If you are planning on breastfeeding, you want to prepare yourself for a great start and not just wing it.
I spent the six years between 2008 and 2014 either breastfeeding or pregnant. After a respite of a couple years, I breasted my son for 22 months.
From the outside looking in, it might appear that breastfeeding came naturally or easy to me–especially since I breastfed for so long.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, my most recent breastfeeding experience was probably my most challenging!
When my son was born, it took me well over six weeks (or longer!) to get into a good breastfeeding routine. This surprised me because I figured breastfeeding would come naturally to me the fourth time around.
Instead, I had to grit my teeth and would sometimes cry through every feeding. My nipples were completely raw and even bleeding those first few weeks. I had no idea what I was doing wrong!
To top it off, he was not gaining weight and would cry incessantly day in and day out–unless I was holding him and nursing him (which hurt!).
It turns out there was a rhyme and reason to our breastfeeding challenges–he had a tongue tie and some digestive issues. Once we had the tongue tie revised by a professional and started him on a good probiotic, breastfeeding became easier–for both of us.
The following 5 tips are what made my breastfeeding relationship with my son a success. I hope they help you as well!
5 Tips for A Great Start to Breastfeeding
1. See a lactation consultant or counselor.
If you can swing the cost, I recommend seeing a lactation consultant or counselor who has a private practice. The ones who work in the hospitals are usually overworked and aren’t able to take as much time with new mamas.
I hired a lactation counselor to come to my house on several occasions. She observed my son nursing and weighed him before and after feedings. She was actually the one to discover that he had a tongue tie!
2. Nurse early and often.
You want to nurse your baby as soon as possible after he or she is born. And, if possible, say “no” to formula in the hospital.
Nursing early and often will signal to your body to make milk–and to make more of it.
That said, I know there are always extenuating circumstances. That is what happened with my son. He was born with very low blood sugar and had to stay in the NICU for two nights. He had a feeding tube, but I also nursing him as often as the hospital would permit me to visit him.
This was an extremely difficult time for me, and I imagine it played into the early breastfeeding difficulties I had with my son. However, persevering and nursing often even when it hurt so badly really made a big difference. I am so glad I persisted and ended up nursing him for almost two years!
3. Watch for red flags.
Since I had nursed three other children, I knew that there were some red flags with my son–like sore nipples.
Nursing should not hurt after the first couple of days.
As well, if you see that your baby’s tongue is attached to the bottom portion of his or her mouth, that is a major red flag that he or she has a tongue tie.
Not gaining weight and not pooping and peeing consistently or often are other huge red flags that something might be wrong in the breastfeeding relationship.
If any of the above are happening, see a lactation specialist as soon as possible.
4. Give your baby a good probiotic.
I had never even heard of probiotics until a few months after I became a mom in 2008. I remember getting a powdered probiotic from a health food store and second guessing myself every time I gave it to my daughter.
Fast forward more than a decade, and the general public is now so much more knowledgable about the amazing benefits of probiotics!
The first six months of a baby’s life are crucial for autoimmune and metabolic development. The composition of a baby’s gut micro biome plays a significant role in this process.
Bad bacteria in a baby’s gut is linked to a higher risk of autoimmune and metabolic issues like colic, eczema, allergies, diabetes, and obesity later in life. When more good bacteria is present in the gut, it creates a strong, protective wall and crowds out the bad bacteria.
Unfortunately, today, 9 out of 10 babies are experiencing a disruption in their gut, causing more bad bacteria to thrive.
I’m so glad that we began giving my son a probiotic soon after he arrived home from the hospital, which helped cure his tummy issues.
5. Nourish yourself.
Soon after our son was born, I began having blood sugar issues myself, and I realized that I need to make sure I was eating enough protein, carbs, and fats (instead of separating the carbs from fats, which is what I like to do in weight loss mode).
Breastfed babies get all of their nourishment directly from their mothers, so it’s vital that we not neglect our own nourishment.
As well, I tried to remain hydrated day and night with plenty of water. To this day, I still sleep with a full glass of water by my bed each night, which helps me to remember to hydrate myself whenever I see it.