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This article is based on my own experiences and should not be considered medical advice. You should always consult with your medical professional before making any changes in your breastfeeding practices.
I was blessed with a relatively easy first pregnancy – I had very few bad symptoms in the first three months which are the worst for many moms. As an added bonus, I was only in labor for about 2 hours before my first little boy came into this world.
When it comes to breastfeeding it is a completely different story – sore, dry, and red nipples and more are no joke in the breastfeeding stage, and it can come as quite a shock, especially for first time moms. It can definitely get to the point of being unbearable. That is why I would like to share some tips based on my own experiences that I hope will help you if you are struggling with breastfeeding like I did. Trust me when I tell you that it does get better with time and before you know it it will be time to wean your new little baby and you won’t even remember all of the difficult parts. You can do it!
Also, be sure to checkout these breastfeeding essentials that are must haves for first time moms and others.
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Start Breastfeeding As Soon After Giving Birth As Possible
The first 3 days are essential and will give you and your newborn lots of time to practice and learn together. During that time the mammary glands are prepared to start producing milk, and the baby’s sucking motion provides the stimulation needed to start producing more and more milk. Don’t worry if you aren’t producing a lot the first few days (after giving birth and carrying a baby for 9 months, you don’t need another reason to be stressed out!). What is more important is that you are practicing from the very beginning so that you can gain confidence going forward.
Avoid Stressing Out Over Things That You Cannot Control
When I was in the hospital with my newborn in my arms, I was so worried because I had convinced myself that I wasn’t capable of producing enough milk for my little baby. After leaving the hospital and returning to the comfort of my home, I was able to do some investigating and I found out that producing only a small amount in the first few days is completely normal and that the small amount that did come out is called colostrum and it contains lots of nutrients in a concentrated amount and is exactly what babies need at first. It is important to remember that nature will do its job and your baby still has reserves left over from being in the womb, so you more than likely will have plenty to satisfy him or her for the first few days.
Do Whatever Works Best For You And Your Baby
I still remember my first nurse telling me over and over again not to give my baby a bottle, because it would be difficult for me to get used to breastfeeding. I tried to follow her advice, and I don’t know if she was right, but I definitely did learn and got used to it. Even still, I felt bad because I wasn’t sure if I was giving my baby all of the milk he needed, and giving my him a bottle at the end of the day helped me to feel more confident that he was getting enough. Looking back, I would have listened more to my maternal instinct – I realized in a hurry that when I was less stressed out and worried, I was able to be a better mother to my baby, so if that meant giving my baby an ounce or two of formula at the end of the day, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world.
Meet With A Lactation Specialist
If you have the opportunity to meet with a lactation specialist, take advantage of it! They will help you and teach you how to get your baby in the right position while breastfeeding. I loved my lactation specialist! She was so patient with me and was always there to lift me up when I felt like I couldn’t do it.
It’s true that when your nipples are sore and red the last thing you may want to do is keep breastfeeding. I learned, however, that by not pushing through it, you can lose the progress that you have already made. Even though it may be hard, the key to success is being consistent. There are a lot of great products that you can purchase to make it easier to get through this painful period – one product that helped me so much was this lanolin product that is gives instant relief for dry, cracked nipples. We are very fortunate to have so many tools at our disposal to make motherhood easier – I can only imagine what our grandparents and great grandparents had to go through when they didn’t even have the option to have an epidural! Take advantage of these products – if you are interested in a more detailed list of products that helped me, check out this list.
Another common misconception is that babies are not hungry because they are crying or because they fall asleep right when they start breastfeeding. Let me tell you that from my experience, it is normal for babies to act like that and they often need a little bit of “encouragement” to stay awake. If the milk isn’t coming as quickly as they are expecting, they can get discouraged and give up. I always kept a warm, damp towel near me when I was feeding my baby, and when he started falling asleep I would gently rub it on his tummy to keep him awake and encourage him to keep sucking to keep my milk supply where it needed to be.
Believe In Yourself
Even when it seems hard and like you just want to throw in the towel, you have to believe in yourself and that you can do it. After all, you have already done the hardest part which is bringing your beautiful baby into this world. Lean on your spouse, your close family members, and your friends that have gone through the same. You will realize quickly that there are a lot of people out there that have had the same experiences that you are having now.
Sometimes when I found myself in the depths of despair and tears, and when I felt like I couldn’t bear the pain any longer, my husband lifted me up with encouraging words. He always gave me 100% support and told me how strong that I was and that he admired me for all that I had to go through to make sure that our baby was healthy. That God was very wise because he gave women many gifts including the miraculous ability to feed our babies with our own bodies. Somehow his words always helped me to feel better and they gave me the extra push to keep going.
Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself
It is okay and normal to feel sad, depressed, mad, sore, tired and more at one time or another while breastfeeding. What is NOT okay is to blame yourself for the situation. It is NOT okay to think that you are a bad mother or that you are dumb because other mother’s are able to do things that you haven’t been able to yet. We are all different and we all learn differently. For example, I had a very difficult time breastfeeding, but my pregnancy was easy, and there are many women that were the complete opposite. That doesn’t mean that any of us are any better or worse than anyone else. It is important for everyone that has gone through this, or who will go through this to support one another because we are all capable of being successful. If you decide that breastfeeding is not the path for you, and you decide to feed your baby with formula, that is a respectable decision as well and you shouldn’t be judged for that decision by anyone. Like I mentioned above, you have to decide what is best for you and your baby.
Get Lots Of Rest And Stay Nourished
Having a newborn can be exhausting – especially when you have to fill an order for milk very 2-3 hours and in the middle of the night! That is why it is important to get as much rest and nourishment as possible and that means letting people help you. In order to have an abundant supply of milk for your baby, it is important to drink lots of liquids, especially water. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables and other healthy foods is important, because remember, what you are eating is what your baby will be eating too.
I hope that these tips help you in some way or another to enjoy this breastfeeding stage a little bit more – it is a difficult stage, but can be wonderful as well.