After you have a baby [if not before], you will likely spend a lot of time Googling everything that happens to your baby. I took every single class available at the hospital and read so many books, but after Winnie got here, it was as if all that knowledge just vanished in the light of this tiny creature whose life I was in charge of. Don't worry, we have the internet. Here are some highlights of what I can remember Googling those first few weeks:
"baby wont stop hiccuping ..."
"baby shakes head back and forth ..."
"what color should my baby's poop be?"
"post partum depression symptoms"
But the one subject I Googled more than any was breastfeeding. I found it helpful to learn from other moms, but sometimes those mommy message boards can have a lot of negativity.[I actually had someone reply to one of my questions with, "she might have downs syndrome if she can't nurse correctly." In my confused and exhausted post-birth haze, I panicked and Brandon had to assure me she was fine.] So, I'm presenting you with my tips and advice, free of negativity and paranoia.
My milk didn't "drop" until about 5 days after Wednesday was born. I was prepared for this, so it was okay. But I was adamant about the nurses not feeding her formula. I fed her every couple of hours so she got the wonderful dose of colostrum everyone talks about and she was fine. The day we got home from the hospital, my boobs were ... huge! I already have sizable breasts, so this was pretty intense. They were hard and what I imagine they would feel like if I had just gotten ridiculously sized implants. No matter how hard it hurt [and it did ... like a bitch], I fed Wednesday every hour and a half or so. In between feedings, I put the Lanisoh lanolin on my nipples and laid a hot towel on my chest. Pretty soon the milk dropped in and it was a wonderful feeling. In all actuality, it felt like needles being pressed through my nipples from the inside out, and continued to feel that way every time my milk dropped until about 5 months postpartum. I'm being honest about the pain because apparently it doesn't happen that way for everyone. I just so happened to have a very forceful let down in the early months, so I feel the need to prepare someone for that just in case. But I came to love that feeling because it meant that my body was responding to my baby's needs. Nothing feels better than being able to feed your little one.
I was lucky enough never to have mastitis or blisters, so I can't offer too much on that subject. But, I was diligent about the lanolin and took really good care of my breasts, so that [and a little luck] probably helped. As gross as this sounds ... that included not washing them! Except for non-soapy water from the shower, my nipples never received any washing. Your body is equipped to do this job, so letting the natural oils build up on that area is the best way to prevent more soreness. I have also refrained from deodorant while breastfeeding. Not sure if that helps or what, but it felt natural to me and I never had to worry about her being exposed to any chemicals while breastfeeding.
Do's and Dont's:
* DO drink a ton of water! I drink about 80-100oz of water a day to keep my supply up.
* DON'T take epsom salt baths!
* DON'T diet [you need a few hundred EXTRA calories, not fewer. I learned this the hard way by dieting and watching my milk dry up within 48 hours of my new diet.]
* DO eat lots of protein and try and get some oatmeal every day. I use Nature's Valley as well as some lactation cookies [I'll blog a recipe soon, but you can buy them online as well] and I noticed a big difference in my extra supply [pumping.]
* DON'T stress! Yoga/meditation is a great help for me. I stress quite easily and actually perform better under stress in most situations ... producing milk is not one of those situations.
* DO get a Boppy pillow! We have 2 and they are awesome. My favorite way to nurse is laying in bed, but that is only in the mornings during snuggle time. The Boppy helps tremendously in the early months, saving your back from a lot of pain. You'll be feeding for what seems like forever and holding your little one and trying to get everything situated is pretty difficult. Now, Wednesday like to sit straight up and nurse while slapping me in the face, but for the first 6 months or so, she loved laying back on the Boppy.
* DO what works for you. Trial and error is okay, even in motherhood. You will not get it right every time. For example ... I drank caffeine throughout my pregnancy and breastfeeding. I just couldn't go without it. Some women think this is terrible, but I stay well below the recommended dose for pregnant/nursing mothers and Winnie and I are just fine. Do what you feel is right! If it isn't working, your body or your baby will let yo know ... very quickly.
* get a great pump! I have an Ameda double electric pump and it is so awesome! Check with your insurance provider to see if they give a discount. We have BC/BS [federal employee] and ours was paid for in full including a year's supply of milk storage bags. Do your homework on this one, it could save a lot of money.
* pump after each feeding. Your milk is already flowing, so get what you can! I usually feed Wednesday on on breast and then when she is done, I pump on that breast to get any milk that is left [not much] and then pump the other breast to empty it as well. This signals my body to make more ... fill 'er up!
* date and store your milk for later use. Brandon gives Wednesday a bottle every night after he bathes her [yes, he is the greatest] so I have to always make sure we have back up for that. I pump in the morning and in the evening and any time she skips a feeding, which is much trickier now that we are starting solid foods.
* keep pumping even if you don't get anything. Your baby is much better at extracting milk than a pump is, so where it might take your baby 3 minutes to get 4 ounces of milk, it may take 25 minutes to pump that much!
* go easy on the pump strength. In my 8 months of pumping [we started right away so Winnie would take a bottle and breast] I have never had to put the pump strength all the way to the max. It will cause sore nipples and does not guarantee you'll get more milk. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to pumping.
* take your pump everywhere! I try not to ever go more than a few hours without feeding or pumping. I want my body to always be producing milk. So, bring your pump wherever you go in case you get stuck somewhere. There will usually be a room you can lock yourself into and pump.
* you are amazing! You will definitely feel like a feeding bag, a sleep-walking klutz, a failure over the tiniest mistakes, an emotional wreck, physically out of whack, etc .... but just know that it is temporary and you're giving your child a wonderful start in the world.
* you are bonding, even if you don't feel like you are. I didn't have that immediate "oh, this is the most wonderful thing ever" bonding experience at first. I was so discouraged by the pain and the lack of sleep [I'll be posting my birth story soon and you'll understand] that I couldn't concentrate on the moment ... plus, that "moment" happens so often that you pretty much feel like you're breastfeeding for 3 months straight until you get your bearings. Stay the course. I remember when Winnie was about 3 months and I absolutely fell in love with breastfeeding and I immediately became so thankful and proud that I stuck it out. Set goals for yourself: 3 months, 6 months, etc. Be proud of those goals and reward yourself.
* your nipples will go back to their original color/size. [I really need that laughing emoji right here] It sounds like a vain concern, but I was so worried about that. I happen to love my breasts, so I'm glad they look normal again!
* don't give up! I think that breastfeeding has been harder than actually giving birth. It is hard, but you can do it! Seek help. Lucie's List and Kelly Mom are my two favorite sites, but I also had two lactation consultants on standby. These services are FREE.
Welp, that is just about the longest blog post I've ever written ... if it helps just ONE mama, I'm happy.