As I go into day 8 of breastfeeding my brand new baby, I think back on the first few days of my little guy’s life and breathe a sigh of relief that those days of colostrum agony are behind me. No one prepared me for the trials and frustration (and udder fear, ha ha ) that comes along with breastfeeding, and knowing a few things about this type of experience before I was going through it would have really helped make the first few days with my new baby better. So, here is my breastfeeding survival guide for every new mom, so you don’t have to suffer alone with your breastfeeding adventure.
You will not know what you are doing…
but your baby is not going to starve to death. I repeat, your baby will not starve to death. So when you have been spending 2 hours trying to put your breast in your baby’s mouth only to have them suck at the tip of your nipple, the side of your breast, or just to have them root around and finally nurse their own fingers, know that your baby in these first few days of life is not going to die just because you can’t figure out how to work as a team. Your baby is new at this whole breastfeeding thing, too. Breathe, change positions, and try again. Better yet…
Help is available, so get rid of your pride
I thought I was breastfeeding like a champ the first time I got my little guy to ‘latch’, only to find out that he had been sucking for 20 minutes at the very tip of my breast, which does little more than pacify him. He fell asleep with next to nothing in his tummy, and it took a lactation consultant to tell me that I know he is actually eating when he makes that little ‘ahh’ breathy swallowing sound. After she managed to pry open his little mouth and get him to latch on the way he was supposed to, I noticed a huge change in his eating style. If not for her interference, I would have eventually thought I had no milk and gotten even more frustrated. Which leads us to the milk in the first place.
Your milk will come in, and soon
When your baby is born, their little tummies are smaller than a ping pong ball. That colostrum is more like medicine than food, and is all your little one needs. I thought that the colostrum barely dripping into my baby’s gaping mouth wasn’t enough to sustain him, but so long as you feed your baby every 3 hours for at least 5 full minutes of active nursing, your milk will come in within a week. And trust me- when they say you will drown your baby in milk when it comes in, they mean it. Today, I can feed my little boy to sleep in 10 minutes, and have to wake him up to get him to go to the other side. Speaking of waking up…
You will have to wake your baby up, a lot
Do not assume that your baby doesn’t need to be fed because they are sleeping soundly. My son still will sleep soundly through the whole day and night if I let him, because that’s what newborns do. They sleep, they poop, they eat. I let him go 7 hours without feeding when he was first born, thinking he just ‘wasn’t hungry’. Wrong- newborns must eat every few hours whether they realize they are hungry or not, and most likely your own baby will have no idea it’s hungry until you put a boob in his mouth. So when it’s time to feed, do what you have to do to get your baby up, be it a cold wet wipe on your baby’s tummy, blowing in their face, or what I had to do- undressing your baby completely and letting a fan blast them awake.
It’s gonna hurt, but it doesn’t have to
Just last night my little guy latched on to my nipple like a drunk guy in a strip club, and I literally yowled in pain. Yeah- breastfeeding hurts. Especially the first few days. All I can say here is take your baby off your breast when you feel pain and re-latch them so they have more areola in their mouths, and don’t let them use your breast as a pacifier. If you do, you will end up with sore and cracked nipples, which isn’t fun for anyone.
If your nipples are so sore you can hardly stand it, don’t feel bad for pumping for a feeding or 2 to give your breasts a break. Your baby will forgive you and you can feel better regrouping and trying again with the next feeding. Nipple cream after each feeding helps, too. Trust me.
You don’t have to follow what everyone else says
Do what works for you and your baby when it comes to breastfeeding. Every baby is different, and you will work with your baby in your own way. I was told that a pacifier was a huge no-no when your baby is a newborn, since they won’t want to suckle if you use one. However, my little guy is always sucking on his fingers or comfort nursing, so the pacifier helps save me from pain and insanity, and he still nurses on top of it. So if hand expressing onto a spoon after feeding is what makes you feel good and fills your baby up (like it did for me and my son the first few days), then go for it. As long as your baby is being fed, gaining weight, and you aren’t in pain then go for it.
You will freak out, at least once
In fact, 2 days ago I had an epic breastfeeding freakout that left me exhausted and my son hungry. Why? Because it took me 2 hours to get him to latch and feed for all of 7 minutes, he was still hungry, and my husband had just told me that we were leaving to go visit family as soon as I was ready. All I could think to myself was, ‘I cannot go through another 2 hours of this’, and began bawling hysterically. Luckily, my hubby just pulled out the pump and convinced me that pumping would be just fine for the baby and that my son would still love me, I wasn’t a bad mom, I needed to calm down, etc. Sometimes you just have to freak out so you can put things in perspective. And yes, he did get a nice full belly after I pumped him some grub for about 10 minutes and I didn’t have to spend 2 hours trying to feed him. I needed the break, and he came out better for it.
Hey, it will get better
You’ve got to believe this. One way or the other, you will learn how to feed your child, whether you create a schedule or tactic for breastfeeding, supplement with formula, or decide to pump. Once my milk came in (the day after my epic freakout, ironically) my baby became a feeding champ and can be filled up in 15 minutes to a half hour, depending on how alert he is at the time. I still pump when I get sore and will likely incorporate pumping into my regimen because I don’t like to breastfeed outside of my house, but I know one thing- my son is gaining weight, is healthy, and I am healthy and have peace of mind as well.
When it comes to breastfeeding, it’s not always a walk in the park. However, if you stick with it, learn how to work with your child, and don’t give in to all of your frustrations, you will find yourself rewarded with a fat and happy little gremlin. After all, breastfeeding is natural- but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Relax, know that it’s going to take some getting used to, and also know that if all else fails, formula is available if you need it. Feeding your baby any way you can is what makes you a terrific mom, after all.