April 15, 2010

Breastfeeding Basics

onequartermama breastfeeding
-Give it three weeks. After three weeks, it will be easier, but give yourself that time and don't give up. Find something that motivates you and remind yourself often. In my case, I cut out the price of formula from a flyer and said, "no way am I paying for that!" I also reminded myself that this is a very short term sacrifice in the 18 years or so I have to raise him.

-Relax, relax, relax or you won't let down and you'll have one pissed off baby. Forget everyone else, look, smell, talk to and concentrate on your baby. Relax all your muscles, breathe deeply and next thing you know, you've let down.

-Arm yourself with lots and lots of nursing pads. Depends on how often you want to do laundry, but have at least 6 pairs of reusable ones or lots of disposable ones. And get good reusable ones - thick cotton. Don't bother with the thin ones, you'll soak right through.

-Have a good breastfeeding pillow or other cushion. I also recommend nursing tops for going out in public, especially the first few times you try it.

-Wait to buy a lot of nursing bras. You can get one or two before giving birth, but get a cup size up from what you are. Try to leave the major shopping til after your milk comes in. You might want to change them again at 6 months, when you'll be making a litre of milk a day and may even be bigger than before.

-Make sure your nipples are always dry. With the exception of let down when feeding, change nursing pads the minute they're damp. Don't leave a damp one on.

-Don't ever sit through a bad latch. Don't say, "oh, it's only a few minutes for this feeding." NO. If it hurts, start over, otherwise you'll ruin your nipple (cracks, tears, pinches) for the next feeding and it hurts like a B to have to continue feeding on a hurt nipple. Just sayin'.
This also means you have to be vigilant at night, if your baby suckles during your sleep.

-At the beginning, check your nipples for damage every day. Catch problems fast before they become bigger.

-Growth spurts commonly occur at 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. These are trying times. Thankfully, they don't last long. But nothing made me want to give up more than dealing with growth spurts and for some reason, he did them at night, which might be why my patience was low.
You'll notice it by having a fussy baby wanting to eat every hour. You will be sore and tired. Find a way to cope without killing anyone. Now is not the time to try a bottle, otherwise your milk production won't keep up and you'll just prolong the agony.

-Teething can also be tough since he just wanted something in his mouth, but getting him out of the bed helped break the temptation to use mama as a teething toy.

-One boob will always make/store more milk than the other, but try from the beginning to alternate when you only have colostrum. I didn't listen to them at the hospital and wanted to start actual breastfeeding techniques (emptying one breast) instead of alternating, and I ended up with one giant boob when my milk came in. Took a while to correct and I still have one holding way more milk than the other.

-You can feel really weird, almost flu-like, when your milk comes in. Some people get panic attacks, some people sweat profusely, I shivered like crazy. I was totally freezing despite being wrapped up in bed with the heater on. Once my milk came in, I was fine.

-Even if you don't notice a difference, your baby will probably prefer one nipple over the other. If they are very different (mine are in size and one was previously almost inverted) you will have to still force baby to take the one they don't really like and learn two different latching techniques.

-If you get thrush, try gentian violet. Apply it once a night for seven nights and your baby will look like a goth wearing lipstick. It stains EVERYTHING. In addition to that, you can rub regular Canesten cream in their mouth 3-4 times a day after feeding and on your nipples after each feeding. Change your nursing pads often!
You'll know you have a thrush infection when letting down feels like shards of glass are slicing through your boobs.

-You can try lecithin capsules to help prevent or heal milk blisters, but I don't think they did anything for me. I had a milk blister for 6 weeks and even after my doctor lanced it, it sealed right back up and stayed. It finally went away when it felt like it.

-Learn to express or pump. Pump if you want to maintain or increase your milk supply and express when you want to decrease your supply. A pump came in handy when he was sick and didn't want to eat. I also use it now to store extra milk for him and for his sudden sleeping through the night business, which left me painfully engorged the first few nights. I'm not good at expressing at all, so I just pump enough for relief, in that case, don't empty and hope not to get mastitis.
If you have the money and will be using it often enough to make it worth it, get a double pump. Pumping takes longer than breastfeeding and doesn't feel the same at all. Make sure not to injure your nipple with the pump. That being said, I have more than one friend who is unable to pump, so you might want to try it first before buying one.

-Above all, enjoy the time because it passes so quickly!

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