are the reason your baby is gaining weight. On the days when you get down and out, take a moment to look at what you’re doing. It is miraculous and awesome. Don’t ever forget that.
10. My parting tip is the golden nugget. When my second child went in for his round of shots, a friend suggested I nurse him through the shots, instead of holding him down. Brill-iant. He briefly let out one yelp – quickly latched back on and finished his feeding. I was shocked and amazed.
Fast forward to baby number five, our preemie.
I took breastfeeding and pumping to a whole new level. He was unable to eat for much of the first six weeks, so I pumped and stored that liquid gold. When the NICU nurses would do procedures on him, like putting in a line or drawing blood, they would let him suck on “sweeties” via the pacifier. Tears gone.
The same principle applies to breastfeeding. That liquid gold you serve up is insanely sweet and serves as a natural pain-killer for your baby.
Of all my fancy tips and insight, there is one that trumps them all: The prayer time I got with my children. At 3am, when I was nursing my babies, the house was completely quiet. All I could hear was the contented sucking of my baby, my husband snoring and God’s voice. During those precious half hours, I offered up some awesome prayer time with God. It is among my most precious memories with my children – memories God specially selected for me and me alone. For there is nothing sweeter than nurturing life while talking to God. It is transformational.
Kathryn Whitaker is the mom of 5, ages 11 to 2. On her personal blog, Team Whitaker, she blogs about what she knows: carpool, big families, faith, prematurity, her beloved Aggies, sanity checks with her husband and keeping her head above water. It’s too bad you can’t hear her Texas twang, but she invites you to read along. Don’t miss her on Catholic Mothers Online, Facebook, Twitter, and of course, Pinterest. Want to make her happy? Send her a case of Dr Pepper.