Little Bear is 15 months old now and I have been breast feeding him since birth. I am fortunate that he took quickly to breast feeding and it has been an easy journey for us. I know that this is not always the case. But I was given a variety of tips before Little Bear was born that eased the process for us and I am hoping to pass some of those on (plus a few of my own!).
As natural as breastfeeding is, babies are not born with the instincts for how to breastfeed. And of course, as first time moms, we aren't experts either. Be patient and give it time. Recognize that you are both figuring this out together. Keeping offering your baby opportunities to breastfeed and don't give up!
2. Lactation Consultant
Take advantage of lactation consultants and/or attend a breastfeeding class. Many hospitals have lactation consultants on staff to assist you during your stay and give consultations even after you go home. They can help you with position, latch, soreness, etc. They are experts!
3. Prenatal Vitamins
Don't think that you are done with those vitamins just yet! As long as you are breastfeeding continue to take your prenatal vitamin. Remember that you are still the source of nutrition for your baby (just like before he was born!) and those vitamins will ensure that he is getting everything that you might be missing in your diet.
Eat! Eat! Eat! I know, I know, I know - You want to lose the baby fat. BUT you obviously need to build up your strength and you are still eating for the baby as well. Different sources give different calorie counts but the important thing is to continue eating healthy foods and listen to your body. I received a great piece of advice from my son's pediatrician. She told me that I should eat every time he nursed. I kept small simple snacks that were high in protein and calcium handy and would grab them whenever I sat down to nurse. Things like yogurt, granola, string cheese wrapped in turkey, peanutbutter on wheat crackers, etc.
No, not alcohol. Water! Keep yourself hydrated by carrying a water bottle ALL the time. Plus drink a glass of water each time you nurse. Remember that a good portion of your water supply is going into your baby's milk.
This is especially important at the beginning when you are exhausted and your baby probably isn't sleeping for more than a couple of hours at a time. Don't worry about cleaning the house or entertaining guests. Your focus should be on your baby and yourself. Sleep will not only give you energy and allow your body time to heal, but it also gives your body a chance to work on milk production. The saying is difficult but true - Sleep when your baby sleeps!
Most new moms begin breastfeeding with the cradle hold and for many babies this works out well. But if it is not working for you, don't be afraid to try other holds. If you don't know how to do them, ask your lactation consultant. And remember that as baby grows, you may need to change the way that you hold them to feed. If your baby is not in the proper position to get a good latch, she will not feed well and you will be very sore.
Also keep in mind that your positioning is important. Be sure to find a comfortable place to sit that allows you to hold the baby properly. Often it helps to put your feet up on a stool and place pillows behind your back. In addition, many moms find that a nursing pillow helps to elevate the baby to the proper height, relaxing stress on your arms. Don't buy the chair or the pillow that is the cutest - find the one that is the most comfortable! And you may find that what you thought was the most comfortable before the baby is not the most comfortable now.
While breastfeeding has been taking place through all of history, there are a lot of advances to make things easier and more comfortable. You can buy all kinds of equipment ranging from breast pumps to nursing covers to creams to bras to special nursing clothes to nursing pads to pillows... There is a whole market for new moms! How much of this you actually need is up to you. I found that I had no need nursing clothes or bras. At various points I had some need for covers, pads and creams. And that I couldn't live without my pump and my pillows. But this is different for everyone. If you need help navigating the market, talk to friends or your lactation consultant. And sometimes you simply have to buy it and try it to know if it works for you.
9. No Bottles/Pacifiers
Different people have different views on this. Personally I don't believe that there is one right way or one set timeline. Every baby will respond differently. However in my advice to friends, I recommend waiting until you are SURE that your baby is comfortable and competent at latching on and feeding before offering a bottle or pacifier. Typically this will take several weeks or a month.
10. Relax and Enjoy!
Breast feeding is its own form of work. But it comes with immeasurable benefits to yourself and your baby. You will both be healthier, you will save money, and you will create a unique bond. Treasure these quiet moments with your baby because before you know it, your little baby will grow up!