Breastfeeding – Lessons Learned
As I sit here, nursing my last little baby, I start to reflect on what I’ve learned over the years from nursing 4 babies. I know I have been tremendously lucky to have been able to nurse them all, and I am a strong believer in the fed is best. If you weren’t able to breastfeed, don’t feel guilty! You still fed your baby and that’s all that matters. I wasn’t even a breastfed baby and I grew up absolutely perfect and fabulous! So with that, here are my lessons and opinions.
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Buy a good electric breast pump. I am now on my second pump only because I seem to have a powerful milk flow. I was pumping one day and it came out so fast that it went back into the tube the wrong way and flooded my pump motor. After that, it was toast. When I started looking for my second one, I did not want to spend the same amount again, so I decided to look online for a used pump. There were many options and I was able to get a good quality pump for much less. I should have done that from the start.
I really recommend the Medela brand for a breast pump. When I was researching for a good pump, this brand came up the most frequently with high reviews. If you plan on pumping on the go a lot or in different areas of the house, I recommend the Medela Swing Single Electric Breast Pump. You can pump with it plugged in or add batteries, and you can go anywhere. I also liked that it was light and easy to carry around. However, if you are planning on pumping a lot, get the Medela Freestyle Double Electric Breast Pump.
Listen to your body!!!
I remember nursing baby number two. It was a mid-winter morning, and I was sitting on the couch just sweating. At first, I blamed it on hormones, but then I noticed I started to feel ill. My body felt really off. I thought for a moment I was coming down with the flu, but then it dawned on me to check myself, and I noticed I had the symptoms of mastitis. I called the Dr’s office and got in that day. Sure enough, I indeed had mastitis and my Dr was happy I was able to catch it early. If you would like more information on mastitis symptoms, click here.
Lansinoh breast cream
In the first couple of weeks of nursing, Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream, 100% Natural Lanolin Cream for Breastfeeding, 1.4 oz Tube cream helped tremendously. It keeps everything from drying up and relieves any cracks that may have happened. I have tried many other brands, and they didn’t spread on properly. This one spreads on very good and will help with the early adjustments. I have even bought this cream as a gift for new moms because it has helped and worked for me so much.
My little nursing hack
This one is a bit strange, but I do it all the time. When I nurse my baby, I always tuck a receiving blanket/burping blanket between the bra and the breast. I do this to prevent getting puke or milk spillage all over my shirt or bra. It helps so much! Again, slightly strange but it works for me.
So I am not afraid to nurse around people. With some of my close friends, I will do it without covering up. I mean, they don’t care. However, in other situations, I will use a nursing cover. You are probably wondering why even bother? It’s Canada, I’m free to do it without covering. It’s just a personal choice. I am not afraid to do it publicly and have done it. When the baby demands a feed, and you don’t have anything, you just feed the baby. I did it right in the middle of a touristy public place once, and I’m pretty sure everyone was thankful I stopped the baby from crying out loud so much. They didn’t care what was popping out.
I still think it’s strange that it causes controversy in some places. Those that know me know that if someone ever confronted me to go somewhere else to feed my baby, they would wake up a sleeping mama bear! You do not want to mess with me on this topic. I’ve never witnessed someone else getting told either, and I would have the same reaction. I would stand up for that mama regardless if I knew them or not.
I can’t stress this enough! Make sure you understand how to get the proper latch. Ask the nurses to help and if you are still struggling, make sure to reach out to a lactation consultant. Yes, even with a good latch it will hurt slightly for the first two weeks (even if you’ve nursed 3 other babies, it still hurt a bit with this last one). It hurts for the first little bit as the baby is learning how to nurse with you as well.
I’ve learned the hard way with my first born. I thought I knew what I was doing, but it turned out that I had a batch latch and ended up with blisters. It hurt so much, and they were bleeding. I almost quit, but my dr suggested to use a nipple shield to help heal. That’s when I finally learned the proper latch. Don’t be like me and wait until you are in severe pain.
