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How to Survive the First Weeks of Breastfeeding
While I’m not expert, and I’m definitely not a lactation consultant, I have successfully nursed two children in the last three years – my first nursed for 2.5yrs and with my daughter we are on week three going strong!
I am SUPER thankful that both times have been rather seamless, I know so many moms who had very difficult starts to their nursing journeys or that nursing turned into pumping or formula when they weren’t expecting it. SO, before going any further I just want to say WHICHEVER way you choose to feed your baby, you are a ROCKSTAR.
Fed is best and that’s the bottom line!
That said, my personal experiences have been with straight nursing so here are my tips on how to survive the first weeks of breastfeeding!
Note: As with all of my content, I am writing about my experience. I want you to know that I am not claiming to know everything, nor do I want you to use this advice in place of the advice of a pediatrician or a lactation consultant. Just read this if you need help, and talk it over with your personal medical professionals.
CHECK OUT MY POST “MUST HAVE PRODUCTS FOR THE BREASTFEEDING MOM”
Breastfeeding in the First Few Days
Ahhhh, the first time you breastfeed. What an amazing moment! Well, for some. Haha. It can be extremely stressful too. With my first it was very stressful, as I had just come out of a traumatic, emergency c-section. With my second, a planned c-section, it was more relaxed, and I felt like I was ready to tackle it, though still didn’t know what to expect. It is also hard after a c-section because you usually don’t get skin to skin right away and you’re also covered in wires monitoring your vital signs — not exactly the dream you were imagining but can still be beautiful!
Here is what you need to know about the first few days of breastfeeding:
1 // Skin to Skin
Even if it is delayed for the first time because you had a c-section, don’t worry. I didn’t get to hold my babies for the first hour of their lives but as soon as I could (in recovery) we did skin to skin and our breastfeeding journeys were seamless. Skin to skin is super important during those first few days so try to do it in the hospital and at home as much as possible.
Many hospitals are supportive of allowing mom and baby to still have this important time even in the operating room. Include this in your birth plan but understand that sometimes emergent situations don’t allow for immediate skin to skin. This was the case with my first, with my second we actually tried to do it but I was extremely uncomfortable laying flat on my back in the OR that it didn’t really work so I opted to just have my husband hold her until I was in recovery. It was really nice to have the options either way!
2 // Getting Baby to Latch & Practicing Your Positions
This time is all about baby and mom learning how breastfeeding works. What does a good latch look like? Which position is most comfortable?
My advice here is take advantage of the cure and lactation consultants in the hospital (or your midwife for a home birth) as they can show you exactly what a good latch looks like. And when you get that good latch its not only best for baby but it also is not painful at all for your nipples! This is how it was with my second, I had very little pain right at the beginning and then it was smooth sailing/no pain! See more latch tips below.
For us, the best position was the football hold at first. It felt natural and it also helped avoid putting weight on my sore abdomen and incision site. After about two weeks we switched to cradle hold and with my first we eventually went to side-lying often because it was super comfortable for me!
3 // Feed Frequently
It’s easy to get hung up, especially in the beginning, on how much milk your babe is getting, especially for breastfed babies because you can’t actually see what their intake is (as opposed to bottle-fed babies). My advice again is to try to stay calm and consult with a lactation specialist about your concerns, but remember, baby’s stomach is super tiny (the size of marble initially!). The amount of food they need is very, very small during those first days.
Note for c-section mamas — sometimes with a cesarean delivery your milk can be delayed, the advice I was given was to feed frequently, about every two hours, to promote my milk coming in and make sure my supply was sufficient.
4 // Colostrum Then Milk
Colostrum is very thick and concentrated breastmilk! The little bit you give to baby is liquid gold (it literally is a super golden color!). You won’t be leaking breastmilk all over quite yet, for me all three times I was postpartum it took about 2 days for my colostrum to change to milk.
Check out this informational pdf to for more info on how much food baby needs in the first 24 hours of birth compared to 8-10 days after birth!
5 // It Will Hurt
This was not something I expected, but it truly was painful for the first couple weeks with my first. They say that if the latch is correct, then it won’t be painful. That is definitely true, but the pain is mostly from baby nursing so frequently. I view it like this. Your nipples have to build up callous and stamina when it comes to nursing. Once that’s done it really doesn’t ever hurt again, unless baby cuts teeth later on! And good news for second-time mamas, the pain was much, much less the second time around!! For me only a couple days versus a couple weeks!
A proper latch is something you want to have checked over and over. With my first baby I had the lactation consultant come in almost every feeding while I was at the hospital. I wanted to be sure she could see it and help trouble shoot if there were any issues. You don’t want baby to just have your nipple in their mouth. It’s much more complex than that — baby has a lot of your areola in their mouth too.
LATCH TIP: MAKE A BOOB SANDWICH
Sounds weird, right? But truly, you want your boob to be flattened out, so grab the area around your nipples and pinch it to make it flat, then stick it inside baby’s mouth so that your nipple is far back down to their throat. I know it doesn’t sound very pleasant or official, but this graphic might help! Truly, try to consult a lactation consultant because they’re so incredibly helpful — especially when they can do an in-home visit to see you and baby in your everyday environment and assess your positions! Insurance sometimes will even cover this!
Visit Kelly Mom here for lots of info on proper latch!
