Help Make Your Breastfeeding Experience Painless & Simple With These 12 Tips
A friend of mine recently sent me the following message:
“So I’m due next Monday and I’ve been hearing horror stories about breastfeeding. I know that you had a good experience so do you have any tips for me? A friend of mine got mastitis? Twice and said it was the WORST. I’m so scared Any tips/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!”
Believe it or not, I had the exact same fears when I was pregnant. Fortunately, I met some amazing women who passed down their knowledge to me.
Here are some tips that helped me have a seamless, happy, and easy breastfeeding experience:
1. Moisturize those suckers
My cousin jokes that the statement, “use nipple cream when you breastfeed” should be written on billboards. Her experience went from bloody cracked nipples with her 1st baby to easier feedings with her 2nd thanks to nipple cream.
Everyone has different types of skin and I suppose some women have less issues in this area than others. Most women I know claim nipple cream makes a HUGE difference. Once a newborn sucks for milk, moisture from the surface of your nipples may go dry after every feeding. Then, as a baby continues to gnaw with their gums, suck, and lick your nipples, they may potentially go raw, crack, and bleed. OUCH!!! To prevent this issue, you’ve got to maintain the moisture in your nipples. Keep in mind, it’s best to PREVENT issues than to repair damage. It’s especially true when you breastfeed because once the cycle of damage begins, fire from hell might be released on those pretty little nips of yours. Prevention is the best way to go. Keep those suckers moisturized.
Some moms report that simply squeezing a little extra milk onto the surface of the nipple and spreading it around gives them enough moisture to prevent issues. In my case, I didn’t want to take any chances. I was gifted Lansinoh‘s Lanolin and it worked GREAT. (You can also use the lanolin on your wool cloth diapers if you get into that sorta thing).
I slathered that stuff on before and after feedings. I know many mamas love Motherlove nipple cream as well.
Once your breasts build up enough resistance to your baby’s feedings you don’t need any moisture support.
[In all honesty, I had ONE day where my nipples began to feel a little tingly and raw. On that day alone, I used a nipple shield like this one, and BOY they gave me the relief I needed!! After my nipples felt better, I returned to feeding without the shield. Now, I’ve met a lactation consultant that hates the fact nipple shields are available for general purchase because if used incorrectly, it could negatively impact the breastfeeding experience. It’s important not to get your baby dependent on the shield if you don’t need it (occasionally a small percentage of women need it for various medical reasons), but otherwise, you want baby to suck the natural nipple. Saliva from your baby’s mouth actually signals your nipples to formulate specific types of milk for your baby. AMAZING I KNOW!!! Also, prolonged use of the nipple shield is counterproductive if you’re trying to get your nips babyproofed 😉 ]
2. Have a breastfeeding control panel:
- WATER. Have it at hand at all times. It’s common to get super thirsty in the middle of a feeding.
- Nipple Cream.
- Snacks. You’ve gotta nourish yourself so you can feed your baby. Save yourself the hassle of getting up in the first couple weeks after your baby is born and stash some healthy snacks at an arms reach so you can munch even while your baby is sucking away!
- A Pillow. Believe this or not, you DON’T need a breastfriend, or any other type of booby boppy contraption. In fact, my very crunchy breastfeeding support group recommends NO breastfeeding pillows, because they feel it promotes stiff breastfeeding sessions. A regular pillow that can help support your arm as you rest in a more reclined position in bed is more than sufficient.
- Journal or a phone app to track feedings. It’s pretty convenient to track when you fed and how long. In my case, I really think having a strong schedule helped me set a good rhythm and sleep schedule for my son naturally. In the first few weeks of life, I fed on demand and eventually transitioned from 45 min blocks all the way up to 3 hour blocks. In the beginning, I suggest to feed with both breasts to help stimulate milk production. Spend 15-30 minutes on each breast. Then as milk stabilizes, you can get into your own groove and alternate breasts.
- Some sort of towel or burp cloth. You’ll need to wipe up things here and there. Keep cloth nearby for little messes.
