Here is what worked for me:
1. Feed on demand. During those first weeks I fed Hudson whenever he was hungry….usually every 2-3 hours. He still eats every 2-3 hours during the day, but will go 6-8 hours at night between feedings. It’s a lot of work but gets so much easier once baby learns how to breastfeed. I think those first few weeks Hudson took about a hour to eat! Now he’s down to 20 minutes.
2. Drink lots of water. Remember how you were chugging water like a pro when you were pregnant? Well, that was nothing. Have a water bottle on you at all times….you never know when you’ll suddenly be dying of thirst. A good job for your husband is to fill up several water bottles and stash them in your favorite nursing spots for you before he goes to work. That way you’ll always have one handy!
3. Eat protein. Your body needs the energy to support you during those long days and nights….and it helps you maintain your supply too! Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories, so make sure you are eating enough.
4. Say no to pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established. This usually takes about 3 weeks or so. I know you are probably anxious to try out all your new pacifiers with your baby (or use them to STOP THE CRYING) but try to resist. Baby needs to learn he gets his nourishment and comfort from you. Once you have established nursing then you can try a pacifier. Hudson didn’t care much for his.
5. Don’t pump just yet. Unless you have to, obviously. You may be anxious to start pumping so that you can get a break from all the feedings…..but try to resist until you have established breastfeeding. Pumping can be overwhelming. I waited until Hudson was 4 weeks old and I felt a little more like myself to give it a go. Our wedding anniversary was coming up and I wanted to be able to go out to dinner with my husband. I gave myself a week to learn how to pump so that I wasn’t too stressed. I’ll talk more about pumping next week.
6. Don’t skip a feeding. If your baby has a bottle of pumped milk your body still needs to replace that feeding. You may think it’s awesome that you can sleep in one day while your husband feeds the baby. Don’t get me wrong…it is totally awesome….but you need to replace that feeding. Any time you skip feedings your brain is sending a message to your body that you can make less milk. It’s probably not a big deal if this only happens occasionally, but if it is frequent then your body may start to make less and less milk. So….either nurse the baby or pump. Your choice.
7. Wet and poopy diapers + weight gain = getting enough. At some point during those first weeks you will probably worry about if your baby is getting enough to eat. Baby should have at least 5-6 soaking wet diapers a day and about 3-4 yellow poops a day. If your baby is peeing and pooping enough it is totally a sign that he is getting enough to eat. Hudson always had way more dirty diapers than this so I never really kept track. Also, talk to your pediatrician about how much weight your baby should be gaining. If the numbers on the scale are going up it means baby is also getting enough to eat. No need to measure ounces in a bottle!
8. See a lactation consultant. This is one of the best things I did. Even if you are not having difficulty breastfeeding, it’s always nice to hear that you are doing it right. Also, a lactation consultant will weigh your baby before and after your feeding…so you’ll know roughly how many ounces he is eating. Husbands usually like to know this type of info!
9. Don’t give in to formula unless medically necessary. Most pediatricians are not very educated in the area of breastfeeding. Their focus is on the health of your baby…not the ins and outs of breastfeeding. Pediatricians know breast milk is best for the baby, but usually they are sort of wishy washy about it and may suggest supplementing with formula before you really need to. Obviously if your baby is struggling this does not apply. Make sure you see a lactation consultant asap. They know more about breastfeeding and can help you.
Now for some things that happened to me….that are totally normal:
1. Rock hard boobs. My husband told me it looked like I had gotten a bad boob job. This is totally uncomfortable! You may be tempted to pump a little to relieve the pressure….and that’s fine. I didn’t though and eventually my body adjusted and I wasn’t so uncomfortable. This took about a week.
2. Drip, drip, drip. I leaked milk everywhere. On my clothes, on my sheets, on Hudson, on the floor….I was a hot mess. But this also eventually got better.
3. Sore nips. I know it may seem impossible during those first few days but really this gets better! Breastfeeding absolutely did not hurt one bit once Hudson and I both knew what we were doing (about 2-3 weeks). I sometimes fall asleep while nursing…it’s that easy now.
4. Holding baby’s head. When you and your baby are first learning you’ll need to help hold his head to your breast. Eventually he will learn to do this himself….once that happens breastfeeding is so much easier!
5. Plugged duct. Ouch, those babies hurt! You can read more about these in your breastfeeding book (I recommend The Nursing Mother’s Companion). This has happened to me twice and my best advice is to use your baby! He is the best at drawing milk out of your breast….so put him on the side that hurts often (I know it’s hard) and in a day or so your plugged duct should clear. While you are feeding your baby it also helps to use your hand to put a little pressure on the sore spot to help empty it out. Plugged ducts are more common in the winter and more common when you are sick (both times this happened to me when I had a cold). Also, drink lots of water to help your body flush it out. Plugged ducts, if left untreated can lead to mastitis, which can be serious. Call your doctor asap if you have any symptoms associated with mastitis.
Part 4 of this series next week is all about pumping and going back to work….oh how fun. Please leave a comment below if you like this series….sometimes I still need a little encouragement too!