In interviews with breastfeeding participants at our local breastfeeding meet-up, nursing parents expressed things they wish they'd known about breastfeeding prior to their baby arriving, and lessons they had to learn along the way.
Many parents prepare by reading or taking classes, even asking friends. The information learned can feel overwhelming and extensive before baby arrives. Other moms go in to the experience learning “as they go”. We are huge fans of recommending a Lactation Consult towards the end of your first week with baby, so that a relationship is established if you have challenges along the way, and parents can get applicable education with Baby in lap.
In general, evidence indicates that some preparation is beneficial for most parents but that there is some breastfeeding knowledge that is gained organically with the experience, and it is very individualized to the parent-baby unit. Read below to see what moms had to share along with some tips and pointers from Momentum Lactation Consultant, Alisa Williams RN IBCLC.
Things I wish I knew about Breastfeeding before my baby arrived
Make a Nursing Nest in a convenient place in your home.
Include diapers, wipes, nipple moisturizer, breast pads, snacks you can eat over a baby (chewy vs crunchy granola bars (you may find crumbs in baby’s diaper). NO salads.
Think about seating or positioning, things like pillows, wedges, boppy, armrests, or a foot stool all of which can be important in the early days for good feeding positioning and alignment.
Put it in a place where you won’t miss any of the action but you can have privacy if needed. Keep in mind that being isolated can feel lonely, being the center of attention when you are learning something new can feel stressful.
Make sure you have access to plugs for phone chargers and breast pump if needed.
Consider items for mom’s convenience too; favorite beverage or container, phone charger, Bluetooth speaker, phone, or remote.
Include lactogenic foods like strawberries, flaxseed bars, almonds, and mood enhancers like dark chocolate and energizing teas.
Cluster Feeding is Real!
One side may make more milk than the other
Babies may prefer one breast and eat there more…like your favorite restaurant!
One side may get emptied better by pumping or feeding, so it fills better too.
Baby may nurse longer on one side than the other.
In most cases, supply can be evened out…this is a good reason to consult a lactation consultant.
Never make the decision to quit on a bad breastfeeding day! (Tell yourself you will decide tomorrow.)
Many issues are short term and will resolve within a few feedings.
Babies can have more fussiness one day that gets better the next.
Make the plan to call for help the next day and things will often look brighter….you might be glad you waited.
Get ready for some often un-intentional, unexpected negative words, thoughts or suggestions.
Maybe it’s a really loving family member who states…."she is so small" or "he is so thin".
Maybe it's worry in your own head… "I think he doesn’t like this anymore" , " I think he is starving", "I wonder what’s wrong", "I wish I had my life back".
Worried grandparents - they go crazy over the wellbeing of their grandchildren and can increase new parents' anxiety and concern! They may need a gentle reminder that it is YOUR turn now… and that you love your little one and would not do anything to jeopardize their well-being.
Other well-intentioned on lookers may suggest supplementation or a visit to the Dr.
A concerned spouse working from home may misinterpret feeding struggles, they may need to close the door or go into another room if needed.
Breastfeeding is not Natural!
You are a unique human and your baby is a unique human..there is a process of learning and connecting to each other that is very intimate and very connected to breastfeeding. Just because you and your baby are not on the same page from the moment they are born…there is nothing wrong…you will gain a mother’s wisdom day by day until you are the expert with all things regarding your baby!
Stay committed through “failed” feedings.
If someone says “You are doing great” and in your head you think “no I am not” it's ok to say so and explain why. Reach out for reliable help, especially in times of doubt.
If someone says “Is everything ok?", don’t assume "it must not be or they wouldn’t be asking me".
When baby struggles, keep trying! They need many successes and failures to get great at feeding, just like anything that needs practice.
You may want to quit 10 times per day. When you feel like you are failing…keep trying…see above bullet.
Things my baby and I had to learn along the way...
I am more dehydrated than I have ever been!
You will be waking up at night to pee and drink.
Didn’t feel well and didn’t know why - tired, dry mouth, general malaise.
Needed more fluids than expected.
I was a big drinker before and needed even more!
Cluster feeding gets better!
You get their signals! They might be bored, sleepy, in pain, over-stimulated…. you were right…they can’t be hungry again!
Sometimes no one can help you or do it for you.
This is something you and your baby will work out. The only problem is the baby can’t tell you what they need or want. It is puzzle, a mystery a mother must solve on her own. It takes time and lots of practice to feel comfortable and come up with a workable plan.
Newborns will cry… they have to!
Though most parents of newborns would agree an infant cry can raise the hair on the back of your neck and break you out in a prickly sweat…it will happen!
Go through your checklist of possible newborn comfort strategies…they might work, they might not. It's ok, it is a natural part of infant behavior and demonstrates an intact nervous and gastro intestinal system.
If nothing works…. breastfeed! It releases endorphins in the baby and those make us all feel better!
Keep in mind…….It gets better with time, practice,and support!
Breastfeeding turns a corner around 3-4 weeks. All those practice sessions start to pay off and some great things happen...
Mother and baby gain confidence with their new skill set. You may even be ready to try breastfeeding in public!
Weight gain is on the rise and mother knows baby is getting enough milk.
The physical pain of childbirth and initial feeding improves and mom is starting to feel better.
Milk supply has regulated and there is always plenty to go around.
Babies begin to sleep in more predictable 3-4 hour periods giving everyone some much valued time back.
Babies belly has grown and she doesn’t need to eat 12 times per day, but only 8 times per day.
Mother is regaining her rest from the sleep deprivation of late pregnancy, labor and bringing a newborn home
Don’t continue if problems occur without reaching out for help.
Surround yourself with other breastfeeding mothers if possible.
Remember…you know what is best for your baby in all ways…..
YOUR BABY WAS MADE FOR YOU!
So, what about YOU? Did you have thoughts similar to these? Would you add something else?
If you need a Lactation Consultant, please call Alisa at (618)406-6372, or send her an email with your concerns to MomentumLactation@gmail.com.
If you just need to hang with some breastfeeding parents, come on down to our Breastfeeding Meet-Ups, Monday nights at 6:30.