7 Tips to Start Your Breastfeeding Journey Now!
Going into becoming a mother for the first time, A LOT of decisions have to be made. Do you find out the gender or go team green (#teamgreen for us…another post for another day). What baby bathtub do I get? Do I need a baby carrier? Do I vaccinate my new baby? Do I want a traditional OB/Gyn or a midwife? Natural birth or epidural? Breastfeed or formula or both?
You get it now! So. Many. Freakin. Decisions! It’s overwhelming to say the least! For me, I knew years ago that I wanted to attempt a traditional, vaginal birth (also another very informative post coming soon about this) and I wanted to breastfeed.
I just thought breastfeeding was natural, easy, “cheaper,” less bottles, less stress…Damn, was I wrong!!!!
Now if you’re about to be a first-time mom reading this, keep reading! Don’t let that discourage you!
My husband and I took Bradley Birthing Classes and hired a doula for the birth of our first daughter! In those classes, we learned mostly about labor and delivery but a little about breastfeeding also. We knew that was the best decision for us and wanted to avoid formula at all costs.
I wanted that bonding time. I wanted to feel like my body was capable of providing nutrition for my baby. I didn’t know what all would come along with our breastfeeding journey though!
In October 2016, our first daughter was born and our doula helped get her to breast within an hour or two of being born. The details are fuzzy for me because I lost a lot of blood and almost passed out! But, I do remember the doula helping me breastfeed for the first time. It was weird. It felt weird. I didn’t know how to hold her. I didn’t know how to guide her. She didn’t know what she was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing. But we are so thankful for our doula to help guide us both!
The first time breastfeeding kind of hurt, a little. It really wasn’t unbearable pain, just more uncomfortable and well, new!
We stayed in the hospital for almost 4 days (since I lost so much blood at delivery, I had to receive a blood transfusion and they had to check labs so that’s why we stayed longer). Each day I was there, I saw a lactation consultant. Everything seemed fine. She would help adjust us and guide us both…but it still hurt! It hurt so bad that when we left the hospital, it felt like shards of glass were on my freakin nipple that looked like I held a damn vacuum cleaner to it for an hour! When we left, I had bruised, cracked and bleeding nipples! I would cry when it was time to feed her!
We came home on a Sunday, so I think Monday was our daughter’s first appointment at the pediatrician. I don’t remember what all was said at that appointment about my nipples and breastfeeding, but I remember crying on the way home and I called our doula. I told her everything that was happening. She said “that is not normal, you need to call an IBCLC and get her to help you ASAP.”
I did! I remember the red light we were sitting at when she told me to call the IBCLC. We were 5 minutes away from our house and as soon as we got home, I called Anne, the IBCLC!
Anne called me back and we spent almost an hour on the phone. She walked me through A LOT of suggestions because it was going to be until Thursday before she could get out to see us.
She suggested using coconut oil on my nipples before feeding instead of lanolin. Lanolin makes the nipples more slippery and harder for babe to feed! Coconut oil is also natural and more soothing, to me anyway!
A friend suggested the gel nursing pads to use in between feeds…except put them in the freezer in between uses to help with pain. That was also a lifesaver!
For the nipple that was cracked and bleeding the most (I happen to remember it was the right one), I gave it a feeding break for a few days and I would exclusively pump on that side so it could heal and feed on the other side. If I remember correctly, at this point, my husband and I decided we may have to attempt some bottle feeds for when the other nipple needed a break also.
The last thing that was a huge lifesaver was APNO (all-purpose nipple ointment). It’s a prescription from your doctor that has to be made at a compounding pharmacy.
Anne came out that Thursday and spent several hours with us! She did her evaluation and said this is pretty bad but also classic case of a posterior tongue tie and probable lip tie! We were referred to a pediatric ENT for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis!
Ok, now… I have a pediatric nursing background. I’ve heard of tongue ties and lip ties but never in a baby and never related to breastfeeding. I was shocked! I was also relieved to know what the problem was so we could solve it.
I want to stop and say that every woman who wants to breastfeed should have access to an IBCLC. I will forever credit Anne to saving our breastfeeding journey and helping us get to extended breastfeeding, with both daughters!
Over the next couple of weeks, while waiting for an appointment with a pediatric ENT to discuss whether or not we should have the tongue and lip ties released, I did all of the things that Anne suggested, and my nipples healed. I’m going to find all of my notes from Anne so I can make a thorough post on what we did to help my poor nipples!
I tell my story of breastfeeding struggles not to discourage but to be real! To let you know that breastfeeding will not be easy! You and baby have to get used to it. Your body and hormones have to adjust. But, in the long run, every single freakin struggle we had was so so so worth it! I will never ever regret the things we powered through to maintain our breastfeeding journey!
I wanted to share with you 7 helpful tips that I recommend to any new mom to help with your breastfeeding journey. Don’t worry…more to come on this too!
7 things you need for your breastfeeding journey now:
- A good breastpump. I preferred Spectra over several brands. It was more gentle, quieter and has more variability in the speed and power, I think.
- Gel nursing pads. Get a few pair, put them in the freezer and use in between feeds until you no longer feel like you need to.
- Coconut oil. You don’t need a lot. Just put some in a small Tupperware container next to where you breastfeed the most and put some on before and after feeds until you no longer feel like you need it.
- Reusable nursing pads to put inside of your bra for leaking! DO NOT get disposable. They will stick to your nipples and it is very painful to remove the disposable ones and switch them out.
- Regular pillows. For me, the Boppy pillow was too big and bulky. We did great with some extra pillows from the bed. Not as pretty but way more comfortable.
- Support! Seek out lactation help before baby is born so that you will have support during the early days when it is most important to build and regulate your milk supply.
- Know that you can do this! Your body can provide for your baby! And in the event you are struggling, it is ok to supplement however you need to, whether that be breastmilk in a bottle or formula in a bottle. I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding but an even more strong supporter of a healthy, fed baby!
You got this, mama! Follow along for more breastfeeding stories, tips and encouragement.