- Yesterday at the breastfeeding group, the evening's topic was "What piece of breastfeeding advice would you give a new mom?" There were lots of great suggestions from the ladies in the group. I had some but I wasn't able to contribute since Mr. E was a very distracted nursling. I thought I would share a few of the good ones I heard last night along with some from my experience.
- It will hurt, but not shouldn't months later. One of the moms in the group shared this and I nearly got whiplash from nodding in agreement. Yes, nursing hurts like hell those first few weeks. Nipples get chapped and cracked initially and then it gets better. I suppose it's a little bit like playing guitar - fingers need to develop callouses to play effectively. There will be a bit of pain while you and baby get the hang of things. If there is still pain after a few months, then there may be a deeper issue and a lactation consultant should be called. That being said...
- It will get easier. It really will. I don't know when, but it will get easier. For us, it happened around six weeks. All of a sudden, E was latching on like a pro and I knew exactly how to hold him. I can only equate it to the trite comparison of a light bulb turning on. It was incredible and my confidence went through the roof! We haven't looked back since then.
- You need unwavering, unflinching support. I wanted to quit a number of times, but had two particularly memorable breakdowns where I refused to get out of bed and nurse E. Both happened at about 2-3 weeks. Both were caused by stress, hormones, and a lack of sleep. Husband had to call for back up. Thankfully, D and back up kept me breastfeeding and I am so thankful for it.
- Make friends with other nursing mamas. Your partner may be great support, but no one understands nursing like another nursing mom. Whether it's an online forum, a LLL meeting, or through a birthing class, find some women in the same boat as you. I had at least two good girlfriends with nurslings right around E's age. I would text them to say "Is your baby doing this??" or "Get me out of this house, I need to interact with grown ups!"
- Using a bottle or pacifier does not make you a quitter. I had to introduce a paci after about 6 weeks because E would get really angry while nursing. Turns out he wanted to comfort nurse and was getting upset at the milk coming out. Enter the paci. We gave him a bottle at about 8 weeks because I knew I would be going back to work at 12 weeks and wanted to make sure that he took to the bottle. He did and lucky for me, he nursed just as well as before the bottle. We didn't have any issues with nipple confusion. I know this is not always the case.
- For every woman who breastfeeds without difficulty, you will find one who has fought hard to get to where she is. E's first plane trip was out west to visit D's family. I shared with D's aunt and cousin all the issues we had nursing. This was the first they'd ever heard of issues like mine because all their babies (there were six babies between the two of them) latched on just fine. Lucky lucky mamas! Almost all of my nursing mom friends have had issues: lip/tongue ties, elimination diets, latch issues, pallet issues, supply issues.... I could go on. This is where #4 comes in especially handy.
- It's okay to ask for help. There are people who are trained to do this. Most are very good at it. Go to a LLL meeting or call a lactation consultant. If you feel like something is wrong, chances are that there's something wrong. I had to see four lactation consultants before one helped me. An in-home visit is ideal.
- Take some time for yourself. It's really okay to do so. I initially started this blog to keep myself accountable for doing things for just me (it has since morphed into what you're currently reading). After D had gone back to work I started getting really stir crazy being stuck in the house all day. It was January and I wasn't comfortable taking E out by myself. When D would get home, he would take the baby and I would go out. Not for a long time, but to go get milk from the grocery store or something little like that. It forced me to take off the sweat pants and put on jeans and realize that I can be a grown up. As E got older, I was able to go get a pedicure or go to the mall or do something that was more than 15 minutes. It was important for me to have a little while to myself to remember that I am more than a milk machine. Ironically, I would have to go home quicker than anticipated because I was engorged and leaky.
There you have it. My list of eight things I wish someone had told me about before I started nursing. I wanted to make it an even ten, but it is late. What advice would you give a new breastfeeding mom?? Leave me a comment.
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