Breastfeeding in the First Two Weeks
My first time breastfeeding after about five to seven days of breastfeeding the cracked nipples and overall soreness started to subside. I felt more confident in my ability to nurse, and started to notice that tingly letdown feeling each time I would feed Luca. My supply also started balancing out after the initial engorgement, and all-around I felt more confident in breastfeeding.
Still, it’s important to remember the following:
1 // Find a Community of Supportive Mamas
Basically, the reason I started my blog and Instagram was because I felt so alone in early motherhood with my first. For me, one of the keys to those early days was finding encouraging mamas/friends I trusted. Find an in-person support group locally (many hospitals offer them for free), or a mommy and me yoga class, get your husband to encourage you, call your breastfeeding friends, and DEFINITELY join a virtual support group on Facebook. I have been thinking about starting my own mama group on Facebook, let me know if that’s something you’d like to see!
2 // Engorgement
Engorgement is simply your milk supply evening out to fit what your baby needs. The cool thing about breastmilk production is that it’s supply and demand! So, as your feeding times become more regular in the first two weeks (and by regular I mean, they’re still most likely every two-three hours), your body will understand how much milk it needs to make to keep baby nourished.
Engorgement is weird. Your breasts get super full, and you wake up and they feel like rocks. The good news is that this doesn’t last forever. If you need to just take the edge off, consider using a Haakaa handheld pump. It’s quick and simple, and you can save the milk for later if needed, just make sure you don’t let out too too much (really only let out what’s needed to take the edge off) otherwise you could start dealing with oversupply — this happened to me for a few weeks with my first!
3 // Eat Lots & Drink Water!
This one is so important! You HAVE to eat! Breastfeeding hunger is so intense, wayyyy more intense than pregnancy hunger! Keep yourself fed, otherwise your postpartum hormones and the intense need to eat will consume you whole. It will affect your mood, your patience levels… everything!
My favorite easy and healthy breastfeeding snacks are hummus and crackers, apples with peanut butter (all day, every day), and lactation cookies – I love this company if you want pre-made cookies or I’ve used this recipe before to make my own and they are BOMB!!
Also, make sure to fill your water bottle constantly and drink more water than you think you need to, your body needs it to produce that high quality milk! On another note, if you are a Young Living member, I highly recommend continuing to drink your Ningxia daily and take your prenatal vitamins and supplements!
4 // Cluster Feeding
This super informative and article by Kelly Mom gave me a lot of comfort during those early days of nursing. Both of my babies have been cluster feedings in the evenings and it was comforting to know the behavior, though frustrating at times, was normal!
This is the Kelly Mom definition — Cluster feeding, also called bunch feeding, is when babies space feedings closer together at certain times of the day and go longer between feedings at other times. This is very common, and often occurs in the evenings. It’s often -but not always- followed by a longer sleep period than usual: baby may be “tanking up” before a long sleep. For example, your baby may nurse every hour (or even constantly) between 6 and 10 PM, then have a longish stretch of sleep at night – baby may even sleep all night.
This is 100% true for my second, she is currently cluster feeding between 5 and 10 PM and then will sleep long stretches (4 hours) at night, praise the lord! With my first it felt like he nursed CONSTANTLY, there was no determination of a certain time and at night he still woke up every 1.5-2.5 hours, it was rough. He was colicky, he had gastro issues for sure, it was purely survival mode with him. I wrote about my experience and things that helped us in this post if you want to read more.
5 // Use a Tracking App
You might be thinking, what the heck… why do I need an app to breastfeed my baby? Well, you totally don’t NEED one, but if you’re a first time / anxious mom like I was, you may want help remembering when baby ate, which side, for how long, how many wet and poopy diapers and how long she slept for. These are questions your pediatrician might ask for the first few weeks, and it’s much easier to track it through the app so you can start to recognize patterns. It made those first few weeks of breastfeeding my first so much easier on me, my second time around though I did not use any tracker. The name of the app I used is Baby Tracker, you can search for it on your phone in the app store!
Products I Swear By
Read this post to see all of the must-have, nursing mom products I swear by!
Surviving As a Mom of Multiples
One of the questions I’ve gotten most on Instagram recently – What do you do with your toddler while you’re nursing your newborn?
I actually was fortunate enough to have my husband home to help me during the first two weeks of having Elora. So he took on most of the entertain during those weeks. When he had to go back to work though, things got real and I started stressing.
For some reason a nursing mother is a toddler magnet. He wants to lay on top of me, lay on top of the baby, and stroke the baby’s face as she tries to nurse. Meanwhile, I’m trying to just make sure I get a good latch, ahhh! Not to mention I am still physically healing from a cesarean so I can’t chase him or pick him up or do very much at all besides sit and nurse and light housekeeping. It’s TOUGH, I feel you guys!
The best advice I can offer, and what I’ve resorted to, is either a) screen time, or b) an easy activity I don’t need to be involved in. Quick, pre-made activities like these Melissa & Doug Water Wow Pads or any of the Lovevery Kits (we LOVE these!!) may help buy you a half hour or so. But in full transparency we’ve been watching a lotttt of TV, and I feel no shame in admitting that!
I hope you found this post helpful, encouraging and relatable, let me know in the comments if you have any tips to add for the new nursing mama!
Check out my post HERE on my top 12 must-have items for the newly nursing mom!
And this post HERE on tips for breastfeeding after a cesarean!
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