When you have your first baby there are so many things to worry about, but breastfeeding doesn’t have to be one of them. There really are some basics to keep you on track to a successful and fulfilling nursing relationship. Many people LOVE to share their breastfeeding horror stories, but don’t we all love to share a dramatic story? Thousands of women never utter a word about their breastfeeding journey because it just isn’t that interesting to them. It’s just what they did. That is not to say they didn’t struggle at first to adjust to the new normal. Every sleep deprived mom gets frustrated with the newborn demands but it doesn’t have to be the stress ball you are worried about.
Let’s start at the very beginning; you have a birth plan in place right? Now, double check that your birth-plan includes at least 1 hour of skin to skin with your new baby right after birth. That first “Miracle Hour” is so important. Barring any medical emergencies most modern hospitals are aware of this critical time and will happily accommodate those baby snuggles. (If you are working with a midwife or have a doula they will already have the post birth skin-to-skin in the plan.) Even if you have a c-section skin to skin can be accommodated. Just ask.
That first latch is going to feel weird and somewhat uncomfortable. That is normal. You won’t know how to hold the baby or what pillow you want where. Aim for a good cross-body position. Check that you have their belly button against your chest and while looking down at them that your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip are in a line. You are holding them straight across from one side to the other of your breasts. The hospital will most likely have a lactation consultant on staff who will be there to help guide you. While you are feeling unsure, your newborn knows exactly what to do. Watch this cool video of the breast crawl. No forcing of your breast into the baby’s mouth or pinching of your nipple should be necessary.
Your newborn is going to nurse on demand and you should let them! Expect to nurse 10-12 times per 24 hours for the first couple of weeks. They will eventually get on a routine, designed by them. Some babies are quick nursers and some take a bit longer but as long as weight gain is good you are golden.
A lot of moms fall into a trap where they think the baby isn’t getting enough. Watch the weight gain and the overall activity of your baby. Relax. Any issues that arise can be addressed. If you experience pain, a mis-shaped nipple or have any concerns start by contacting an IBCLC or a CLC. Pediatricians are a great resource to help you monitor the overall health of the baby. Make sure you ask them for a recommendation to a lactation specific consultant or counselor if you are having issues. Pediatricians are trained in many areas of study and sometimes a specialist of sorts can be beneficial.
Happy Nursing, Caitlen Murrell, CLC
P.S. Most of the time when you are nursing you will be a mess. This photo is AMAZING but totally staged and not what the first few weeks of nursing will look like. <3 This was done for my celebratory 6 months of breastfeeding my first! Photo credit: Cassie Leah Sawyer
Caitlen is a blogger and shop owner over at floraltrains.com She became a Certified Lactation Counselor in 2013 after her oldest was born. You can follow her @floral_trains and @floraltrainsshop on Instagram.