I don’t know if you will need these or not but I love dairy products myself, and I noticed that my babies bellies were always more sensitive if I nursed after having any dairy such as milk or ice cream. With this last one, she was so affected and sensitive, her face blew up in a very large red rash. It looked painful. I knew it was the dairy, but to be honest and selfish, I didn’t want to cut it out completely. I decided to reduce my intake and start giving her probiotics. Not even a week later her face cleared up. I did use some vitamin E cream as well, but it was amazing how the probiotics helped. I haven’t stopped giving them to her as I do believe it is helping her gut.
My jar, Jamieson Probiotic Baby, says to give 6 drops but I only do 3 as it will cause them to feel gassy and bloated. I use a baby spoon and add the vitamin D drops with it. You can even buy probiotics mixed with vitamin D, but I just don’t know if the ratio would be as accurate if I don’t give the full amount. Warning, they will poop A LOT!!!
Drink lots of fluids and EAT
It’s crazy how thirsty you will be. Your body is burning calories to build your milk supply, make sure to hydrate. I try to keep water bottles near my bed and where I will be in the house.
Don’t be afraid to eat a lot either. Don’t think about the weight you want to start losing. Just focus on your milk supply. I remember after having my third baby, I couldn’t wait to eat at a breakfast buffet. I was so hungry, and I finally had room in my tummy without a baby hogging. It was so delicious and fulfilling.
Oh, my! The time when you forget to put a breast pad on and you nurse your baby….yup the other side begins to leak, and you are soaked! Gets some good nursing pads. I’ve used many brands and what I look for is a nursing pad that can absorb a lot in a day. I don’t want to be changing it after every feed (but you do want to switch them frequently to reduce your chances of getting thrush). I also hated the nursing pads that were individually wrapped. My hands are always full when I am trying to grab one, so I need quick and easy access. I also don’t want a bulky one that will show through my clothing. That’s just awkward. My favourite one, again, I even gifted this brand to others, is Johnson’s Baby Nursing Pads, 60 Count.
After birth contractions
I took the birthing classes, but for some reason, I missed the whole part about after birth contractions. Let me tell you how those get increasingly worse with each child. Well, I’m telling you now in case you weren’t aware and to be prepared to take Tylenol and /or Advil. When you are in the hospital, the contractions will be more intense while you nurse. I didn’t find them too bad after the first 2 babies, but after baby 3 and 4, they were pretty intense.
Well, nothing can stop the engorgement that will happen in the early weeks. When your milk supply comes in on day 3, 4 or whenever it’s ready, you will feel it! My best advice is don’t bother with nursing bras in the early weeks. Just wear nursing tank tops. They will stretch better and not put on much pressure. Even in the middle of winter, I relied on nursing tank tops to help my milk supply come in at its pace.
Also, when it’s just too much, use that breast pump and relieve the pressure. Don’t worry about impacting your supply, again I suggest talking to a lactation consultant about these steps. They are the experts.
Another option is to use cold cloths on your breasts to reduce the pain. Some have used cabbage, I have never tried this option so I can’t provide my opinion, but the cold cloths did help slightly.
I am so thankful for my first home visit with a nurse. We are lucky enough to get a nurse come out to our houses to check on the baby for the first two weeks after birth. The first one that came over told me about cluster feeding. I had never heard of that before, and it was the best information. Cluster feeding is when the baby will constantly eat in a short amount of time, such as a 24 hour period. This happens during a growth spurt, and they are telling your body to increase the milk supply.
This cluster feeding will happen around specific dates, for example around day 9. If she had not told me this, I probably would have thought my milk was not satisfying my baby boy. I remember the first cluster feeding day. Pretty much sat on the couch the whole day just feeding him. It was almost every 30 minutes for the day. Again, this makes for another great conversation with a lactation consultant.
When you are often feeding, it can be hard to remember what side you ended on. A straightforward way to keep track is to take a hair tie and just slip it on to your bra strap. Tie it on, and when you finish on the other side, you switch it over. This is really good for night feedings when you are barely awake.
Finally, slow down!
This might be the most important one. You just had a baby, and now you are recovering and adjusting to your body and to your baby. Don’t try and do it all. Let others help! Who cares if laundry is piling up or you have a few dirty dishes. Take a moment, sit back and hold your baby. This time is going by so rapidly. I look back every time and think wow, my babies are growing up so quickly. Take a look at this post about how I feel about just enjoying the moments with your baby.
What nursing tips or lessons do you have that you can share?