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As a first time mom I had no idea what breastfeeding entail. I didn’t take a class. I bought a nursing tank, a nursing bra and a nursing cover. Boom. I was prepared. I was going to survive breastfeeding.
I was even offended when several mom friends suggested I have a thing of formula at home just in case I needed it. Just in case? Just in case I changed my mind? Just in case I didn’t like nursing my baby? It never crossed my mind that breastfeeding may not be all unicorns and rainbows.
Another thing that surprised me? How HARD breastfeeding can be. It is exhausting. It felt complicated holding a baby with one hand and trying to force a boob into their mouth with the other. Don’t worry, the first few times you try it, someone (a nurse or lactation consultant) will probably be using their hand to force your boob into your baby’s mouth.
I wasn’t prepared! Don’t be like me. I want you to survive breastfeeding. I want you to know what to expect and I want you to give yourself grace. All things I wish I would have done the first time around.
1. Take a class.
With Blaire, I didn’t take a class because everything I had heard about breastfeeding used the words “easy” and “natural”. It truly never crossed my mind I might not know how to hold my baby or how to get her to latch. Before Ben was born, I took a class through the hospital where I would deliver him. It was taught by the lactation consultants I would see in the hospital when he was born. It’s nice to have met someone at least once before they waltz into your room when you’re 30 minutes postpartum and topless. It was also very helpful to learn about breastfeeding while I wasn’t freshly postpartum and holding a crying newborn. The instructors also did a great job at helping to set the expectations I didn’t have as a first time mom. How much time I would probably spend nursing my baby, how much baby would eat and how often they would eat, etc.
2. Talk to friends who have breastfed.
Talking to friends who have been there will help you to set your own expectations. Obviously everyone’s experience with breastfeeding is different, so talking to more than one person is important. For me, one of the hardest things was the stress of my boobs running my life. I had just spend the past 39 weeks sharing my body with a human and was counting down the days until my body was my own again. I couldn’t wait to go more than an hour without having to pee. Well instead of getting up overnight to pee, I was getting up overnight to pump, even when my baby was asleep.
I didn’t give any forethought to whether I’d be comfortable nursing in public (with or without a cover). I didn’t think about the logistics of clothes that would allow me to easily nurse. I didn’t know I would be STARVING all day every night those first few weeks. These are all things your friends can talk you through. In this blog post you can find some of my favorite items that helped me to survive breastfeeding.
3. Take time to yourself.
As a first time mom I obviously had no idea what to expect after Blaire was born. I thought having constant visitors in the hospital and at home was just how it went. Well, let me tell you, having family and friends drop off food, diapers or coffee? Amazing! Having family and friends come over to sit around for hours to talk and hang out? Exhausting.
When you’re nursing or pumping, you might be attached to your baby for 90% of your day that first month. Maybe you’re comfortable nursing in front of your visitors, if so, that’s great! Maybe you want the company and enjoy it.
But for me, that wasn’t the case. Instead of being able to sit comfortably on my couch with my husband, feeding my baby, I was in a bedroom with her or attached to my pump while our visitors hung out in the living room with Jason, and Blaire, if I was pumping. Don’t feel guilty asking for space for your family. You, your partner and your baby are all learning this together, as you go. You should have the freedom to sit topless on your couch eating snacks and watching TV.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Your OBGYN/midwife, baby’s pediatrician and a lactation consultant are all good resources, but they typically have different interests in your breastfeeding journey. My OBGYN cared first and foremost about my mental and physical well-being. Our pediatrician cared most about making sure our babies were gaining weight and the LC really, really wanted to make sure I was successful at breastfeeding. Once I found the one I was most comfortable with, it made asking for help so much easier. Unfortunately, some pain during breastfeeding is common in the beginning. But there are things to help make the pain better and there are times when the pain isn’t normal. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re in pain or having issues. You can also reach out to La Leche League, there may even be local support groups in your area.
5. There’s an app for that.
Tracking how much a bottle-fed baby has eaten is easy, it’s right there on the bottle. Tracking how much a breastfed baby has eaten is done differently. Our hospital gave us a piece of paper and we had to track 1) Every time baby nursed, for how long and which side. 2) Every time we changed a diaper, whether it was wet or dirty. I kept tracking at home, but switched to an app instead of a paper and pen. At each well visit, we were asked how much/how often she was eating and being able to easily access that in my phone was perfect. Baby Tracker and Baby Breastfeeding Tracker are two good ones.
6. Set up a comfy breastfeeding spot (or two).
Breastfeeding is going to feel like it’s your full time job for the next month or so. I imagined I’d just spend all of my time in the nursery, in the glider… then I realized just how much time I would spend feeding a newborn. Instead I set up shop on our couch. Things to have available within arms reach? Snacks (oatmeal is said to help bump up your milk supply), water (staying hydrated is crucial to producing milk), a phone charger, your TV remotes, and a nursing pillow.
7. Consider a suction breast pump.
When it’s time to venture away from your baby, you’ll either need to do it between feedings or you’ll need to have milk stored up for baby to take a bottle. A silicone breast pump uses suction to catch the milk from your letdown. If you’re not using a silicone pump, this milk typically just soaks into your nursing pad. You’d be surprised at how much you can collect at each feeding without having to actually “pump”! I used this one with Ben.
8. Supplementing with formula does not make you a bad mom or a failure.
If your baby is not gaining weight appropriately or hitting their milestones, their pediatrician may suggest formula. If you’re making yourself crazy over upping your supply, power pumping, etc. your own health care provider may suggest formula. Not producing enough milk to exclusively breastfeed your baby does not make you a failure or a bad mom! If you find yourself struggling with guilt over formula-feeding, read this.
Consider adding a probiotic to your breastfed baby’s diet.
Until Ben was born, I had never heard of adding a probiotic to your breastfed baby’s diet. I had no idea 97% of babies are missing the (good!) bacteria B. infantis. Without it, there are ingredients in breast milk your baby cannot digest. Evivo contains this active strain of good bacteria, which means the nutrients in your breast milk are fully utilized to protect your baby from the harmful bacteria linked to a higher risk of eczema, allergies, diabetes, and obesity.
The best part of Evivo? You only need 3-5ml of breast milk for each serving of probiotic, so just once per day. You add your 3-5ml of breastmilk into the provided dish, add in the little packet of probiotic and then mix it together in the dish. It comes with a 5ml dropper, so you just suck it up into the dropper and feed it to your baby. Using such a small portion of breast milk means you don’t necessarily need to resort to pumping to have enough of a breast milk serving for the probiotic.
Want to try Evivo for yourself? Get $10 off a 4-week starter kit with code: BLOG7Z79J or $20 off an 8-week or greater starter kit with code: BLOG8Q74V.
Mamas who have breastfed before, what tips do you have to survive breastfeeding?
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