- Nursing Pads. When you’re home, you can let excess milk flow into small wash towels, or cut outs from an old shirt you have laying around. (If you really want to save milk, you could allow the milk from your let-down flow into a cup for later use). As often as possible, air out your nipples through a loose shirt or no shirt at all. A combination of stress on the body, raw nipples, and constant moisture can lead to infections. Especially if you’ve been on any antibiotics, you’re increased risk of yeast infections. When you’re out and about, nursing pads come in handy. Disposable ones have a nice waterproof layer that help prevent leakage past the absorbable material. Reusable, washable breast pads are also great because they’re better for the environment and less expensive over time. I saved disposable nursing pads for times when I was at nicer events and didn’t want to chance any leakage onto clothing. For regular errands less than a couple hours, I found washable pads more than sufficient. You just want to make sure they’re washed thoroughly and your nipples don’t sit in anything soggy too long. The last thing you want is for your nursing pads to host germs.
3. Mother’s Milk Tea
Fenugreek is the ingredient that helps stimulate greater milk production in Mother’s Milk tea. My postpartum doula was the biggest mother’s milk tea advocate and made me drink at least 3-5 cups of it as soon as my baby was born. Sure enough, after 2-3 days of colostrum, my milk came in just fine. I can’t say how my milk would have been without the tea, but I can’t complain about taking a few moments daily to calm down, relax, and have some nice tea!
4. Have a support system
Save yourself a ton of hassle and learn from other mothers. Whether it’s online, through family, friends, or a local breastfeeding group, get support when you need it. Le Leche League is an excellent resource and they have support groups all around the globe. I simply joined a local Le Lech League Facebook support group and they helped me every time I had a question!
There’s so much of this “supermom” talk everywhere that I feel so many women get pressured into trying to know all and be all after a baby is born. Don’t let pride get to you. It might be midnight and you feel a little lump in your breast that’s a bit painful. You wouldn’t know on your own that a little electric toothbrush could help break buildup, or that you can take a hot shower, express a little milk, place a hot compress on the area, make sure you’re not blocking your ducts when you sleep, rotate your child in all sorts of positions to get the milk freed up in various parts of the breast, or that it usually takes a day for the pain to go away after the milk has cleared through. Let community help you. Preventing issues is better than fixing damage.
Don’t let your breast ducts get into an infected state. Do all the things I stated above if you feel any buildup, and then give it a day. If you continue to feel pain but your condition is not serious, contact a local support group or lactation consultant. Keep in mind, not all doctors are all that supportive or knowledgeable about breastfeeding. If you’re not getting enough support from one source, seek out a 2nd opinion or even a 3rd.
My greatest resource was a local breastfeeding group that I visited a total of 4 times within the first 6 months postpartum. It was great to get answers to questions and learn about issues before I faced them. The group was instrumental in the success and happiness of my breastfeeding experience.
If you have serious issues breastfeeding and something feels wrong, consult a lactation consultant ASAP. A trained baby chiropractor could also help adjust your baby to help improve sleep and digestion.
5. Eat Good Food
Try to plan ahead during pregnancy to have meals prepared for you at least the first week after baby is born. I’ve heard some moms prep freezer meals ahead of time. Whatever it is, try to have stress free meals at hand so you can nourish your body and help produce great milk for the little one.
Too much stress and a lack of rest is a recipe for infection or sickness whether you’re breastfeeding or not. If you’re having your first child and you and your partner can try this out, I highly recommend a sleep schedule like this one. I got such good rest with a newborn and I really believe it contributed to the health and happiness of my family.
7. Have confidence
Your body is healthy and whole. You are not broken, and no matter what fears you have inside, your breasts are capable of making milk. Your body knows just what to do.
Marianne Neifert estimates that “as many as 5% of women may have primary insufficient lactation because of anatomic breast variations or medical illness that make them unable to produce a full milk supply despite heroic efforts.” [Neifert MR (2001). “Prevention of breastfeeding tragedies.” Pediatr Clin North Am 48(2): 273-97.] Other research I’ve read brings that number down to .5%. Don’t begin your breastfeeding journy believing you’re that .5%. There are so many reasons why some women don’t or can’t breastfeed and most of the time it does not have to do with a physical inability. Your labor experience, past trauma, stress, lack of support, and lack of education all impact your ability to breastfeed. Your body is fully capable if you are willing to accept it. Also, your breastfeeding experience from child 1 to 2 can be completely different. So if you had bad past experience, don’t let that get you down.
