25 Sep 5 Tips for a Breastfeeding Mom
One of the most amazing experiences of my life so far has been breastfeeding. When I became pregnant with my daughter, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but my reasons were purely logistical; I wanted to provide food for her in an efficient, nutritious and money saving manner. I was not yet aware of all the other wonderful parts of nursing like, the the deep bonding that occurs between you and your baby as you nurse; the comfort that nursing brings your child when they are sick, tired or just upset about something; and the feelings of empowerment and awe you have toward your body in its ability to create and provide this perfect food.
Though breastfeeding has been one of the most magical and beautiful experiences of my life, there have also been times of difficulty along the way. When my daughter arrived, she was very predictable and easy to nurse and we had few challenges. However, when I had my son I soon learned that he had a much different nursing style, which led to some difficulties. I’m thankful though, because of those challenges I learned more about breastfeeding than I would have otherwise. Here are five tips to help you get started on your exciting journey of breastfeeding!
Finding a nursing position that works for you and your baby is one of the most important first steps you can take on your nursing journey. There are many different nursing positions and every mom and baby have different preferences and needs, once you begin to learn what they are you’ll discover which positions work best for you. There are a few reasons it’s important to find the right position. First off, it’s likely you’ll be experiencing soreness as you heal from childbirth and begin nursing, so finding a comfortable position can help alleviate soreness and pressure on your neck and back. Another reason is that your baby may not latch or nurse well until you’ve found the right position for her. Lastly, a good nursing position is vital for achieving a proper latch, if the latch is wrong nursing can become painful for mom and baby won’t be able to nurse effectively.
The best way to find the right nursing position for you and your baby is to experiment with several different ones and determine which one works best. Hopefully you’ll have a lactation consultant available to you at the hospital as this is the best person to help with positions and everything breastfeeding related. I remember being so frustrated when I was in the early days of nursing my daughter because I couldn’t get her to latch well. My back and neck were in pain, and the position I was using didn’t allow either of us to be comfortable during our long nursing sessions. Once my lactation consultant showed me the football hold, things immediately started going better. There are many great resources online as well that detail all the different nursing positions.
It’s Supposed to be Hard at First
I was told by a well-meaning friend when I was pregnant, that breastfeeding is a natural thing and modern women make it more difficult than it needs to be. This statement, in my opinion, is half true and half untrue. Breastfeeding is a natural thing and shouldn’t be overthought. However, when you start nursing your baby it is important to remember that you are learning a new skill and it takes time for it to feel easy and natural. Keeping things in perspective is important because if you go into your breastfeeding journey expecting it to be a piece of cake, and then encounter challenges, you might want to give up. Go into the journey expecting some tough times. It’s not going to go perfectly smooth all the time, that’s okay, it’s how we learn. And it definitely gets easier as you gain experience.
Another breastfeeding truth to be prepared for is that in the beginning months you will feel like you’re nursing all the time. Young babies need to eat a lot; it’s different for each baby, but it’s fairly safe to say, your baby will be eating a lot for quite a while and you’ll probably feel like you’re constantly nursing. This is normal, they have to eat frequently because breastmilk is perfectly suited to their nutritional needs and easy for them to digest, so they have to replenish a lot. Your baby is filling up on her perfect first food, one that is designed to boost her immunity and protect her from so many different ailments. She is also using these sessions as a time to bond, cuddle and attach to you, and meet many of her other developmental needs. The frequent nursing also helps establish your milk supply as your body learns how much milk it needs to make for your baby’s needs.
It Gets Easier
Which brings us to my next point, it gets easier! Breastfeeding can feel daunting, confusing and draining at first. But, for me the beauty of it always outweighed the not so great stuff. Miraculously after a few weeks, you’ll find yourself effortlessly flowing in and out of nursing positions and helping your baby latch on and off with an ease you never thought possible. You’ll find yourself nursing in all kinds of positions and places that you never thought you would or could. Sit back and smile, you’ve come a long way. All your practice has paid off and now you can just sit back and enjoy the journey.
Co-sleeping is a much debated topic these days, and for good reason. New studies are showing that co-sleeping can be highly beneficial to the wellness of moms and babies. The other side of the debate highlights the dangers of this practice and is also important to acknowledge. My personal opinion is, when practiced safely, co-sleeping can greatly increase the amount of sleep that breastfeeding moms get and create an optimum environment for mom/baby attachment. Some new studies are even indicating that young babies who sleep near their primary caregiver actually align their breathing and body temperatures to match those of the caregivers. Another good option if you don’t want to co-sleep is to place a bassinette right next to your bed, this allows for many of the same benefits of co-sleeping.
If you decide to co-sleep, it is imperative to do it safely. You should never co-sleep if you have had any alcohol to drink, taken any illegal drugs or over the counter medications that can alter behavior or cause drowsiness. When co-sleeping it is also important to make sure that baby is next to the wall or in the middle of the bed between you and your partner to avoid any accidental falls. The bed should also be free of all blankets and pillows as they can create a suffocation hazard. I recommend researching safe co-sleeping practices before undertaking the practice as I have not covered them in great detail here.
Clogs and Mastitis
Be on the lookout for clogged milk ducts. Clogs can commonly occur during breastfeeding and if left untreated can turn into mastitis, an infection of the breast. Many moms never get clogged ducts or mastitis while others seem to struggle constantly with them. I had only heard of mastitis because my friend experienced it, so I was caught off guard when I got it and had very little knowledge of it. I didn’t experience clogs or mastitis while nursing my daughter, but with my son I experienced them numerous times and ended up with mastitis three times. During my experience I learned that my son’s eating style left me at more of a risk for them due to me being engorged frequently. There are many different things that can cause clogs and mastitis including; not emptying breasts frequently enough, eating a high fat diet, and intense arm exercises, to name a few.
Be on the lookout for the following indicators of clogs or mastitis; a painful area in your breast accompanied by a knot under the skin, and areas of redness or streaking on your breast. If you catch it early, you may be able to work the clog out before it becomes mastitis. To treat a clog, you should apply heat to the area and massage it frequently to loosen the clog. It’s also important to keep the affected breast as empty as possible by nursing or pumping on that side every two to three hours. If you develop a fever higher than 101 accompanied by flu like symptoms, the clog has likely become mastitis. At this point you should contact your doctor, who will prescribe antibiotics.
Breastfeeding can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life as well as providing an amazing opportunity to bond with your child. It may not come easily at first, but with practice and patience, you’ll be amazed at how quickly things fall into place. When the journey comes to an end you’ll look back with pride at all you’ve accomplished, and you’ll fondly remember those quiet moments spent nursing your baby as the rest of the world seemed to disappear.
About the author
Sarah Oxley is a writer, devoted student of life and lover of psychology and poetry. She is mother to two beautiful children who remind her each and every day of how to live more mindfully. She is motivated by a desire to inspire others to live their best lives and believes that life’s most important lesson is learning to be kinder to ourselves and others. Sarah is a contributor to KachyTVblog.