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How do you begin breastfeeding? Does your baby just know to latch onto the breast and it just…happens? How does breastfeeding feel? For first time moms, breastfeeding may feel shrouded in mystery. Sure, your friends tell you about how amazing the bond is and how awesome breastfeeding is but is it always that easy?
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First of all, how do you decide whether to formula feed or breastfeed?
That is a very personal question, with a 100% personal answer. Only you can decide between formula or breastfeeding. As with anything, there are pros and cons to both.
- Gives you a great bond with baby.
- Burns and INSANE amount of calories.
- Is free (minus pumping supplies)
- Easier to digest than formula.
- Helps prevent SIDS
- Helps protect baby against viruses.
- Soothes baby when upset.
- Not as filling as formula so more waking through the night at first.
- All on you to feed baby so you don’t get a break unless you pump.
- Pumping can be time-consuming.
- Need to watch things like caffeine and alcohol that can pass through the breastmilk.
- Starting off can be uncomfortable.
If you decide formula feeding is right for you:
As long as you and baby are happy and well fed, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your choice!
See also: Why #fedisbest
How breastfeeding works:
Essentially, your milk comes in three stages. The first start is colostrum. This is what comes in first after your baby is born. Colostrum is a little yellow liquid packed full of nutrients for your little one. You may worry at first because you do not create much, but baby only needs a few tablespoons at first! So don’t worry, let your body do its thing! The second stage is transitional milk. It comes in around 3-5 days after usually. (Mine didn’t come in until day 6). About two weeks after birth, your body switches to mature milk. It is a little thinner than transitional milk.
Your baby is born with the instinct to breastfeed. Granted, at first, you will need to help them latch. That is why they recommend skin to skin contact with the mom for the first hour. This helps promote the bond to breastfeed.
Steps to breastfeed:
Step 1: Location, location location. It’s so important for you to get comfortable. I love breastfeeding in our rocker that our in-laws bought for Sophia’s nursery.
Step 2: Make sure baby is tummy to tummy with you.
Step 3: Gently guide baby to your nipple. You want baby to have a wide open mouth for a good latch, so gently touch their mouth with your nipple to encourage them to open, and when they do, place the bottom of your areola to their bottom lip, and then roll the rest of the nipple in. It is more important to have more of the bottom of the nipple in their mouth than the top. Make sure you bring baby to breast, rather than bring breast to baby. I was accidentally doing this and it killed my back!
Step 4: If the latch is painful, or if they don’t get enough in their mouth, break the seal. Put your finger in between their lip and your nipple, and repeat the process again.
*if you have a lot of issues getting baby to latch, a lactation consultant may recommend a nipple shield to aid you.*
Something so important to remember!
At first, it will take a while for both of you to get used to latching. In fact, they say it usually takes 4 weeks to 6 weeks to get totally established. Don’t give up! Eventually, they will get so used to it, they will open automatically when they see your nipple.
How to hold your baby:
There are many different types of holds. The most common type you see is the cradle hold. This is where you hold them across your body, with the head in the crook of your elbow the same side they are nursing on. This is similar to the crossover hold, except you’re holding their head in the opposite hand of the side they are nursing on.
The football hold is where you hold them by your side, with their head in the hand of the side they are nursing on, with their legs behind you. Gently elevate baby’s head to your nipple. I found this one SUPER helpful when I was first learning to breastfeed! You can also do the side-lying where you guessed it, you feed baby laying on your side, with them on their side facing you. If you have a heavy let down, use the laid back hold where you do the cradle or crossover, just with your body reclined back.
When I first started, Sophia was constantly cranky and kept falling asleep on the breast. I realized that she wasn’t latching properly even though it didn’t hurt so she wasn’t getting enough milk, therefore making her cranky. I changed to the football hold, and it changed everything! After two weeks, she got so good at latching that I was able to change back to the cradle hold and we haven’t had an issue ever since.
How do you know if the baby is getting enough milk?
I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT GO BY WHAT YOU ARE PUMPING!!! That is NOT a good indicator because the baby is much better at getting milk than a breast pump can! Your baby MAY not be getting enough milk if:
- They are constantly fussy
- Having less than 8 wet diapers a day
- Not gaining weight
Chewing fingers and other things are not really an indication that they are hungry, it is more likely because they learn about the world from putting everything in their mouth at first. You should also see the ears moving when they nurse, and you will hear them swallow.
How to take care of yourself while breastfeeding:
- Keep hydrated– Drink even more than the minimum water intake for a normal adult.
- Eat healthily- This is a no brainer, as it keeps mom healthy.
- Keep taking your prenatals.
- Take in extra calories, usually around 500 a day.
- Practice good hygiene. Always keep the nipples cleaned and washed. If you use soap, however, the baby may not like the taste.
- Remember that the baby can sense things like anger and frustration. This means it may make it harder to breastfeed.
Nipple care during breastfeeding:
- Breastfeeding should not hurt, but it might be uncomfortable when you first start. It is perfectly safe to use a cream for it, like this Lansinoh Nipple Cream. You can also use your breastmilk! Rub it over the nipple to soothe and treat it.
- Wash the breasts lightly.
- Wear a clean, fresh nursing bra, or fresh nursing pads every day.
- Ensure that you switch up the breasts you are nursing the baby with each time. Otherwise, you may get plugged ducts which are very painful.
Plugged ducts and mastitis:
From time to time, and especially when your milk first comes in, you may get plugged ducts. It is important to get them unplugged or it can lead to mastitis. A super painful infection.
To treat a plugged duct:
- Make sure to allow baby to nurse on that side, or use your breast pump. This will allow milk to pass through, and hopefully unclog the duct.
- While baby nurses, gently massage the tender area. This will stimulate flow.
- Put a hot compress on the area.
If ever during breastfeeding you get flu-like symptoms, chills, fever, and nausea, it could be mastitis which is an infection from the breast. See the doctor right away so that he can prescribe antibiotics. You may think that the baby should not nurse while you have the infection, but the opposite is true. Not only is it perfectly healthy, but it is also recommended to help clear it up faster. Your milk will not be affected.
No one ever warned me how much you would leak! Thanks to movies I thought I would just start lactating a little when she cried but NO. I fell asleep with the baby the first night and when we woke up we were both COVERED in milk! For the first few weeks at the LEAST I definitely recommend nursing pads like these Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads, or for an environmentally friendly option, reusable nursing pads. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Things to watch for that can pass through your milk:
- Alcohol. Alcohol passes through your milk just like it passes through your bloodstream. Old sources used to say pump and dump your milk to get the alcohol out, but this doesn’t work! Alcohol naturally passes out of your milk over time. Usually, it takes around 2 hours per standard drink. Consult motherrisk.org for a great table on drinking and breastmilk.
- Caffeine. Chances are you already cut down on your caffeine intake while you were pregnant (I went from 6 cups a day to 1!) But coffee also passes through the milk as well. It also affects babies way more than adults. The La Leche League notes that mothers need to consume more than FIVE cups of coffee or other beverages a day to negatively impact their child though. It can, however, make babies more wakeful and irritated.
- Certain medications. Always ask your doctor before starting a new medication!
- Nicotine from smoking. It can make baby fussy and can reduce your supply.
Tell us all about your experience breastfeeding! Comment below!
Make sure to keep your eyes peeled, because the next ultimate guide is all about learning about breast pumping! (See that here!)
Mom blogger, job coach, ESL teacher and mom to my little girl.