Ok, there is a lot to learn about breastfeeding, and I am by no means an expert, but I am able to share my experience and what worked best for me. The lactation consultants I have spoken with have always been kind, extremely helpful, and happy to do so. So, if you are ever in doubt, give your hospital, or doctor, or pediatrician a call, and they will most likely be able to give you a number for one of these helpful human beings. Also, do what works best for you, always, this is just my experience, but do not feel like you need to do it my way, do it your way, you're the momma, but I hope this helps all the same.
Ok, so back to what I can share with you. Breastfeeding is extremely hard in the beginning, but then becomes easier and easier until you do it automatically without thinking. Like any new skill, breastfeeding takes a lot of practice. So, don't worry, it is perfectly alright to not know what you are doing.
With our first baby we were very naive about all things baby. We did not attend any classes before hand, believing that this is a natural experience that a lot of human beings go through, how hard can it be? Very hard is the answer, and it perplexes me to this day that no one stated this to us in the months we were expecting our little bundle of joy. Sure, if I had sought out this information for myself, it is right there in black in white, but as I mentioned, we did not seek out information, we believed all would be well, we are two intelligent individuals, we can handle it.
Anyways, so, fast forward to the day we have our first son, Eli. Fortunately, our hospital had a lactation consultant who made rounds and visited and helped new parents understand the ins and outs of breastfeeding, as well as, nurses who also helped teach us how to position our baby and how to assist our little one to latch on. As with learning most new skills, I struggled. Believe it or not, my little one did not know what he was doing either at this stage of the game, and we both learned how to make breastfeeding work. I think it took me a couple of months before I was really able to breastfeed without struggling, but I kept trying everyday, every feeding, until it wasn't difficult, and I enjoyed nourishing my little munchkin.
I mostly had a hard time with getting my baby latched on. Their mouth has to be open a certain way, their lips kind of curl back to look like a fishes and take in as much of the breast into their mouth as possible, sorry if this is too much info, just skip ahead if it is. And you have to hold your breast in such a way that it is supported while they are feeding. Otherwise, the breast is too heavy for them to hold in their mouth, and inevitably it is uncomfortable for me when they are nursing this way. They do not get as much milk either which will result in them needing to nurse longer/more often. So, after much practice, this becomes a natural thing to do when feeding my baby, and he began to get the hang of latching on properly too. But as I mentioned, a lactation consultant is an ideal individual to really tackle any issue you are confronted with while breastfeeding. Attend a breastfeeding class while pregnant to give you a head start on this whole thing. That's what I should have done.
I also want to give new moms a heads up about possible complications related to breastfeeding. Yeast infections can occur, and it is very painful to nurse if you have such an infection. Mastitis is another painful situation where a milk duct is clogged causing the breast to be painful and inflamed and may result in a fever and achiness. Initially, nipples are sore and tender until the skin acclimates to being nursed on, but this discomfort should lessen over time. If you experience pain that increases or does not get better over time, consult your doctor. A few days after birth, breasts become engorged, and are very painful when milk initially comes in, then they settle down to the new normal size after a couple of days. So, to be sure, it's painful and uncomfortable initially, but it does get better.
I tell expecting moms to give themselves two months. It will get better, not just the breastfeeding, but the whole deal. After a couple months, you will get to know your little one, and will know the best ways to comfort them, and what kind of schedule to expect, as far as, feeding and sleeping, but initially this will be chaotic with loads of sleep deprivation.
And while I'm thinking about it, I want to mention sleep. It is in your best interest to sleep when your baby sleeps. During those first few weeks, do not try to catch up on chores while your baby sleeps during the day, go take a nap. You are recovering from labor and your body needs time to rest and heal. As I mentioned in my post about what to bring to the hospital, limit the number of visitors that come the first few weeks/months. You do not need to be entertaining when you should be napping or showering or eating. The most important thing is for you to take good care of yourself, so you can take care of your little one.
So, don't stress to much about not knowing what to do when you get home with your new family member, try to be patient with yourself and your partner. This is new for both of you, well all three of you, and you'll get there I promise.
Ok, back to breastfeeding. I know this is long, but trust me, this could go on forever, but I'll stick to the basics. Pumping. So, with Eli, I had to go back to work about 5 weeks after I had him, and I wanted to continue to breastfeed him, so I had to come up with a game plan of how to make that happen. I got a Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump, and asked a lactation consultant what my best course of action would be. She recommended not pumping until after the first two weeks so that my milk supply could be determined by my little one rather than the pump. Then, she said to pump once a day every day to build up a stash of frozen milk. Once I returned to work, I would pump twice a day on work days to maintain a supply of milk. My workplace was very family friendly and accommodating. I was a teacher, so, I was able to pump during my lunch break and in the afternoon during my conference period. The Medela pump I used also came with a small cooler and ice pack where I could store what I pumped that day until I returned home. This pump also had a cord that could be plugged into the wall, as well as, a back up battery powered cord in case I did not have access to a plug which is a good idea, because you do not want to find yourself without power and needing to pump. Two good things to also have with you in the pump bag: a hands free breastpump bra and nursing pads. The bra is what it sounds like, this way you don't have to hold the pump for the duration of your pumping session and can be hands free.
When storing your milk freeze the milk flat so that the milk is easier to heat up quickly and they store more easily standing up in a plastic bin. This allows you to put new ones in the back after freezing them flat, and using the previously frozen ones in the front first. I prefer the Lasinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags and I always write the date and the number of ounces on each bag.
I think that's all I got for now. Let me know your questions and I'll try my best to answer. I listed the products I mentioned below with links. You got this Momma!
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