I've made it to my first goal of breastfeeding. Avery is three months old today and has been receiving breast milk for three months. I feel so accomplished.
Breastfeeding Kingston almost two years ago didn't go as smoothly as it has for Avery. A lot of that is because of confidence. I didn't produce a lot of milk with Kingston and I knew that. Even breastfeeding, then pumping after he nursed, or pumping in the place of nursing, I didn't make hardly anything and I gave up before three months. So this time around I'm so proud and excited to say that I've made my first goal.
So accomplishing my first goal led me to write this post about breastfeeding. For those first time breastfeeding mothers out there, here's a few things that you can expect when you start breastfeeding. The ugly truth.
It's not instant
When you first meet your baby after the doctor places him/her on your chest don't expect the baby to just latch right away. If your sweet bundle of joy latches right away, GREAT! Keep it up. Try not to get frustrated when he or she doesn't latch right away. Remember, this is new to them and to you. They have to learn what they are doing, but they'll have plenty of opportunities to learn. Some babies will do what is called the breast crawl. In the Golden Hour, which is encouraged at every hospital, babies often will find their way to the breast on their own instead of you having to place the breast in front of the babe.
Painful Initial Latch
When it comes to that first initial latch, you may experience some pain. This should be the only time that breastfeeding is painful. Nipples are sensitive so they need time to adjust to a tiny human sucking on them about 12 times a day. This pain should go away after your baby has gotten a few suckles in. After your body is used to it, you won't even notice it or experience any pain.
As painful as it can be, try not to let it change your mind on breastfeeding.
And just when you thought that you were finished with contractions, you still experience them even after you deliver. Again, these can be painful, but no fear, these only last a few days.
As your baby nurses, Oxytocin is released (the hormone that is released when you experience a hug or a kiss) which causes the uterus to contract. These contractions work to shrink your uterus back to its normal size, pre-pregnancy.
These contractions can cause painful cramps, but again the pain disperses quickly and will end after a few days. Remember, your body is adapting to its new job.
Something my doctor told me, you will experience these cramps or contractions no matter what, and the more babies you have the stronger the cramps/contractions will be while nursing.
Long Nursing Sessions
Remember babies like to be close, so don't rush through nursing. Babies need to get used to nursing and more comfortable. You may feel like you're constantly nursing. This is normal since most babies nurse every 2-3 hours. This is normal and necessary for establishing your milk supply.
Watch and listen for you baby's hunger cues. Babies grow a lot in the first couple of weeks. In the first 24 hours of your sweet baby's life, you will go through what is caused cluster feedings. This is perfectly normal. Your baby will want to nurse more frequently and often. It will balance out after a short while.
You may start to think that you're not producing enough milk with all the frequent nursing. Relax, you're producing the just the perfect amount for your baby. Remember, a nursing baby stimulates the milk production better than a pump. The more you nurse, the more milk you will produce.
If you're strictly pumping, try not to pay attention to the volume you get in the first few days. Your body produces colostrum first and that beginning milk is just enough that the baby needs within the first few days.
Leaking and Engorgement
As your milk comes in, your breasts are going to feel full and may leak. I would often wake up in the middle of the night when Avery would wake up to pump and as I was hooking up, milk would literally be dripping from my boobs. This can happen any time if your breasts get too full. Normally, after your body adapts to producing milk, it will even out and shouldn't leak milk as often.
When your milk is coming in the first week, your breast will start to feel engorged, Totally normally. You shouldn't experience any pain, but if you do, its because they're full and you to need to nurse or pump to relieve the pressure.
For more information on breastfeeding and pumping, contact your local lactation consultant. They're always available for advice or even lending an ear or hand when you're struggling or feeling discouraged.
Baby falling asleep
Newborns are sleepy. They need more than 16 hours of sleep a day, so nursing can be a challenge at times. Don't be surprised if you have to keep waking your baby up to continue to nurse.
Some helpful ways of keeping them awake: change their diaper before you begin to nurse and keep them just in a diaper. This will wake them up and make them more alert. Once they get latched and comfy, they may begin to doze back off to dreamland. To keep them sucking use a baby wipe on them, rub it over their head, back and feet. Babies don't normally like their feet played with, so give them a little tickle every 10 seconds or so to keep them alert. Talk to them, let them know that it's time to eat and get a full tummy.
You may become super thirsty while you nurse. Most women reported that they would become very thirsty while nursing, so keep water and snacks nearby to keep you satisfied during you nursing sessions.
Setting goals for yourself while breastfeeding is a great! Like I mentioned before, I achieved my first goal today with breastfeeding. I've made it to three months. My second goal is to make it to 6 months and so on. When I was talking to my LC after I had Avery, I told her that with Kingston, I only made it to about 2 months and said it with some disappointment. She then turned it around and said, "WOW, you made it 2 months! That's great! You were able to provide your baby with some of the best vitamins and minerals in the world for 2 months. That's one of the best gifts you can ever give your children is your milk, even if its 2 weeks, 2 months or until they're 2. You're feeding your baby and helping their development." So be confident when you're breastfeeding no matter how long you do it.
I still don't produce a lot of milk and I do supplement with formula. Do I feel guilty about this? Absolutely not. Did I feel guilty ever? Yes. I did when I first started giving formula to Kingston because I thought I failed. WRONG! Kingston received breast milk from me and he received formula. The main thing was, I was feeding my child. Avery gets both formula and milk. Roughly he gets one or the other every other feeding. If he's having a formula bottle, I'll pump and he'll get that milk the next feeding.
So there you have it. The truths about breastfeeding and all its glory. Remember ladies, be confident in breast feeding. No matter how often or long you do it, you're feeding your baby. Don't feel guilty or upset if it doesn't work out how you thought it would. Love your baby and cherish the time you did/have while nursing your baby and sharing that special bond.