Welcome to this week’s edition of The First Year: Breastfeeding Mini Series! Each Monday, I post on a topic related to the first year of life. This summer, I am tackling breastfeeding, and I will sometimes post on both Mondays and Fridays on this topic. The best advice anyone ever gave me was to just give breastfeeding 2 weeks.
That little suggestion was all I needed to persevere WAY beyond those two weeks.
The first 2 weeks can really be the most difficult weeks of breastfeeding. And, unfortunately, it’s the time many moms give up.
I don’t blame them. It’s hard. It can hurt. During that time, there may be much milk tears–and maybe even a little blood.
But if you can make it through those 2 weeks, you’ll be well on your way to a successful breastfeeding experience.
So WHY are the first 2 weeks so challenging?
Think about it. You’ve just been through 9 months of pregnancy and maybe hours (or even days) of intense labor. Labor in itself is beautiful and wonderful–but it’s also like running a marathon.
Your body’s been through A LOT. Your hormones are going CRAZY.
You might have the baby blues.
But there’s a precious little one looking at you who is even hungrier.
And you’re his or her only source of nourishment.
It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. It WILL get better.
Here are some things that helped me get through those first 2 weeks:
1. Lanolin. Lots and lots of lanolin. I’ve started giving my closest friends a tube of lanolin with their baby shower gifts. I would take it with you to the hospital or birthing center (or have it ready for after your home birth). Your breasts WILL BE sore. (The second time around breastfeeding was MUCH easier, but I was shocked that I was still extremely sore for 2 weeks.) Lanolin safely soothes, heals and protects cracked and sore nipples. You don’t even have to rub it off before nursing. I recommend Lansinoh lanolin. It’s 100% pure and contains no preservatives or additives.
2. A breastfeeding pillow (like Boppy or My Breast Friend). I personally used and loved a Boppy. It was so comfortable propping my daughter up on this pillow. You can later use the pillow for baby’s tummy time. I honestly used this more during my first breastfeeding experience, when I was still getting comfortable with holding a baby period (much less trying to hold her AND nurse her).
3. Good reading material. I suggest reading The Nursing Mother’s Companion and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding those first 2 weeks. I kept both books by my “nursing station” (the place where I normally nursed). My hubby even bought me a small book light, so I could read while nursing at night without waking him up!
4. Water! Drinking enough fluids is vital to milk production. Nursing moms should drink to their thirst, meaning that they should follow their body’s cues and drink when they feel thirsty. I kept a glass of water by my bed and nursing station and drank it ALL DAY!
5. Rest! Like I said, you’ve just been through perhaps the marathon of your LIFE! Your body needs to rest in order to make milk. It sounds cliche, but TRY to rest while your baby is resting. This is easier with your first baby because you don’t have older children to care for. If a friend or relative volunteers to come help you, by all means, take them up on the offer, and GO TAKE A NAP! If can afford to do so, hire a postpartum doula to help you around the house.
6. Relax! It took 5 DAYS for my milk to come in with my first daughter. Each day, my stomach knotted up more and more–thinking my milk would never come. I stressed–big time. I remember looking at myself and saying: “Milk! Come in! Please!” Eventually, my milk arrived, but all my stressing probably did not help things.
7. Demand feed. There is much conflicting advice on whether feedings should be scheduled or if baby should dictate when he or she is fed. At this point in my life, I fall in the middle. My younger daughter is now 8 months, and, honestly, I need to have her on a better schedule. But when your baby is tiny, I would give them as much feeding time as they want. I would encourage them to nurse long and often. Why? Your supply is directly related to the baby’s demand. The milk they take in during those early days will help establish your supply (and help prevent problems later on).
8. Eat LOTS. I remember feeling FAMISHED those first days home after my first daughter’s birth. Not only have you just burned a massive amount of calories after your labor and delivery, but you’re also burning an extra 300-500 calories per day to make milk! Eat lots of good fats, try a lactation cookie and enjoy being able to eat a little more than normal for the time being.
9. Don’t forget your SUPPORT SYSTEM. Talk to your nursing friends, check out a La Leche League meeting, chat with your breastfeeding buddies in an online forum, like on your local Mommies Network, Baby Center or DiaperSwappers. Never feel like you are in this alone! I remember thinking during those late-night feedings: “There are millions of mothers all over the world doing exactly the same thing that I’m doing right now!”
10. Pray. In my book, this is the most important. Remember that the God who created your baby, the God who created YOU, created your body to nourish this little baby He’s entrusted to you. When you feel like giving up, ask Him to help you.
What helped YOU get through those first few weeks of breastfeeding? I’d love to hear any advice you’d like to share!