Lots of expecting mothers plan on nursing their baby. It’s natural, the milk is free (bonus) and it’s great for the mother/baby bonding process. The road to nursing can be a bumpy one at first with many things that can happen a long the way. Many mothers agree that it’s the hardest thing they have every done. And they are right!
Getting a Good Latch
This is the most important part of the process. The baby can’t get as much milk without a good latch which also causes the mother pain and discomfort. This is the part that a lot of mother/baby teams struggle with in the beginning.
New mothers have never breastfed before and new babies haven’t either and yet you have to be a team to get the milk from the source into the baby.
Get into a nice comfy chair or a comfy spot on a couch or even a bed. Preferably a place where you can put your feet up so you are not straining your back or neck. Comfort is key as the feed can last as long as one hour.
You can use a breastfeeding pillow or regular pillows will do to get the baby positioned properly. The baby should be tummy-to- tummy with you. Make sure you bring the baby to you instead of trying to lean down. I made that mistake in the very beginning and my back and neck always hurt from it.
In order for the baby to nurse properly it has to have the nipple as well as most of the areola in its mouth. This makes it comfortable for the mother to have the baby suck. The baby will need to be encouraged to latch properly.
Rubbing the nipple down from the top of the baby’s lip to get him to open his mouth wide helps, once it’s open guide it into the mouth. You want to also make sure that the baby’s lips are flanged out like fish lips while they are feeding. That is how you know the baby latched properly.
My baby and I struggled with latch so much in the beginning. Leading you to wonder if the to the baby is eating enough. I had such a hard time that my mid wife referred me to a lactation consultant. I was very surprised to learn that I was doing it right which boosted my confidence.
They can give some very helpful pointers which I will be forever grateful for. They watch you the way you do it and then they will correct you so you do it right. A lactation consultant can do wonders for mothers, even if you think you are doing it right it is nice to have a confirmation from someone else.
It’s exactly as it sounds. The baby feeds constantly, you’ll get done with a feed and then it’s right back at it for some more. And it’s completely normal. The baby might cluster feed in the very beginning trying to get the milk to come in but it can continue.
My baby cluster fed at night every single night and I was guaranteed that 1 night per week would be all nighter for the first 8 weeks, as soon as night time hit it was like a switch was turned on.
She would wake up for a feed and be at it for at least 2 hours. Then I would change her, sleep for an hour or two and then be up again feeding for another 2 hours and so on. I felt like all I was doing was feeding her.
Then once the night was over the switch turned off and the feedings were back to normal all day. It’s something you can’t really plan to happen but could totally happen and does happen to a lot of women. It’s all part of the journey. As soon as the 8-week mark hit it stopped and she was able to go longer at night without feeding and that one night per week all nighter stopped as well.
No breastfeeding post would be complete without discussing the complications that can arise from nursing your little baby. Some women experience all of these problems (and more than once) while others will never have one single problem.
Thrush – This is when your baby has a fungal infection in its mouth that gets transferred to the mother during feeding. It can cause the baby to be irritable and have a harder time feeding (although not always).
Symptoms include: itchy or burning nipples that appear red, shiny, flaky and/or have a rash with tiny blister, cracked nipples, shooting pains in the breast before, during or after feeding, intense breast pain that is not improved with better latch-on and positioning, deep breast pain.
Treatment will be required so the baby doesn’t keep passing it on. But for those who like home remedies, I used virgin coconut oil. It is anti-fungal and I put some on my nipple and a little in the baby’s mouth to kill the fungus. It worked quite well and was usually cleared up within 24 hours.
Blocked milk duct – This happened to me too many times to count. It’s caused by milk not getting completely emptied from the breast. When this happens, the tissue around the duct may become swollen and inflamed and press on the duct causing a blockage.
You may have a small hard lump that is sore to the touch or very tender accompanied by redness and it feels hot It is also painful to nurse but feels better after nursing. The only remedy is to nurse, nurse and nurse some more (I also pumped a lot more than usual). It will be painful but it’s the only way to clear it out. Mine went away usually within 24 hours.
Mastitis – When you get a blocked milk duct but it doesn’t get cleared out causing an infection. A nice fever accompanies this problem as well. There are some home remedies that can help clear this up, such as, rest, nurse the baby often, use a cold or hot compress in between feedings. If any of these problems occur, call your Doctor as they may prescribe anti-biotics.
So, What About Those Ups?
With so many trials and tribulations when it comes to breastfeeding I bet you probably thought I forgot about the good parts. There is so many good things that come from breastfeeding such as forming an incredible bond with your baby. So much time spent looking at that little face. It gives you an excuse to relax.
You will be feeding the baby often and that time can be used for a little downtime for yourself. I loved the fact that I had an excuse to wind down and take a nap or binge watch Netflix. There’s also a certain pride you take in yourself knowing that your body is providing the nourishment for your baby.
It lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by half and when the baby needs to be fed the milk is there and ready. No need for going to the kitchen to warm up a bottle.
It’s Not For Everyone
Breastfeeding is an amazing journey but one not every mother can take. Some people have supply issues and can’t. Others can’t for other reasons. For breastfeeding to be successful you have to really want to.
If you nurse your baby for 1 year or more or only a few months or have been exclusively formula feeding from the beginning your baby still wins.
As long as babies are being fed whether the source is formula or breast milk the goal is still the same.
Want to share your experiences? Leave a comment down below.