Pregnancy, as a whole, is such a magnificent and sometimes overwhelming experience, especially for a first time mom. The breastfeeding experience is usually one of the aspects that moms-to-be fret about. I know it was for me. The first thing that gave me sleepless nights and countless hours of online research was the birth process itself and second after that was breastfeeding. I had so many questions like: “Am I going to be able to breastfeed my baby? Is it going to hurt? How do I do it?” etc. I avidly read everything I could, from official sites like WHO (World Health Organization) or CDC to articles written by moms, kindly sharing their experience and breastfeeding tips. In this article, I’ve compiled the best breastfeeding tips for new moms, based on my personal experience as a new mommy.
I cannot stress this enough! When done correctly, breastfeeding is not a painful experience. I remember reading many articles where moms shared heart-breaking stories of the horrors they’ve been through while nursing their babies. I have to say that these articles don’t do much for morale. But nonetheless, it’s good to read experiences like these as well which really show the infinite strength that a mother has. However, I feel the need to say that these stories are not the norm. So don’t let them get you down!
Most women successfully breastfeed their babies with no pain at all. There is no reason to believe it will be different for you. If, however, you do feel pain, ask for help from a breastfeeding consultant or any authorized medical personnel. Under no circumstance just clench your teeth and continue doing it. Why would you put yourself through that pain and suffering when there is a solution?
About a day after starting breastfeeding, your nipples may start to feel a little irritated. No surprise there. They’re not used to such treatment. I know that there are many products for sore nipples, but for me, Multi-Mam Lanolin was a real life-saver. In general, creams based on lanolin are very good. As soon as I felt a tingly sensation in my nipples I applied the cream and it calmed them down immediately. The great thing about Multi-Mam is that it’s completely natural so you don’t necessarily have to wash it off before nursing your baby. Ideally, start using the cream immediately after your first breastfeeding, so make sure you buy the product before your little one comes.
Another question/worry that moms have is whether they will have enough milk to feed their little angels. Rest assured, your body usually produces the perfect amount of milk. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. The more milk your baby drinks, the more your body will produce.
However, if you feel that you don’t have enough milk, try using a breast pump in between feedings. This will stimulate milk production. Also, it is important that you have a balanced and healthy diet and lots of hydration (water).
After I gave birth, the nurse at the hospital recommended that I drink as much lactation inducing teas as I possibly could. Just to get an idea, these are the herbs that are said to stimulate and increase milk supply: fennel (also good for colicky babies), moringa (also known as horseradish tree), stinging nettle, fenugreek, raspberry leaves, coriander, sweet cumin and the list could go on. All of these are called galactagogues as they promote and increase the flow of a mother’s milk. You can buy ready-made teas that combine many herbs for the best results possible.
I remember drinking liters and liters of the stuff and although I can’t say with absolute certainty that it is because of these teas that I had more than enough milk for my baby, I like to believe that they helped. Anyway, they’re not harmful so it’s worth giving it a try.
There are many breastfeeding positions and after trying most of them, you will probably settle for 1 or 2 that are the most comfortable for you. But before I tell you my favourite breastfeeding positions, I have to say that handling your baby may feel awkward at the beginning (I felt so clumsy and scared that I might drop him), but I promise that it will become easier and soon you will feel like you’ve been doing this for ages. Since most babies require very frequent feedings (mine demanded titi every 2 hours like clockwork), finding a comfortable feeding position is crucial. The most common are:
– the Cradle Hold where the baby’s head is resting on mom’s arm, near the elbow. Mom’s arm supports baby’s head and body. Alternatively, you can support the baby’s head with the opposite arm (the Cross-Cradle Hold).
– the Clutch Hold or Rugby Ball Hold, you hold your baby underarm, as if holding a clutch bag, making sure you support his/her neck and head. For this position, it would be good to have a pillow under the baby for better support and comfort.
– A side-lying position where mom and baby are lying down facing each other, the baby’s mouth is in line with the nipple.
