Breastfeeding was something I didn’t do any research on during pregnancy until after childbirth. Oh, and this was after attending a breastfeeding class. While I was in the recovery room a few hours after giving birth, I vaguely remember the nurses say, “get her to latch,” “you need to place her head like this,” “her mouth needs to be wide open,”. As a first-time-mom, it was very challenging trying to breastfeed.
I am currently still on my breastfeeding journey with my now eight-month-old daughter. However, we had to overcome a lot to get to where we are today. First, my breastmilk didn’t fully come in till DAY 10 after she was born. Sounds worrying, I know. But I was determined. Determined to do what it took to feed my child.
Below are a few things that helped me during my breastfeeding journey. These tips come in handy for any new mama or mama-to-be.
1. Your milk may come in slower than expected: Yes, it does happen. Mine did. The first milk your body produces after childbirth is called Colostrum. The colostrum (thin and yellow-milky) produces a ton of antibodies to protect your newborn against diseases. At first, it may seem as though baby is not getting enough to eat because you don’t notice your milk forcefully coming out, but trust me, they are eating. Their tiny stomachs are getting just the right amount during each feed. If you are worried or concerned your baby is not feeding well or getting adequate breastmilk, contact your child’s medical practitioner right away or lactation consultant/nurse. Luckily, there are centers that provide a 24/7 hotline to reach in case of emergencies depending on your location. Before going crazy like I did, do a simple home test to check if baby’s feeding by monitoring the number of wet/soiled diapers they produce in 24hrs. I was told by my lactation consultant that the age of your baby in days is the number of wet diapers baby will have in the very early days of baby being born. For example, if your baby is 5 days old, he should have at least 5 wet diapers that day. This will eventually plateau at around the second week of baby’s birth.
2. Your body is your superpower: I didn’t know mothers had super powers until I became a mother. You are considered your baby’s feeding machine for as long as you are able. As stated earlier, my breastmilk didn’t fully come in until DAY 10 after my baby was born. She nursed frequently, say about 9 to 11 times every 24hrs until she was 7 weeks old. Because of how frequently newborns eat, mama is expected to work twice as hard in keeping up with baby’s feeding demands. You may have heard this before but I will say it again. Breastfeeding described in two words is about ‘supply’ and ‘demand.’ The more you feed, the more your body generates more milk. I know, it’s a magical experience so use your superpowers.
3. Surround yourself with a strong support group: One of the major reasons why some breastfeeding journeys end before they start is because mama lacks a strong supportive community. Although rewarding and very beneficial, breastfeeding can be painful, challenging, and time-consuming. Because of this you want to make sure your support system provides encouragement and cheerleading all the way. Also, ask other mothers on a similar journey or mothers who have successfully gone through the different stages of breastfeeding for advice and tips.
4. Consult with a lactation specialist: Working with a lactation consultant can be very advantageous; especially for a first-time-mom. I got a good amount of information from the lactation nurse I worked with just four days after my daughter was born. I didn’t know that to get my breastmilk supply up I needed to pump after each feeding session (at least during the early stages as my milk came in). Pumping also helped relieve me from engorgement, which could lead to something called mastitis where the milk ducts are clogged causing infection to the breast. Doing this helped me a great deal as I was determined to exclusively breastfeed my baby without having to supplement with formula only if it was necessary.
5. Nipple preparation: The good news here is that there is no physical way to prepare your body for breastfeeding because your body is already doing the work. However, because nipples come in different shapes and sizes it is important to prep the nipples for baby’s strong sucking by gently massaging around the areola where the sucking takes place. Getting baby to latch properly and carefully removing baby from the latch is very crucial in reducing nipple pain. Also, nursing on different sides for a certain amount of time is helpful in reducing wear and tear on one nipple over the other.
I hope these tips were helpful. I’d be covering the breastfeeding essentials that helped me in part two of this post. How did you prepare for breastfeeding?