I’ve been wanting to share this post for a while now to help any new mamas or expectant first-time mamas who are thinking about breastfeeding. I have been breastfeeding now for more than 10 weeks (Woohoo! Each week is a milestone!) and the difference between where I am now and where I was at weeks 2 and 3 are like night and day.
Here are 5 things that helped me survive my breastfeeding woes in about 4 weeks:
- Education/Prep – Do as much as you can to educate yourself before your baby comes.
- While I was still pregnant, I met with Lindsey Shipley of Lactation Link who is a certified lactation specialist. She came to my home and met with Matt and me in person to provide an overview of what to expect with breastfeeding, especially in those first few days in the hospital. I have to admit, because of all my preparation, I thought I would completely bypass any pain during breastfeeding. Reality check: that’s impossible. You should expect to have some nipple shearing (scabbing) in the first couple weeks while your nipples adjust to their new role. But getting a good latch from the get-go will help speed that adjustment period along. One of the best tips Lindsey gave me was the “30-second rule”. If you feel extreme, toe-curling pain for longer than the first 30 seconds of each feeding, that means something is wrong with the latch. So you need to break the latch and start again. This tip alone saved me!
- Pumping – I highly recommend pumping in addition to nursing, whether or not you’re going back to work.
- I began pumping the second day my milk came in and pumped for a few minutes after each feeding. Lindsey has a video with more guidance on how to begin pumping, but the two things I’ve loved most about pumping is the ability to store milk in case of an emergency (even if that emergency is just getting out of the house for a few hours) and the ability to include Matt in some of Benj’s feedings (both as a bonding experience for him and to give me extra sleep on the weekends). Pumping is also a great alternative if you run into some issues early on with cracking or bleeding nipples and need to give them a break. I was afraid to bottle feed Benj too early because you always hear about nipple confusion, but we introduced bottled breastmilk at 2 weeks (right around the time I hit a bump in the road and had some bleeding on my right nipple) and it was such a blessing. We only gave Benj one bottle a day, but it was enough to give me more time to heal and ensure he would continue to nurse.
- Pain Relievers/Healing Aids – If/when you’re nipples get really sore, consider using black tea bags and a prescription nipple cream.
- These two remedies made a world of difference for me. I used Newman’s Ointment (get it from your doc before you even deliver so you have it at the hospital). When my right nipple began to bleed at the end of week 2, I met with the lactation specialist at Benj’s 2-week pediatrician visit and she recommended applying black tea bags as an additional analgesic remedy. I was extremely disciplined about using the tea bags after each and every feeding, followed by Newman’s Ointment, and the cracks and scabs were gone by the end of week 3.
- Switching Latch Positions – Sometimes the simplest solution to allow your sore nipples to heal is to try different holds.
- Football hold was my go-to for the first 6-8 weeks because it was easier for me to see the quality of Benj’s latch. Now that he’s getting bigger and heavier, cradle position is much more comfortable for me. When I tried to switch to the cradle hold at the end of week 2 (because Benj seemed to keep choking on my milk in football hold at that point), I didn’t realize he wasn’t latching well on my right side and that’s what led to the bleeding. Thankfully, I was able to switch back to football hold again to allow that side to heal. I still get some tenderness on the right nipple when cradle feeding, so I just pull out my Newman’s Ointment and switch back to football hold for a few feedings if needed.
- Resources/Support System – Know who you can call on for help when you need it.
- Just when things started to go smoothly, something new would happen that I didn’t expect and I’d feel like I was starting all over again. It can be so discouraging. That’s why it’s helpful to know ahead of time who you can call on for support. My mom was my first and most convenient resource. Just having someone to discuss my concerns with was helpful even if she didn’t have all the answers. I’d also turn to Lindsey’s videos for refreshers and found it convenient to meet with the lactation specialist each time I’d take Benj to the pediatrician. Don’t underestimate your husband, either. Just last week Benj seemed to be on a nursing strike. He literally didn’t want to nurse for about a day and half so we gave him bottles (thank you, breastmilk storage) until he got past it. But it stressed me out like crazy! And when I finally got him nursing again, it was my husband who sat beside me and helped me calm Benj and get him to latch again. So grateful for his support!
Breastfeeding is hard, but as you’ve probably heard from everyone who has done it successfully, it is SO worth it. Benjamin is growing so quickly now and even though I’m still waking up in the middle of the night with him and I’m tired all the time, I am so grateful I’ll have these special memories of just the two of us. I kept telling myself from the day he was born that I knew it wouldn’t last long, and it really doesn’t. I cry at night sometimes when I’m sitting in the rocking chair in his dimly lit nursery and he’s fallen asleep on my shoulder. Soon he won’t need me the way he needs me now, and as wonderful as it is to see him grow and learn and become more independent, I also want to freeze time and hold on to these sweet moments we share together.
I know many of you are moms already, so I’d love to hear about your nursing experiences and what helped you keep going when you wanted to quit. In the beginning, I was always Googling things while feeding Benj in the middle of the night and found forums with real-life experiences to be super helpful. So I hope my story and yours can help a worried new mom when she needs it.
Thanks for stopping by!