– Laid-back position or biological nursing. Mom lies down on a bed, sofa or recliner chair with baby’s belly on her stomach. Make sure that baby’s airways are clear, especially with newborns. This position is called biological nursing because it stimulates the baby’s natural feeding instincts (if you put a newborn on your tummy, s/he will crawl to your breast).
As for me, after trying each of these breastfeeding positions, I settled for the Cradle Hold (that’s how he usually falls asleep) and my favourite, the Side-lying position which in my opinion is the most comfortable especially if you nurse your baby during the night.
It might be a good idea to buy a breastfeeding pillow especially if your baby takes a long time nursing and you end up with numb arms and very sore muscles. Such pillows can be placed under the baby for better support, under your arm for more comfort or behind your back. You can use it later on as well, as support for a baby who starts sitting down.
Probably the most important aspect of breastfeeding, in my opinion, is the baby’s first latch-on. Ideally, the baby latches on well the first time and it’s smooth sailing from there. This was the part I was most nervous about. After reading articles about other moms’ bad experiences and how painful it was, and how they were reduced to tears by the intense pain (some even said that it was worse than the birth itself!) I was left with an intense feeling of fear. Although, as I said at the beginning, it’s good to read bad experiences as well so you know what not to do, those experiences are not the norm, so don’t be put off by them.
I will say it as often as I can: breastfeeding and the baby latching on are NOT supposed to hurt! The funny thing is that while you’re pregnant you swallow a great deal of information about everything but when you find yourself face to face with your tiny baba it’s like everything flies right out of your head. So my advice is to break down the information into the most important points.
When I held my baby boy for the first time and was about to breastfeed him, what I knew was that I was supposed to support his head with one hand and with the other guide the breast to his mouth. I had to touch my nipple against his/her upper lip, this will cause the baby to open his/her mouth. When the baby’s mouth was wide open, (like a little yawn) that’s when I had to bring the baby to my breast. Make sure that s/he takes a big part of the areola (the pink circle around the nipple that became dark brown during pregnancy) into his/her mouth and not just the nipple. Baby’s chin should be completely touching your breast.
If you don’t get it the first time, don’t worry. Try again! To get the baby to unlatch, simply slide your finger inside the corner of his/her mouth to break the suction. Try as many times as you have to, but do not continue nursing your baby if you feel pain. I got a good latch after the third try.
If you try and try and still don’t get a good latch, don’t despair. Ask for help from a lactation consultant, a breastfeeding specialist, a midwife, a nurse or your doula.
Congratulations! You managed to get your baby to latch on perfectly and the breastfeeding process is a unique, wonderful experience that allows you and your baby to bond. But wait! You still have to worry about:
– Engorgement– your breasts become quite tender because of too much milk building up. Your breasts may also feel warm and there may be some redness present. Also, sometimes low fever might be present. The solution is to feed your baby as often as possible as well as using a breast pump. It is very important to empty the breast.
– Plugged ducts– this happens when the milk duct doesn’t drain properly. You will feel a tender lump on your breast. The solution is to nurse your baby from the affected breast as often as possible.
– Mastitis (breast infection)- it may feel similar to plugged ducts but it’s usually accompanied by fever and flu-like symptoms, nausea, and vomiting. Again, your baby is part of the solution- nurse him/her from the affected breast to keep the milk flowing. Also, a gentle massage of the breast can help. Make sure you get as much rest as possible to help your body recover. If the fever doesn’t go away and you still feel ill after 24 hours, go see your doctor.
When my little ray of sunshine was about 4 months old, I woke up with quite a tender left breast. After a few hours, I started feeling feverish. I made sure that I emptied the affected breast every 2 hours and it worked. The fever broke, the tenderness in the breast went away and I felt well again.
To me, this is one of the most wonderful periods in my life. I know that the closeness and the bond that I have with my baby right now is unique. So, take full advantage of it for times flies by so quickly. Breastfeed your baby for as long as you can. There is no greater gift that you, as a mother, can give to your child. Breast milk is invaluable for his/her development and I believe that there are no downsides to breastfeeding, only advantages. So, worry not, you’ve got this!