8. Feed on demand.
Your milk supplies as there is a demand. I fed on demand nearly 20 times the first day of my baby’s birth because I wanted to help stimulate my nipples and supply. Regular and frequent stimulation of the nipples are a great way to help encourage a stronger milk supply.
9. Let The Nipple Disappear
The one simple tip regarding the baby’s latch I have is to try and stuff the entire nipple into the baby’s mouth. It’s incredible how quickly buildup and pain would begin if my baby had a shallow latch. In the first several months, it’s also good to change up breastfeeding positions here and there. Kelly Mom is an excellent resource for more latch tips.
10. Disengage Correctly
Your baby’s mouth becomes a little vacuum seal once it is latches. If you try to yank your baby’s head off without breaking the seal first, your nipples will most likely go raw pretty quickly. Imagine pulling on your nipples with a clamp. That’s what you’d be doing if you don’t break the seal. At the end of a feeding, gently stick your finger into the baby’s mouth and allow the baby to disengage. Then pull their head off the boob.
11. Try Not To Exclusively Pump
Washing bottles, cleaning breast pumps, sanitizing parts, and storing breast milk all take time and money. If you can help it, save yourself the trouble and pump only when you need to.
In my case, I had to go back to work within 3 months. I learned early on that babies often adapt to whatever they are conditioned to and some habits are harder to break than others. That’s why I introduced the bottle within 2 months to help my baby get used to a different form of feeding. My husband fed him one bottle a day. This gave my husband extra time to bond with the baby. I was able to find a great balance between pumping when I wanted to and feeding directly a majority of the time. Especially when you’re out and about, direct breastfeeding is so convenient. You just pop on and off! If you pump and feed, you’ve got to get the milk to the right temperature, wash the bottle afterwards, and/or lug around your pump.
12. Your Baby Will Lose Weight
Keep in mind that after birth, it is very normal for a newborn to lose weight within the first week. A weight loss of 5% in the first week of life is considered normal for the bottle fed infant. A loss of 7% is average in the first week for the breastfed infant, 10% is the absolute maximum (Lawrence and Lawrence 397-398).
Research clearly shows that breastfed babies and formula fed babies grow at different rates starting at about 4 months of age. However, most growth charts are based only on formula fed babies’ growth, which leads many breastfeeding moms wondering if their baby is “normal.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has worked to develop new growth charts based on breastfed babies, but not all physicians are using these when making their assessment.
Note that physicians all have varying levels of knowledge and support for breastfeeding. It’s helpful to find a doctor that’s well informed about breastfed babies and/or has a breastfed baby in their family!
All in all, trust your body. You are strong, capable, and more than enough no matter what size breasts you have!
We were near the end. I returned to my pre-pregnancy size and milk dropped to less than 1oz each. Then, he got sick. #lelecheleague shares, “Through your breast milk, you give your baby immunities to illnesses to which you are immune and also those to which you have been exposed. Nursing also allows your baby to give germs to you so that your immune system can respond and can synthesize antibodies! This means that if your baby has come in contact with something which you have not, (s)he will pass these germs to you at the next nursing; during that feeding, your body will start to manufacture antibodies for that particular germ. By the time the next feeding arrives, your entire immune system will be working to provide immunities for you and your baby. If you are exposed to any bacteria or viruses, your body will be making antibodies against them and these will be in your milk. Breast milk also contains a host of other immune molecules that also help protect your baby from germs.” when they say breast is best…it’s no joke. Breastmilk isn’t just one formula…it constantly changes and adapts to your child’s needs. ✊ so here I am again, in this sacred space, doing what my body was meant to do. #breastfeeding #workingmom #momdiaries #breastisbest #bumpintoreality
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