With my son's first birthday fast approaching, I've been getting nostalgic about our breastfeeding relationship. There have been rough patches...emergency c-section, mastitis, 4 cases of thrush, endless night nursing, teething...but the good outweighs the bad by an embarrassingly large margin. I hope we nurse well into toddlerhood!
I've collected below the thoughts I wish I could send back in time to my newly post-partum self, the "me" who felt in over her head, exhausted and, not infrequently, perplexed by conflicting advice I was getting. I hope other mamas can chime in with other ideas that I will invariably miss.
1. Nursing around the clock is normal and desirable in the early months.
- You may well "end" a nursing session after 40 minutes only to have another "start" 5 minutes later.
- Feeding baby on demand is vital for establishing your supply (think 10-12x/day, often more, for newborns)
2. A good latch is key.
- Learning efficient milk transfer ASAP will save you considerable pain and distress. Watch for a pause and listen for a swallowing sound to confirm good milk transfer.
- With a proper latch, breastfeeding shouldn't be painful. If it is, check your latch.
- Check out these videos if you have any confusion:
3. Most GPs and paediatricians are about as well trained in breastfeeding as they are in astrophysics (I.e. not at all).
4. Co-sleeping and side-lying nursing helped me sleep better. It took about 2 weeks to really get the hang of it, but it was worth it.
5. Babies get distractible and become fussy around 3-4 months. Odds are, it'll pass in a couple of weeks.
6. Responding to baby quickly builds trust and helps you develop an efficient non-crying communication system.
7. Don't worry about nursing in public. Be patient with baby and focus on getting comfortable together. Don't worry about those silly covers either, nobody is watching you (except maybe a LLL member who might walk by and smile...nay, radiate...approval)
8. After a few months, well-functioning breastfeeding is convenient and enjoyable! You stop feeling like an insomniac dairy cow pretty quickly and soon feel like a powerful, life-giving force.
9. Night nursing is a wonderful way to nurture and nourish you baby. It isn't a bad habit. It won't leave you dragging a 30-year-old on your nipple to your annual mammograms.
10. When your breastfeeding is going well, look up the contact info for 1-2 IBCLCs near you, a location where you can rent hospital grade pumps, and the location for after-hours clinics. Being prepared will save LOTS of worry just in case you ever need it.
11. Attend LLL meetings early and often!
12. Nothing is more important than you and your baby. As much as possible, let everything else go by the wayside and focus on nursing. Only mama can feed baby. Everyone else can stand in line, preferably with a cooked meal for you in hand.
13. The effort is worth it! I love seeing a giddy little face looking up at me with hands clapping happily as he drinks his milk. I wouldn't trade that experience for $100 million.